Today I got something remarkable in the mail.
I knew it was coming. I’d commissioned it, after all.
And yet, there is a difference between envisioning something in the abstract and seeing it with my own eyes, which are currently full of tears.
There were few traditions in my household growing up, unless you count my mom’s antiquing and Dumpster diving. One tradition I could count on was periodic weekend walks to the comic book store, where my mom would set my siblings and me free with a dollar apiece. She’d buy the comics that interested her, while we’d rummage through the ten-cent comic bins for our personal favorites. Mine were horror episodics, a la Creepshow, as well as Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and Superman.
In law school, I got my sister the full set of Amethyst comics as a birthday present. I hadn’t had much cause to think of that, or the comics themselves, until a couple of weeks ago. I’d walked into an antique shop in search of a dresser. There were no dressers available, but I did find excellent conversation with the store’s owner, who reminded me so very much of my mom I felt as if she were standing just behind me, too intent in her own rummaging to chit-chat.
Another prospective customer came in and interrupted our discussion with a question. I examined the jewelry in a nearby case for a moment; when I looked up, my eyes landed directly on comic book magic: Amethyst and Superman in the same comic!
I coughed up $10 and decided that, for that single afternoon, I believed in signs.
I still haven’t read that comic. It’s not important that I read it, just that it exists. It reminds me of my favorite times with my mom, my Thunder Thighs, my forever superhero.
Every time my eyes landed on that magical crossover comic, I thought of another piece of comic art I was waiting for. I’d commissioned extremely talented, conscientious comic artist and friend Sina Grace to draw a piece borne from my blog “Becoming a Superhero.”
Because my mom’s life was so full of strife, I struggled to figure out how to do her memory justice. How could I help other people see her not as just a crazy bird lady but as the source of my own love, hope and wonder, not through accident but through emulation? How could I remember her that way, recalling not only her life’s many tragedies but also its victories?
“Becoming a Superhero” was the turning point for me. It was my answer. As long as I remembered Thunder Thighs, I was remembering my mom–my real mom, not not-Mom, the way she’d want to be remembered.
And as long as I not only remember but live the best parts of her, her love and laughter endure.
At some point I decided I wanted not just words but an image to serve as my reminder to remember my mom and use the remembering well.
I described to Sina what I envisioned, though that envisioning was in blurs and blobs. He asked bunches of questions and set to work, sending me a “blueline” (or very preliminary sketch) a few days ago to make sure he was on the right track. I loved it, and I said so. I was prepared to be enchanted by the final product, but again, I couldn’t really imagine what that enchantment would feel like.
Today I received a snapshot of the final image. I laughed and cried all at once, enveloped in the rush of remembered comic book shop visits, Thunder Thighs adventures, and the imagined forays of Dark Moon and Silver Star. My mom would love the image. I sure do.
The print one will be in my hands in a week or two’s time, but what’s important now is that it’s in my heart. Right there with my mom, my Thunder Thighs, my forever superhero.
The Monster’s Daughter is not paranormal romance.
Until yesterday, I failed to understand why people would buy my first novel expecting romance. After all, nothing in the title, cover, nor description hints at romance. See the description:
Ginny Connors doesn’t believe in vampires. There’s totally a rational reason her dad is a lot more bloodthirsty and a lot less interested in food than he used to be. Still, she hangs a cross on her bedroom door. Just in case.
When Ginny discovers people aren’t the guests but the main course at her father’s New Year party, she wishes she could save the day with garlic pancakes. Instead, she must face the limits of her daydreams, and attempt to stop the monster her father has become.
Vampires: check. Dads: check. Daydreams: check. All present. Romance, though? Romantic love? Smoochie-face? Gaga-eyes? Infatuation? These guys had other places to be. Read more…
Buffy Summers may not slay sickness the way she does vampires, but she and her gang comfort me through sickness in other ways.
