Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sunday Scribblings #3


When I was wee... I was a Navy brat, and lived in eight houses in three countries and one island over eighteen years.

Hawaii
I learned to swim before I could walk, had my own grass skirt, and loved to eat sand. We lived at the edge of sugar cane fields and sometimes fat cane spiders got into the house. My older brother and I were wild naked natives and the other Navy wives clucked their tongues at my mother who told them to, “shut up, you old biddies.” I was attacked by a flamingo, but I have no lingering phobia of flamingos.

Monterey
Treehouse. My dad’s stories of hanging upside-down beneath Monterey pier collecting alloy samples for his Master’s thesis, when a sea lion suddenly surfaced for a nose-to-nose introduction. Jaws had just come out in theaters and for a heart-stopping second, Papa was sure he was dead. My much-anticipated baby sister was born and turned out not to be nearly as much fun as I had hoped. She grew up soooo slowwwwlllly and didn’t know how to play any games and cried when I sang to her.


Virginia
Paradise: a cul-de-sac with kids in every house and a lake full of snapping turtles across the street. I had best friends on either side, three houses in a row. We were all gymnasts and the sprawling yards knew many back-handsprings over those few years. So many snow forts, so many humid summer evenings of hide and seek.

Italy
Ah, Italy, golden Italy. Being a powerful creature, roaming and leaping off cliffs, learning Italian, learning to flirt, being unassailably innocent and filled with wild daydreams.

Belgium
For a long time all I took note of was that Belgium wasn’t Italy, and I mourned. It was cold, and the people were cold. I remember Belgium for my brother’s early-teen troubles that paved the way for greater late-teen troubles, and I also remember it as the place my power dissolved. I think this happens to so many girls of this age: fourteen? We cross into some new country inside ourselves where we’re no longer Queen, but just another awkward citizen with a succession of bad haircuts. For me, this quite literally involved crossing into a new country, so that’s what Belgium is in my memory, despite the good things: the place that ended that golden, roaming, powerful time of childhood.

34 comments:

Jim Di Bartolo said...

I love your location summaries and that pic of you an Pippin. SO glad you made it back to CA so we could meet :)

Luv ya, husband Jim

GreenishLady said...

Wow - this whole progression through childhood is amazing, but when I got to Belgium, and the dissolving power! - You caught it. My breath went when I read that. Maybe because you were in a new place you knew it, realised it, but it happened to many of us at that age, whether we were moved from the "Italy" of childhood or not.

Paris Parfait said...

Evocative description of the different experiences we find in each place we live-----and the different "us" we become as we react to new situations, evolve and grow. That's the thing about moving around and travel; becoming flexible and able to adapt to any situation. Thanks for your cross-cultural tales!

Deb R said...

I loved reading about your journey through childhood.

Have you ever been back to Belgium as an adult? I just wonder what it would feel like to you now.

GoGo said...

Wow! You've been many places. I can see where you get your great nature.

Alexandra S said...

As I said this morning, I know so much about your last 15 or so years and so little relatively before then- its as if you just popped into being at 19 years old! Of course I suspected you had a very colorful and wild, amazing history that feeds your imagination and days to this day. I would have loved to have lived all over as you did, getting to know from an early, early age just how truly wide and eclectic our world is.

lizardek said...

That was a powerful post. I lived in Belgium when I was 14, too, but it was a golden time for me, and full of power. :) Interesting how places can be so different for different people, at different times.

eliza said...

"We cross into some new country inside ourselves where we’re no longer Queen, but just another awkward citizen with a succession of bad haircuts."
this is perfect. sad but so true. well, i don't know about you, but lately i've been trying to re-coronate myself on a daily basis...

Maggie said...

This post was simple yet powerful, I loved it. I struggled with finding peramaters for this topic, and you accomplished it so smoothly. I loved the part about your little sister not being as much fun as you hoped (I hear that, although with age she has gotten pretty great), and I know the feeling of losing power around 14. You really vocalized something that I have been thinking about but couldn't quite form into coherent sentences. Beautiful! (Oh, and I'm going to Belgium in the next 2 weeks...I'll think of you!) xo.

Susannah said...

Mmm, such wonderful sparkling snapshots of a roaming childhood, and then, yes, the new country we found ourselves in. i wouldn't be a teenager again even if offered a million pounds... i loved your post - thank you Sx

Endment said...

Now you really caught my interest - I want to know more....:)

Amber said...

