Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The sins of

When I was young -almost an adult, not a child, not anything more than a tangled mess of hormones and love and madness - I went to visit my family in Indiana. 

Indiana is a place of impossible breathlessness. Silent expanses of corn and soy are broken by the whir of cars and the distant but immutable cries of birds. In Indiana there is such a passion in waiting, in that sweet breaking moment of what if. I never liked it, I thought the place too bitter to taste, chicken and noodles and repressed, smashed down like risen dough, the things you shouldn't say. Until I was eighteen and thought myself old and suddenly, bone-shockingly loved, I felt that Indiana was a place of the end of things. 

That earlier trip, I sat with my family and wondered if the sins of the mother, and the mother, and the mother, would curse us forever with needing. Childhood means submitting perhaps to the ideas, concepts unsure and preformed, that are passed down like cobwebs, china, overeating and restraint. 

We are so much what we are made. How many of us have been told by our parents, this is what my parents did, and aren't you glad I'm different? They are sifted through that need for love and acceptance just as we, perhaps less rigorously and unjustly raised, feel the desperate search for identity and well, just being okay.

It is, I'm finding, very difficult to be an adult, mostly because no one ever tells you when it will start and you find yourself, unbelieving, living. If I talk about the sins of the parents it is only in terms of the sins that I will in turn commit because I just don't know, not yet, that I'm supposed to be perfect, a grown up, filling all the gaps and satisfying all the needs and never making a mistake.  

Parents make mistakes. So do kids. We all blame each other, because that makes it easier to bear.  We'd like to blame the people who came before us, because that is logical and can't be argued and is so often so painfully clear in our minds, those moments in which we were failed.  But it makes me sad, sometimes, to think of that night which I remember so clearly and so dimly - the fog and dismal helplessness, the glowing television, the sharp inherited angles of the people I love - that there was a moment when I understood, at last, that adults carry on the sins of their parents, and that parents aren't perfect, and that deep in me is the soft thrum of terrible anger, flashing fury, and the gentle but unyielding, we all have to grow up, sometime. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dr. What Now?

I have been, am, and always will be a fan of "genre fiction."  Blame it on Star Trek: The Next Generation coming out right after I was born and the many nights watching adventures and philosophy and ethics.  Blame it on my first, water-stained copy of The Golden Compass (water-stained due to far too many bath time readings).  Blame it on a gorgeous and now mostly destroyed copy of The Mists of Avalon.  Blame it on paganism, tarot, and the Renaissance Festival.  Blame it on the kanar, the saurian brandy, and the synthehol.

When I was little, Riker and Troi were like my parents.  And no, Nemesis, I will never forgive you.

All of this is to say - I am a fan of Dr. Who.  But I never was really, really into it until last night, when we watched Vincent and the Doctor.

I hadn't seen Dr. Who, ever, until college.  Of course, it and its mythos were a part of my life as a geek, because my parents and, it seemed, the whole fan world treasured the Doctor like a loved and lost member of the greatest family ever known - the nerds, the writers, the introverts.  Dr. Who was that last remnant of secret and treasured geek television.  Bad special effects, good writing, and terribly skimpy outfits.

I was born to a different world, shiny and oh-so-nineties, and the Doctor seemed as far away to me as Yorkshire on a sunny day with plain biscuits and no tea.  Until last night.  When I saw, new and fresh and painful, the power of genre fiction.  Until I saw the sky turn paint.

When I was very little I did my greatest work of art.  My father, ever the believer, still has it framed - I did Starry Starry Night.  It was spiraling triangles and stars.  It's probably the truest thing I ever made, because I made it, conscious and young, out of love.  I made it because I saw the sky that way, too.

Vincent van Gogh was bipolar, did you know?  Some blame it on the absinthe.  But let me tell you, Vincent van Gogh was bipolar, you know?  And I never knew it, I never thought, until I saw him, breathtaking, red-headed, sobbing and laughing, in a medium which is commonly derided, ridiculed, and made terribly uncool.  Genre fiction.  That thing that tells us who we really are - because far-fetched computers and mechanical friends and time travel can never, will never, take away from the human existence.  Life in genre is life - genre has the capacity to reveal to us the things we are, the things we hope to be, the things we are afraid of in ourselves.  Vincent van Gogh, fighting perhaps the biggest Cockatiel I've ever seen, said more to me about myself than I've ever read in Chekhov.

The sky turned into paint.  The artist met himself.  Genre created that truth which we see in the corner of our eyes but can't face.  He was sick and he loved and he died.  Yellow sunflowers and aliens and alcoholism and time travel and me.

I know this, because the Doctor showed me.

I went to a good school and got a good degree and never wrote one bit of genre fiction.  It wasn't done.  But don't let it fool you - genre fiction is what makes us who we are.  We are constantly more than ourselves.  We look to the future, television and books and comics, and we imagine, what if?  What if we could see that which we are with clarity and hope and a knowledge that Vincent van Gogh turned the sky into paint and was so, so human?  So impossible.  So sad.  So like me.

This post is dedicated to my stepmother.  She knows why.