Buffy, Xander and Willow on VHS were my most reliable companions through my lonely season in South Korea. They held me through my law school years in Los Angeles, and a later move to Japan. Unlike the friends and family with whom I loved watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I could pack them up and ship them with me, a portability I cherished. Being with the latter Scooby gang far away from home made me feel not so far away from home at all.
I’ve mentioned I was a fangirl, and that I worked as an extra on the show several times, but I haven’t really talked much about the specifics of my fandom. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing to remember how devoted I was to a television show. Most the time, though, I just smile and shake my head at my younger self, all the while remembering to be thankful she led me on such interesting adventures.
This morning, sick and happily lost in Buffy marathon, there’s no embarrassment, just gratitude as I remember one specific fangirl encounter. Read more…
Sometimes it seems there is a huge divide between the silliness of my day to day life and the seriousness of this blog. To help restore a little balance, here is an image of real-me, real-now. I do so love being ridiculous!
Photo courtesy Elsha
Space research: fascinating, but not an especially good use of money with our own world full of hunger and unresolved needs. That’s how I would have characterized my take on space research early last year, before I read a couple of compelling posts on its merits.
Thanks to changes in thought and heart rippling out from my reading those posts, I knew enough to stand atop a roof and watch for the space shuttle Endeavour as it passed over my office today.
That shuttle was not so very long ago among the stars. It was among the stars because we have minds great enough to dream up, create and send not only technology but life into space. With minds out there great enough to accomplish these things, I cannot help but have faith that time will see many more wonders worked both in the sky and on our own home planet.
To do things, we must first dream them. As I stood and watched the shuttle fly by, I was heartened by the vastness of human dreams, and by the amazing impacts of our drive to see them come true.
And let us hope that all the other leaders in all the other fields look up into the night sky and ask, “What do I want? Would I be happiest to see the stars from here on Earth, or to fly amongst them?”
– Kristina, “Want Versus Need…Stuff and Space“
My movie-induced narcolepsy has frustrated my movie fanatic fiancée, Ba.D., for years.
I seldom actively try to fall asleep. It’s just that movies were for so long my bedtime lullaby, it’s hard for me to appreciate them as anything more.
Once in a while I find a movie it’s impossible for me to sleep through. More rarely, I find a movie that not only holds my wakeful attention for two hours but invigorates me even after its credits have wrapped.
Fat Kid Rules the World is such a movie. The script didn’t so much whisper as sing through its actors.
“Troy Billings is seventeen, overweight, and suicidal. Just as he’s about to jump in front of a bus, he’s saved by Marcus, a charming high school dropout/street musician. The two begin an uneasy friendship when Marcus enlists the musically challenged Troy to become the drummer in a new punk rock band. As Troy’s relationship with Marcus grows, Troy’s father becomes increasingly concerned about his son’s new friendship.” — Official synopsis
“Fat Kid” Troy (Jacob Wysocki) immediately won both my heart and my full attention. I would have stayed awake for two hours simply to watch him go through the motions of his life. And yet, each of the actors in this amazing cast held their weight not only collectively but alone. Through their words and silences alike, these actors created living characters who didn’t so much feel real as really exist. At the movie’s close, I knew and loved each of them.
It would be impossible for me to pinpoint any one thing that sold me on Fat Kid Rules the World. There were so many that shone: its relationships, its lighting, its locations, its humor, its tenderness. Its magic was not in any one piece but in many beautiful pieces moving together in perfect synchronicity; indeed, when asked what he loved most about the movie, Ba.D. waxed effusive until I cut him off at fourteen minutes. (I know it was fourteen minutes because I recorded him in the hopes I could post his response here.)
Like me, he found it impossible to choose any one part of the film more perfect than another. Still, I gave him a second chance, asking him to describe his favorite thing about the movie “in one to two minutes.” After four minutes, I told him to wrap it up. After five minutes, I stopped the recording and asked if we should try one more time. He said we should.
That recording ran three minutes but felt insubstantial compared to the others. For indeed, how can you possibly say only, “This is cinematic perfection” when the rush of that cinematic perfection is still coursing through your veins?
