Monday, September 28, 2009

Ask Clarissa

I went to Abigail's beach house just to get away from school and life and the coffee house and maybe even John Beckett for the weekend. I read the Pooh book, which Abigail told me over and over is not a Pooh book, and had really nothing to contribute to any conversation about it. It was a cute book, I guess. I will probably save it to give to my own kid someday. But it didn't, like, move me. I didn't have sticky notes protuding out of mine like Lauren had in hers.

And I wasn't pondering the illustrations like Ryan was. I am not even sure she read the dang book. She was just all over the illustrations; their charm and poetic imperfections and wonderfully abstract shadows. Whatever.

The first night at the house we decided to have our dinner outside on the patio (Esperanza grilled salmon) and discuss our overall impressions of the book. Oh, yeah. We're talking about When We Were Very Young. Lauren went on and on about this and that, Ryan murmured one-word super-niceties about the illustrations, Esperanza said she wished she had known about the book when her kids were little and I said I didn't have any overall impressions.

All right, Abigial said. How about underall impressions then, and the other girls laughed.

Do you have a favorite line? Lauren asked.

I cracked open the book to the Pooh poem and said, "A bear however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise." And I snapped it shut.

Lauren and Ryan giggled but Abigail didn't.

I love that line, too, she said.

And then Lauren and Ryan stopped laughing because Abgail was serious.

Think of a bear, she said. A bear lives alone unless it's a mother with cubs. They hunt alone, they walk alone. They sleep alone. And if they just sit in their cave and do nothing, they increase their size but never their influence. They never make a difference to anybody. They just get fat.

It got quiet then.

I don't think Pooh minds being chubby, I said. He likes it. It's part of who he is. And other people like it about him. Other people love that about him.

That's not really Pooh, she said. It's before he was Pooh.

It's Pooh and you know it, I said. Besides, it says "however hard he tries," Abigail. That's the opposite of sitting in a cave and doing nothing. Even Eeyore would tell you that.

She broke into a smile and then began to laugh.

Abigail seemed different after that moment, like something big and heavy that she'd been carrying around for decades had just fallen into the ocean below us.

We all sat and talked until well after dark. And when I went to bed, in the room Abigail had slept in as a child, I opened the book and started to read it again from the first page. It wasn't like the first time I read it. This time it made me feel young, like a kid. And I fell asleep thinking of my old bedroom and the sound of my parents talking in low tones as they shut down the house for the night, and Fruit Stripe gum and new boxes of crayons and watching the stars come out.

I began the weekend just wanting to get away and I left it not wanting to go back. Life is complicated when you are an adult. Too complicated.

John Beckett, who can just about drive me crazy with his opinionated diatribes, kissed me tonight. I wanted him to. . .

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