Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ramblings on childhood and condors. Weird, I know. I had no plan today!

I kind of love ugly animals. This condor totally looks like a Skeksi, doesn't it? Remember Skeksis? Man, we watched The Dark Crystal a lot as kids. We lived overseas and had slim TV options, so the few movies we had on VHS, we watched repeatedly. Annie was another one. But mostly, we were outdoors -- especially from 4th to 8th grades, living in Italy. We were never inside during the day. We had cliffs to climb, boats to steal, beaches to patrol, abandoned train tunnels to navigate, ancient Roman ruins smattered around town, barely boarded up. One could usually expect to find a discarded nudie magazine in the ruins. I guess Italian boys had to go someplace to get away from their mamas' watchful eyes!

Why am I writing about this? I don't know. An effort to put up a brief post that is not political! So, childhood was awesome. I was so, so lucky. I always lived in great, safe places where we could run wild. In Virginia Beach there was a wetland at the end of our housing development, a lake full of snapping turtles and snails. We shoe-skated on the ice in winter. Once, in summer, a gigantic thunderstorm flooded the whole neighborhood so that we could actually float on inflatable rafts into all the cul de sacs. A creepy "big boy" who lived down the way told us he could breathe underwater, and I believed him, and argued the fact with my parents. In Belgium, I used to ride my bike miles to the Red Cloister, a convent situated among forests and lakes, and I watched a swan's nest day by day until the cygnets hatched. If that sounds a bit Anne of Green Gables, I have to also admit we American kids would ride the metro downtown and go to bars at night, though I was in 9th grade and didn't like the taste of alcohol. We'd dance to Simple Minds and Howard Jones and Depeche Mode. We went to concerts too, and brought bottles of cheap wine up to the top of a parking structure. We called it The Ninth Floor, like it was one more bar to meet at. Thinking of this time in my life I am reminded how back then, good jeans did not exist for the non-beanpole, and how much that sucked. If I could go back in time, I would bring my 9th-grade self some good flare-leg long jeans and some platform boots. She would be so grateful.

I would also try to persuade her to nevermind about boys until well after highschool, but I doubt she'd listen. Is there really any power that can subdue those hormones? Not that I dated much in highschool. Not at all. But I yearned to, and wasted much time in the yearning!

Not so Anne of Green Gables, that. Anyway, back to my original point: we weren't home watching TV. Like, ever.

After we moved back to the States, when I was a sophmore, TV asserted itself. We spent that summer with my aunt and uncle, and we watched Days of Our Lives every day, along with swimming in the pool. But there were not outdoor adventures. Not really ever again. So, I feel like I was incredibly lucky to have those abandoned train tunnels and Roman ruins, that Belgian convent with the swans. The safety to ride my bike miles by myself, to ride on the back of an Italian boy's moped. The activity that so rarely involved television.

I didn't mean to slip in any way into politics, but I was struck by what Obama said in the debate last night, about how part of the responsibility for education does fall on the parents, to keep the TV off and the video games away. I wanted him to go on to urge reading with your children, but he stopped short of that. He's promoted it on other occasions, but it would have been great to hear him say it again.

Well, this had nothing to do with my ugly condor up there. I'll finish with a condor tidbit: in Peru, Andean condors are routinely killed because people believe the giant birds carry away lambs from their flocks. However, one need only look at a condor's feet to see that this would be impossible. They have feet like a turkey, adapted for waddling around. Not feet like an eagle, for swooping and grabbing. Not like this:
(Do not watch if predation in nature shows make you sad.)

Holy WOW!!! That was a Golden eagle. Here's a harpy eagle. Same advice applies:

Here's an Andean condor. This one's safe to watch. No predation:

Youtube, I love you. (Speaking of TV, does anyone watch The Office? How Michael admitted that when he discovered Youtube he didn't work for 5 days? ha ha!)


Anonymous said...

Amen to parents taking back some parenting responsibilities and taking away those electronic devices and getting back to reading with kids.
I wonder if that is why so many of my students are electing to NOT read.
I have been readig your posts and so appreciate your take on the whole political scene. You go, girl!

Suzanne Young said...

I had to take away my husband's video games so that my 7-year-old won't play them. They're both better off. :)

And, Laini. Your childhood sounds like a dream I'd love to live now!


Stephanie Perkins said...

I wanted to be Kira in The Dark Crystal SO badly. She had WINGS!

Lexi said...

Reading keeps me inside more than TV ever did or will. So maybe reading is a bad thing, too? I hope not!

Also, the first video made me really, really happy. I watched it five times.

Laini Taylor said...

Okay, Lexi, that's a little twisted, but I think it's way cool too. But you know, not for the prey. . .

As for reading, no, reading is much much much better than TV. But a kid needs to get outside too and be all feral and hooligany and bury treasure under oak trees and throw water balloons and spy and roller skate and tickle mailmen. You know?

Stephanie -- I know. Kira was SO CUTE! And: Fizzgig!

violetismycolor said...

I had an idyllic childhood, too. I lived on a dairy farm in LA County in the 60' was awesome. My kids grew up here in Portland, and their life was pretty great, too, so I guess it's still possible.

Lexi said...


Also, I liked the golden eagle video because it was so unexpected. as in, A SHEEP? it is flying away with a SHEEP? it is going to eat a SHEEP? SHEEP?

Anonymous said...

I just love these posts where you go with where your mood takes you and you share so much. I agree with the role of parents, especially when it comes to reading. I have a 10-week old daughter who already is an avid listener and babbler and goes crazy over certain books. (I also read your posts to her.) It's amazing. Your childhood reminds me that while we don't have the freedom to allow her to explore downtown DC, we need to promote that discovery time in her life. Thank you for inspiring us to make the very most of our own lives and those of our children.

S R Wood said...

Ho. Ly. Moly. It always seems surprising yet desperately cool when predation crosses species. I don't mean a lion catching a gazelle, but more surprising pairings:

Monkey-eating eagle
Sheep-catching eagle
Bird-eating spider
Fish-eating spider
Mouse-eating praying mantis

I would not be surprised to learn someday that scientists have discovered a spider that runs down and devours rabbits. Hopefully on the other side of the world from me!

Awesome videos. The law of tooth and claw.

tone almhjell said...

I love the glimpses of your childhood! When I was a kid, we only had one tv-channel in Norway. Which was frustrating when there was only boring grown up stuff on, but on the other side, we all shared the same references, which was kind of nice.

Anyway, there weren't that many programs for kids, so instead we played outside. There were old bunkers to explore and trees and roofs to climb and frozen fields to roam and apples to filch. Or we read books, Astrid Lindgren, Tolkien, and Maria Gripe (swedish author who scared us half to death, and we adored it).

Would I swap all this for online games and twenty cartoon channels? No way! For roman ruins and convents and swans? Well, maybe. You must tell me more sometime.

Ajay Mishra said...

We have heard a lot of sari story in childhood. Whether it is the innings or the hallows. We used to narrate the story with great interest. What were those days too. I remembered my childhood after reading this story. I want to give special thanks.I would like to recommend your blog with friends and near & dear
This is Ajay From SriRam Soft Solutions Pvt Ltd, Best Website Designing Company in Delhi