Shockingly, the film has had a hard time finding its distribution groove. In a discussion following the screening, Ba.D. and I learned about the trouble with selling “a movie about a fat kid.”
Ba.D. had a lot to say about that as we drove home, shaking a verbal fist at Hollywood for trying to stick to movies easily boiled down to two- and three-word catchphrases. The movie, he said, would have virtually distributed itself in the era that brought us movies like Heathers, Pump up the Volume and The Breakfast Club.
The Breakfast Club analogy resonated with me.
At its most basic level, Fat Kid Rules the World is about a fat kid. The Breakfast Club is about a group of kids stuck in detention.
But is detention what you think of when The Breakfast Club’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” comes on the radio? Or do you grin as you sing along and remember the unlikely kinship that grew between its dissimilar protagonists?
Fat Kid Rules the World isn’t just about a fat kid. It’s about grief, friendship, anger, transformation, punk rock, and the unlikely kinship that builds between people who only seem unalike at the most superficial of levels.
There aren’t many showings of this movie scheduled yet. Check here to see if one is in or near your town. If one isn’t in your town, please request it by following the request link at the bottom of that page. It’s a little work, to be sure, but great things are worth the work, and Fat Kid Rules the World isn’t just great. It’s incredible.
Next time I see director Matthew Lillard’s name, you won’t hear me saying, as I did a few days ago, “Oh, hey, it’s one of those kids from Scream!”
Nope. Next time, I’m more likely to say, “Yeah! That’s the guy whose vision made Fat Kid Rules the World come to life on the screen!”
I’m not a movie reviewer. I’m barely a movie watcher. It’s hard for me to find the right parting words to show how much this film rocked me. Instead of the right words, then, I leave you with the ones I uttered after I stopped cheering when the movie ended:
I love this movie so much, I just want to kiss it. I don’t even know how I’d do that, but I want to make out with the entire movie. So much.
(For the record, I still do.)
It’s little wonder I grew up wanting to be a superhero.
From the time I was little, the woman I most admired deemed herself “Thunder Thighs,” with the power to destroy villains by such seemingly innocuous things as body odor and thigh-ripple shock waves.
I don’t remember all of her powers or all the villains she coaxed back toward goodness, but I do remember my giggles. I remember how, in these moments, the world was only mirth and closeness to the funniest, silliest, smartest, prettiest mom in the whole wide world.
Thunder Thighs has retired now, but her cape is stretched forever across my proverbial heart.
I’ve been thinking of her a lot these days. I’d like to be worthy of wearing her cape.
There’s only one way to earn it. It’s not by being skinny enough, tall enough, eloquent enough, smart enough or bestselling enough. Not even a little.
I’ll earn that cape by making my son laugh from deep in his belly, and by showing him there is no sweeter music to me than the sound of that laugh. By making him forget the rest of the world exists, for a few moments, and letting him know that the rest of the world has ceased to exist for me, too. By letting him know I am not near him, but with him.
Thanks to The Hands Free Revolution, I’m getting in touch with my inner Thunder Thighs. I’m looking at my cell phone and wondering, “Would Thunder Thighs read that email, or would she swoop up her child and take him for an impromptu airplaine ride instead?”
I know what she would do. She might not have been the most practical of superheroes, but she was the most loving.
I have a choice. Every time my phone beeps, it’s beeping a choice. I choose my son. I choose my family.
I choose to do my best to be remembered by my son as I remember Thunder Thighs.
I will be worthy of that cape.
© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.
Once a quarter during college, I’d receive my financial aid and go on a book-buying binge. I’d vow to spend my remaining money wisely enough that I’d be able to keep the books.
Once a quarter, nearer its end, I’d look at my books and wish they were nutritionally as well as intellectually sustaining. I’d then haul them to Smith Family Bookstore, where I’d trade one form of sustenance (books) for cash for the other (food).
Only a handful of books survived my college days. Fewer still moved overseas and back with me. Twice.
