Friday, December 14, 2012

Planting Dandelions; Field notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman



I bought this book because

a. It has a catchy title
b. My yard is a dandelion happy zone.
c. I know people who know people who know Kyran
d. All of the above

It's always d. isn't it?!

I'm not a fan of memoirs, unless they make me laugh, although I would characterize this more as essays on life but who's asking me.  Kyran's lead an interesting and bold life and she easily pokes fun at herself in a nice witty way.  I read her blog now and then, which spurred me to check out the book.  Laughter feels good and this book gave me that rare opportunity to look ridiculous, laughing out loud, while I sat for hours waiting for Groovy Girl to finish bending and bouncing her way through gymnastics class.

One particularly funny chapter, Mom, the musical, had the other gymnastic parents eyeing me warily as I freely giggled along:

When I was a kid, about a thousand years ago, Valentine's Day was all about the valentines, which were painstakingly hand-cut from a book that contained not one licensed, trademarked character.  You chose the plainest, slightly backhanded ones for the kids you didn't like, and the most ornate, gushing ones for the kids you did, and we gave it to each other straight up, without the orgiastic euphoria of corn syrup solids to cloud things. For party refreshments, we had our own tender, young hearts to eat out,  I don't know when that changed, or whether it's an American thing, but every valentine my kids give and receive comes attached to at least one piece of candy.  As if that didn't add up to enough insulin resistance, the room moms mix up a vat of sugar and red food dye and pour it in a feed trough.  Or they might as well, considering what is actually served.  If you've seen video montages of psychedelic "happenings" in the sixties, you've seen something like a modern Valentine's Day classroom party.  On the glycemic disaster index, Valentine's Day is second only to Halloween.  (181)

That's funny because that's me except I would beg to bring in a less-sugary option or organic lemonade only to be met with glares from both room moms and kids. My kid, depending on the day and which kid, would either cheer me on or hang their head in shame.  I hate red dye and skittles too! 

Sliced in between the humor there are many poignant moments of insightful parenting knowledge that only a really good writer can pull from their own daily life.  I kept thinking to  myself-oh, that makes sense, how come I've never thought about that.  

Insightful moment about a dead pet:

In my momnipotence, I sometimes forget that my kids came fully assembled.  When they were infants, I'd marvel over their tiny ears, how intricately formed they were, pink and golden like the inside of a conch.  They were  miraculous to me.  And humbling  because I can't draw an ear, much less take credit for making one.  I lose sight of that from time to time, and delude myself into thinking I'm the auteur of their experience, when actually, I mainly work in catering.  They don't need me directing, feeding them their lines.  They get it.  The script for life and death, grief and joy, is written in their DNA.  (101)

It is difficult to remember that we can step away-our kids do understand at an early age-all the important things that matter and we can be ready for the question and answer segment, which usually comes while we are cooking.  I enjoyed how she shared her relationship with her three boys, they sound like interesting and lovely children.  While this isn't a parenting book it did give me some perspective on taking myself too seriously on the parenting front.

Kyran's theme throughout is that her Newfoundland childhood was unique which fuels her desire for a more ordered life here in the states as she raises her family. Married once in Canada she had an affair with Patrick  and it is he that eventually brings her to his homeland of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Her and Patrick live the vagabond's dream as they wander around Mexico for a while and then return to the States broke but in love.  He plays in a band  and she works as a waitress, high on life and each other until Patrick proposes and the idea of a domestic life looms large over her head, angst follows along with babies.

As a hippie girl myself I try to take the road less traveled and still fit that into my roles of mom and wife.  It is not an easy task and there are daily roadblocks.  I found Kyran's struggles with domesticating herself akin to my own story. I can never (well, hardly ever) just accept things and go with it-it's my cross to bear. Boy Scouts was one example as Kyran writes about the experience of creating Pinewood Derby cars and how turning that block of wood into a finished car with an uninterested husband was quite an accomplishment.  We let Teenage Boy, a 4th grader at the time,  participate for a few months (he begged) before we had to yank him out because my husband and I were so uncomfortable with the zealous flag waving, burning books mentality.   I love my country but not in that way and when we sat down and explained the short list of what we didn't appreciate about the scouting experience he completely understood-as a fourth grader!  

I could easily sit on Kyran's porch and share a story or two with her and her cozy set of friends.  If they'd have me.  It's never easy to leave our roots behind but we have to realize it is exactly those roots that make us the cool, hip parents we are (or hope we are).  This book is fresh and amusing with a perfect amount of reflection to make me look at  my role through keener eyes.  Be forewarned; A fair amount of cursing comes with several of her rants.

Planting Dandelions-the blog.

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