Ella and the Silly/Serious Dialectic

There are times when I feel very much like eighteen, and then there are times where I feel as young as ever. Take this evening for example.

During dinner we chat about the presidential election, children’s book authors, my lunch with Sadie, and British peerage, and my father remarks that he’s very impressed by how much I’ve matured in the past three years. I thank him and feel slightly smug.

However, five minutes later I’m lying on the floor, teasing the cat with a feather, and trying to imitate how a sick dog would whine. Then, the phone rings, and I take off running to answer it, hunched over, making zooming noises, with my arms out like Superman. I almost immediately trip over the edge of the carpet and smack my chin against a chair. It’s Pippa, and I inform her in an overly giddy voice that I have just sent her seven or so links to Downton Abbey stills, along with a link to several interviews with the cast.

Phone call complete, I go back to discussing regional accents and British architecture with my parents until eleven when I decide to go finish reading The New York Times Sunday Magazine and prepare for bed.

It all feels so seamless, like it’s only natural to go from imitating dogs and dangerously running around like Superman to talking about serious topics, when it reality there’s an incredibly sharp deviation in the level of maturity involved. I like the freedom to be goofy and silly without judgement, but I bet that there will come a day where I don’t feel the impulse to do these sorts antics. When that will come I don’t know, but until then I will probably still be making up songs about the things I have to do and pretending to be on a cooking show when I make my lunch.

Cornelius and the Mystery of Credit Card Numbers

Pippa just burst into my room to tell me a story that definitely bears repeating.

She was Skyping with her best friend, Jeanne, and the two of them were privy to a very amusing conversation between Jeanne’s younger brother (whose name is–and this is not made up or exaggerated in the slightest–Cornelius) and her mom.

Scene: Cornelius is trying to purchase some item off of the internet using his mother’s credit card.

Cornelius: Mom! I don’t know what the website wants me to do! It says that I need to type in the credit card number! Where is it?

Jeanne’s Mom: It’s on the front of the card!

Cornelius: Yeah, but which number?

Jeanne’s Mom: The ones on the front! It’s obvious, Cornelius!

Cornelius: There are a lot of numbers! Which one do they want? Which one should I choose?

They continued to volley back and forth until it became evident that Cornelius thought that he needed to pick one of the many numbers on the card to type while checking out, and Jeanne’s mom ended up taking the computer away and completing the transaction for him.

In a way, I suppose that it’s a good thing that he was so clueless when it came to using a credit card–kids shouldn’t be given them until they know the real value of money and how easily you can get yourself in trouble with this magic rectangle of plastic–but I’m rather shocked that he didn’t know how to use one online. I can remember shopping for clothes from DPam (their kids clothes are so cute!) when I was seven and watching my mom use her credit card on a website. Somehow, Cornelius has managed to get through fourteen years of his life without observing this once.

In other news, I just spent half and hour looking at children’s clothes and debating whether or not I could justify purchasing a dress if I got it in a size 14 kids. I fit into that size at Petit Bateau.

Mary Queen of Scots’ Beheading, The Commodores’ “Brick House,” and Other Odd Things My Parents Exposed Me To

Like most children, I was sometimes subject to offbeat parenting. And I’m not talking about anything “bad,” just the odd/abnormal things that my parents did with us.

I’ll begin with the less peculiar.

In kindergarden, while the other kids were bopping to The Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, I knew every single word to The Commodores’ “Brick House” (I had also been fooled into thinking that “brick house” meant fat and not voluptuous.) and could sing The Clash’s “London Calling” with a very mangled British accent. In fact, I knew a lot of songs that referenced things inappropriate for a five-year-old, but like the way that lyrics of “Frére Jacque” are a bunch of sounds to most non-French speakers, I didn’t understand that:

“The clothes she wears, the sexy ways, make an old man wish for younger days

She knows she’s built and knows how to please

Sure enough to knock a man to his knees”

actually meant anything. And it wasn’t until I thought about the lyrics while singing it, when I was approximately sixteen, that I finally understood that it wasn’t about a guy in love with a fat lady. It suddenly made sense why adults thought it was hilarious when I would walk around the neighborhood singing it.

Here’s where it actually gets weird:

I was also into royalty, but not into royalty the way most kids were. I didn’t want to be a pretty princess or be the queen of an empire filled with unicorns, fairies, and dashing knights. I liked real royalty, specifically the British royalty (I also hated Disney films and the whole concept of needing boys to save the day (for both related and unrelated reasons), but that is an entirely different story). In addition, I was incredibly fascinated by war, and it wasn’t that I thought violence or guns were “cool.” I was just absolutely fascinated by the causes, effects, and strategy.

For this, you can blame my father. While my mother read us the entire Little House on the Prairie series and all of the Harry Potter books as they came out, the kiddie stuff just didn’t do it for my dad.