Early last year, my dear friend Sarah started recommending books she knew I’d like. A Brief History of Montmaray didn’t just suck me into its own pages but back into reading. By the end of 2011, thanks to copious readwalking, I’d read 40ish books. Most of those were ones I’d bought myself, which meant I was adding books to my shelves* knowing I really would be able to keep them this time around.
Since my return to reading, most of my books have come from Amazon. With time in short supply, it’s been convenient to click straight from a review to my online shopping cart, having to waste time on nothing more than cutting open a box.
It was all so easy, I forgot how I used to enjoy the book-buying experience. In bygone days, I’d spend hours maneuvering through stacks of books and savor the weight, feel and smell of each book I touched, whether or not any given book came home with me. Being surrounded by books was better than being surrounded by anything else in the entire world, and in the presence of so many books I felt the vastness of the world represented across all those pages.
What reminded me of the cost of “ease”?
I’d driven by it many times before I actually stopped and peeked in a couple of weeks ago. With my little one, Li’l D, close at heel, I picked up books based on a combination of color, title and whimsy before scanning their blurbs and selecting some. Unlike the old days, my perusing time was limited.
Also unlike the old days, I was able to partake of the goodness of sharing the book-buying experience with my own little (pre-)reader. I left with five books; Li’l D, three. Sadly but predictably**, Li’l D’s favorite thing about his books was learning that pop-up books are really fun to demolish. (Li’l D: “Mommy, look! I have a monkey!” Mommy: “Sweetie, the monkey was supposed to stay in the book.”)
I had maybe ten minutes to explore. In ten minutes, with a little help from a little helper, I’d found eight books to take home. Each of those books has its own history, from inception in the writer’s mind to agent to publisher to reader to bookstore . . . and then to me. With each book I touched, I touched more than pages. I touched history. I touched humanity. I touched the words of others who make these things accessible and tangible.
As long as I read, I’m granted the ability to see this world and others through others’ eyes. This is the antithesis to loneliness.
I left the bookstore wondering how much time I’m really saving when I use Amazon. Am I saving minutes? Seconds? Is any “saving” worth the loss of really connecting with the individual books I decide to make part of my home, hopefully forever?
I’m not going to answer this question with a timer. I’m going to rely on intuition as I always used to. My intuition says the loss is greater than the gain, in most caess.
If I’m after a really specific book, I’ll still nab it off Amazon. But I’ll not keep making the mistake of thinking only books recommended by friends and available on Amazon are worth buying. There’s a whole world of books out there, and no matter how behemoth any online bookseller might be, its inventory reflects only a portion of what’s out there.
As for the portion in my own neighborhood? There’s little sweeter than seeing my future reader running through the stacks of knowledge that might someday become his own.
Do you still visit book stores? Libraries? What do books mean to you? Your kids?
* The floor counts as a shelf, right?
** “Curse you and your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” — Oh, man, have I ever been waiting for a chance to quote this! What Wash (Firefly) said.
© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.
I’m going to be a superhero.
I learned quickly that many adults didn’t consider this a valid answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
That didn’t mean I stopped dreaming about it, or planning the glory days to come with my just-younger sister. It only meant I stopped telling adults about it, and learned to throw them off the scent with an ever-changing sequence of what I thought might be good day jobs.
I would be Dark Moon to my sister’s Silver Star.
Villains, we knew, would someday tremble before us as we flew through the air and used our magic lightning bolts to stop their land-flight!
Yet with few exceptions, we intended to show them mercy, if they seemed genuinely apologetic.
Two decades later, neither Dark Moon nor Silver Star have yet been on a single crime-fighting mission, but there’s another way that they live on while their superpowers continue gestating.
Every so often, Silver Star finds a necklace that would be the perfect fit for Dark Moon’s crime-fighting costume.
And when she does, she sends the necklace to Dark Moon, who wears it with her day job outfits in the meantime, and smiles to think of how in so doing “the dreams of two little girls thus live on in the women they’ve become. ♥”
© 2011 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.