What a life you had! What a blessing.
But, 14. Hmmmmm... A horrible age, indeed! Rotten. :(

:)

Anonymous said...

what an exotic childhood you had! I felt the pang when you spoke of your 14 year old self hitting the hard cold world of Belgium after Italy's vibrant warmth-- how I wish I could gather up all the teen girls and shepherd them through that difficult time.
~bluepoppy

Shannon (Sentimental) said...

What an adventure you lead. I am so jealous. I have lived most of my life within this great state and had the constant longing for more and the idea that more is out there. So I cherish stories of travel, distinction good or bad and I appreciate yours. Thank you for sharing and oh how I wish I could see what you have.

AnnieElf said...

I too was a Navy brat but never landed in such romantic settings. California and Illinois were my bases. And when you arrive in Hawaii at 9 month of age and leave 9 months later, well, Hawaii hardly counts. You are so lucky to have lived in Italy when you did. I dream of going there someday.

Marilyn said...

How much do I love that Jim leaves you such loving comments? Much. :) What a wonderfully diverse geographic arc you traveled! The best part about all of this (in my opinion) is that you can take all of the best parts of the Italy years...and incorporate them into the NOW. A few years ago I started remembering a time when I was about four and using THAT version of myself as a touchstone to center THIS version. How lucky we are that as adults we can filter our childhood memories and only place those we truly cherish on the shelf where we can admire them at will. Italy sounds like a place you truly cherished.

Kristine said...

Colorful life!

kelly rae said...

i'm loving learning about you! i wasn't a navybrat but i went to a different school for every single year of grade school (k-7) which made life so interesting. i'm certainly adaptable, or so i like to believe i am, to change!

Jennifer said...

I love that photo! Your childhood sounds like such an adventure... I've always lived in the same town.

Left-handed Trees... said...

Oh, this evolution of a girl through her environment was so moving to me! I have to admit a bit of longing for that sort of childhood myself--but, I bought the house I grew up in and I'm still here, mining my past within these same four walls. It sounds like perhaps you landed in each "place" exactly when you needed to...and maybe my deeply twisted, sunken roots are essential to me too. Thank you for getting me thinking this morning!

M said...

Sounds wonderful! What a way to learn about the world. My mom was an army brat as well, they were actually at Pearl Harbour during the attack- she wasn't born yet, but always heard about it from her family. They moved from Hawaii when she was just a baby- one of her big regrets!
You are so lucky!

vicci said...

Laini..Wonderful memories! I love them...I've always said that a person can learn so much by "travel"...I lived in Thailand for 2 years when I was 16 and 17..what a great time! (That would be a good story for my Sunday Scribble).

chest of drawers said...

That childhood must have filled your head with all the fantasies that help you write and create now in adult life. I believe that some people always remain children at heart while others were always adults, even as children.

la vie en rose said...

you have had quite an interesting childhood!

Shesawriter said...

Your childhood is quite fascinating, lady. I love that picture at the top too. :-)

holli said...

These were such great memories.. I loved the cul-de-sac story, it made me think of what I've been thinking of lately - how free childhood seemed when we were young. Sigh.

Cane sugar spiders don't seem like something I would enjoy!!! GAH!!!

megg said...

What an amazing, varied childhood you had. It explains what an imaginative and creative and full person you became!

P.S. I've been trying to email you but they keep getting bounced back -

Kim G. said...

I'm sure that some of the moving had to be hard on you, but what wonderful and colorful memories you have to share!

Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your world travels when you were wee! :-)

Brandi said...

Wow, you have been all around the world. I have lived in a few places and visited a few places but nothing like this! HOw amazing! Brandi

Swirly said...

What lovely little snippets - beautiful!! Where in Virginia? I grew up there too...

abhay k said...

Those were the days
Beautiful days!

Mardougrrl said...

Incredible. What a life, Laini! No wonder you are so amazingly creative...what a wellspring of life to draw from. And that "dissolving of power" lastly can happen anywhere at all. It happened to me in college.

I think that dissolving was temporary, though, because I can feel your spirit right through my screen!

Jennifer (she said) said...

your progression through childhood is so well written...you chose images that helped to put me there quickly, in such small spaces (per location). and as others have said, the connection to location and loss of power is really something. it's an interesting idea to follow - place & power. thank you (and thanks for the photo - you were SO adorable)! and thanks too for the theme this week.

Kristy said...

I'm a week or two late commenting on this entry, or maybe like 18 years late...but...

I call my years in cul-de-sac "Paradise", too.