Instead, he decided that Winston Churchill’s “History of the English Speaking Peoples” was appropriate bedtime story material. Surprisingly, we enjoyed it. (Well, I loved it, and Pippa was willing to put up with it to a point.)

Every night, he would read to us from the volumes in a very good Winston Churchill accent and offer additional commentary on the history. It was all going splendidly, until he decided to read us the section about the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots. I was thrilled, but Pippa was horrified and, frankly, rightly so.

This is how the execution went down: After spending about twenty years in imprisonment, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded, by the order of Queen Elizabeth I, for treason. First, it took two to three hacks of the ax to properly decapitate her. Then, when the executioner went to hold her head aloft by the hair, her head ended up falling to the floor with a huge, bloody thunk and rolled around because no one knew that she had been wearing a wig. To top it all off, her little dog ran out of her petticoats (which were red to hide the blood), where it had been hiding, covered in blood, and refused to leave the dead Queen’s side.

Pippa didn’t sleep for weeks, and we had to switch to the history of WWII (it ended up being mostly about battle strategy and not the Holocaust or death, in order to protect six-year-old Pippa from having more nightmares).

Another thing my father was very fond of doing was introducing us to comedy. When I was six, with his encouragement, I memorized the Monty Python sketch “The Fish License” and performed it in its entirety, playing both roles, for show and tell. My teacher was greatly amused, and my classmates just gave me confused, wide-eyed stares.

Just imagine a six-year-old performing this in front of her bewildered first-grade class. I took big hops from one side of the rug to the other to represent the other character.

I could go on for a while with more weird details about my parents’ parenting, but I won’t bore you. If you’d like, you can leave a funny story of your own in the comments. I’d love to read them.

On another note, it’s amazing the amount of things I can do to skive off blog post writing. I just caught myself watching hair tutorials on youtube for thirty minutes, which is something I never do unless I’m getting Pippa ready for a big event. Yesterday, I read about white supremacists on Wikipedia and got very angry for about an hour when I should have been blogging. I manage to build up writing posts to be this big, arduous task inside of my head, but then the moment I sign into WordPress and start typing, it all comes so easily. It’s just enormously fun. Unfortunately, I manage to forget this nearly every night and go into avoidance mode where I will do anything to put it off. Let’s see where tomorrow’s procrastination takes us. I’ve got my money on ironing.

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

A Lousy Week and That Time Ella Made Pippa Be a Groom for Halloween

I’ve been having a very lousy week so far.

Like only wearing pajamas lousy.

Also not getting out of bed all day lousy.

And not cleaning anything up lousy.

Just lousy.

So I’ve been drowning my sorrows in cold organic applesauce (none of that sugar added junk for me), cornbread, orange juice, and miniature Snickers bars. It’s not a very healthy diet.

I’ve been doing lots of writing (and forgetting to update my word count on my NaNoWriMo account), but everything else has been entirely neglected as I stare at walls and cry.

And after that major suckage, let’s have a funny story and picture.

When I was five, I was very into marriage. But I wasn’t into it in the way that most little kids were. I was into the idea of marriage and officiating fake marriages for other kids and had no interested in getting “married” myself. I was just absolutely fascinated by how fickle my classmates’ relationships were. Marital status seemed to change every five minutes and did not at all reflect what I saw in actual marriage among adults.

Yet despite all of that, I was intent upon being a bride for Halloween. Aznd I needed a groom to complete the picture.

And that’s where Pippa factored into the equation. You see, three-year-old sisters are nothing if not good at being talked into things. So Pippa got dressed up in a little tux, and my father used my mother’s eyeliner (without asking, may I add) to draw her a goatee. I wore an actual wedding dress my mother purchased at a consignment shop that she pinned up so that I wouldn’t be constantly tripping and a lot of white tulle stitched to a white headband. Then, my father put on his white tuxedo (I will never understand why he decided that he needs both a white one and a black one) and took us trick-or-treating. Everyone thought Pippa was a boy, and it was hilarious.

The end.

As always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Soccer Boy Gets Stuck and Nearly Loses His Pants in A Water Main Hole

Once upon a time, I was eight and very opinionated. After an argument with someone in my family, I stomped outside, vowing to “leave home forever, and never ever come back, and you’ll all be sorry when I die on the streets, alone.” But of course, I didn’t get very far. I just sat down on the front stoop in my yellow striped sun-dress and pink rainboots—don’t ever say I didn’t have style—and pouted, one of those huge lower lip extension pouts. I was going to stick my lip out as far as I possibly could to prove the depth of my anger and disappointment. There was nothing model-esque about it. And I crossed my arms, narrowed my eyes, and stared out across the street.

A few minutes later, one of my neighbors, a boy close to my age (we’ll call him Soccer Boy), walked across the street to ask to borrow our soccer goal. But instead of asking me if he could use it, he started to sing “I see London. I see France. I see Ella’s underpants.” And it was true, if you’re wearing a dress, you should never sit on steps without keeping your knees together and shifting your legs to the side. I was showing my “Fabulous Fushia”—as the sparkly print on the front of the panties proclaimed—underwear off to the entire world. And if I had been upset before, it was nothing compared to now. So I drew myself up to my full height, stomped one boot, and said in a haughty voice, “I hate you.” Then, I stuck my tongue out in my most menacing manner for good measure.

He left, and I went back to my job as a professional sulker. About half an hour later, some of the “gang” (the name for my group of friends, Soccer Boy included, that lived on our block), including Soccer Boy, came traipsing up the street with tomato stakes and someone’s wheelbarrow. Soccer Boy decided that now would be an excellent time to show off for the bunch of them, but instead of racing down the street at top speed on a Segway or jumping off of the back of our neighbor’s seven-foot-tall half-pipe (yes, we did do all of that and more) or even eating tree leaves (not a good idea, not that I know this from experience or anything), he decided to pry the cover off of a water meter. (Where we lived, the water meters were buried a few feet into the ground, close to the sidewalk on every houses’ side lawn, and they had these white plates covering them. (We spent a lot of time putting things in these holes that didn’t belong there, like acorns (to grow an oak tree) and letters to the fairy gods.)) And then he proceeded to lower himself into the hole.

Eight-year-olds are very narrow, but as it turns out, not narrow enough not to get stuck in water meter holes. He was stuck almost exactly at his waist, and to prove how good of friends we all were, we decided to cover him with shredded grass and laugh. It was all fun and games, even for Soccer Boy, until it became apparent that he wasn’t just stuck temporarily. He was honest to goodness really wedged into that hole. We fetched his father, but he was too old to be able to pull Soccer Boy out, so we had to get my mother to do it. And much to his embarrassment, his pants mostly came off and his underwear looked like it was also threatening to retreat to the depths of the hole.

And that, my friends, was the sweetest revenge. I didn’t even have to do a thing. He got himself into the whole mess. And his underwear blunder was far worse than mine and involved an audience of five kids and two adults. His story has since been told numerous, numerous times, to side-hurting laughter, whereas my underwear story has probably only been recounted a total of three times and only as a preamble to his. After all, every girl ends up showing her underwear off to the world like that at some point in her life, but it takes a very special person to nearly lose his pants in a water meter hole.

Also, Soccer Boy, if you are by any chance reading this—something I heavily doubt—I’m sorry for telling this story. It was too funny to pass up. I won’t tell who you are, if you agree not to yell at me.

And with that, darling Maxwell and I wish you a goodnight from a bed that is now covered with a fancy blue bedspread I swiped from Pippa’s room. Pippa, we’ll return it when you get home; it doesn’t match the rest of my decor very well, anyway.

As always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Spread your wings, but don’t expect to fly unless you’ve got jet fuel!

You know how sometimes people write about the items around them as manifestations of their person? Yeah well, here are the items on my desk: a tissue box. This represents my ability to relieve people of their boogers i.e. problems. Two mugs that formerly contained passion tea. These indicate that I have no passion. A desk lamp symbolizes the light that shines in my soul to make up for the fact that there are no overhead lights, in my soul that is. There are also an assortment of books which embody my Euclidean spunk.

Moral of the Story:

We must reel up the anchors of material STUFF from the ships of our lives so we can sail the sea, free!

-Courtesy of Cecelia, Preacher of Blockbusting

Cecelia can also be found sermonizing at http://justinapple.tumblr.com/.

In Which Ella Cuts Her Ear and Just Might Become Van Gogh

I discover new things everyday.

As it turns out, it is actually possible to cut your left ear when you try to push your hair back while holding a knife. It was either an accident or I have a sudden subconscious desire to become Van Gogh. I’m still waiting for the painting ability to kick in.

On another injury note, it is also possible to get a blister on the sole of your foot. I wish I didn’t have to figure this out the hard way.

In other news, I was up until three last night writing, and today I spent around five hours at the café, three hours before dinner, plus however late I decide to stay up working. I’ve run out of words and bandwidth for a good blog post.

In another related story, I’m feeling much, much better than I have for the past week.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

P.S. I visit Cecelia at Yale in less than two days!

Books and Math: They’re All Mine

I’ve got books. New ARCs that I’m contractually not allowed to tell anyone about. And I’ve got a crazy smile on my face, the type accompanied by wide eyes and an especially intense gaze. Because oh do I have books. And they’re all mine.

I’ve got improved math scores. Math scores that aren’t exactly fabulous, but certainly are no longer cringe worthy. And I’ve taken loads of practice SATs, more than anyone should ever have to do in one day and the ink stained hands to prove it. Because oh do I have better math scores And they’re all mine.

So I’m off to do a crazy dance, probably accidentally scaring the cats, and finish the laundry. After all, that’s the way all sophisticated people celebrate good things, right? The Jam, frightening animals, and scrubbing grass stains just ooze classy and elegant.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.