Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oh, the weather outside is frightful ...

... because it's ALLEGEDLY going to snow on HALLOWEEN FREAKIN WEEKEND in PHILADELPHIA.  Seriously, people: I was swimming two months ago.  I was still sweating a month ago.  And now it's snowing.

In October. In. Philadelphia.

If you think global warming and climate change is a joke, you must live under a rock.


Art by Becky Kelly

(Before I go further, a BIG Thank You to my friend Laurie for fixing the photo in my banner! YAY! The title actually looks the way I want it to look!)

I'm making cake pops for the first time tonight.  My friend Amy served something similar at her baby shower a few months ago, and you can buy them at Starbucks too.  Mine will be chocolate on the inside and covered in white chocolate on the outside. The idea is that you're supposed to decorate them to look like ghosts and monsters, etc.  The ghost faces looked easiest to make: Use chocolate chips for the eyes and Raisinettes for the mouth.  You'll see what I mean when I take a picture of them.  I also bought Halloween sprinkles so that if I think, "Oh, whatever" halfway through, then I can just roll them in sprinkles and be done with them.

Want to hear a funny story? My sister called me around 5:30 tonight from the train station: She took Septa all the way home, got back to her car ... and realized that she had lost her car keys somewhere on campus in Philly.  She had already called my mom to pick her up, but then Leslie said, "I don't know--I think I threw the keys away by mistake."

"Threw them away?"
"Yeah, on the train platform this morning. I had a bunch of stuff that I needed to throw out, so I just tossed it all in the trashcan on the platform ... I think I threw away my keys too."
"Wait, the same trashcan on the other side of the tracks you're standing next to?"
"You've seen that trashcan!! I'm not sticking my hands in there!"
"OMG Leslie: go see if your keys are sitting right there on top."
"But, I have five law books in my arms and they're heavy! ... ok fine, here I go."

I hear her trudge across the parking lot, under the tracks, all the way up the stairs to the platform.  And then Leslie goes, "Oh my God. They're sitting right on top.  I HAVE MY KEYS BACK!!! YAAAAY!!!"

Yup, you're not living life until you have to search a Septa trashcan for your car keys with an armload of school books.

(For the record, I left my house/office keys in the bathroom at my school three times in two years.  Luckily, I got them back each time ... Mostly because I called our department admin--from my house, a 20 minute car ride and one hour train ride away--in total panic going, "Sonia: PLEEEEEEAAASE can you go see if I left my keys on the ledge above the bathroom sink? PLLLLEEEEEEAAAASSE?"
[Heavy sigh]: "Yeah, alright."
[Five minutes later]: "I gotcher keys. Don't worry--they're right here."

Those were the days.)

One thing I wish I had time to do this weekend is reread--for maybe ... I don't know ... the fourteenth time?--my favorite, favorite childhood book.  Since I've been in college, I've made it a point to reread this book every October. I haven't gotten around to it yet this year.

The only appropriate time to read this book is October, right before Halloween.  Most of what happens occurs in the fall.  I love, LOVE John Bellairs' writing style.  I first read this when I was in third grade. The cover totally freaked me out, so I brought it home from the library.

All of the illustrations in the book are done by Edward Gorey. (He's not responsible for the cover.) My sister and I LOVE Edward Gorey. I don't know if that's his real name or if he worked under a pseudonym, but his work is completely ... gory. No, not gory: creepy.  (You can easily search for his work on Google.)

I've read most of Bellairs' books, none of which are written for adults.  I've asked myself many times, "Why do I love this book? And why did I love it when I was eight?"  My answer is, "Because I'm complete weirdo."

In the movie You've Got Mail, Kathleen Kelly says to Joe Fox at one point, "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does." And I could not agree more.  At the same time, I really don't like it when I catch myself adhering to some form of determinism. You know the stuff: "Your fate is/was inescapable"; "It was just meant to be"; "Everything has a cause; everything happens for a reason."

That being said, I think about the general framework for most of Bellairs' books: young tween-age kid is sort of ostracized at school because he/she is too grown up to relate to his/her peers, so each kid finds he/she can only relate to old people.  Additionally, most of the characters--young and old--are weakly Catholic, strongly superstitious, and (no way of getting around it) totally nerdy.  These are people who read lots of books because they feel like it.  People who do research for the fun of it. People who allow themselves to ask dark questions about life because if they don't, they may go crazy.  Sad but true: Even at the age of eight, I knew I was normal in this fictional world.  I knew how to act "normal" in my real life (ie, "Research papers? I HATE them!"; "Tour another museum/church/art gallery? Strangle me now!"), but the truth is that I was dying (DYING!) to spend just one day wandering around one of Bellairs' fictional little towns and living life with the "normal" people in them.

Anyway, sometimes I think about Kathleen Kelly's observation from that movie.  Would I have become the person I am now if I had never read those books?  I don't know.  I like to think that it doesn't actually matter: I've made all the choices I've made because they were real alternatives that I could select.  But, then I'll catch myself saying, doing, or valuing something that weirdly reflects a Bellairs character from long ago.  Sadly/Oddly, I most closely identify with one of Bellairs' senior characters: A crazy history professor who constantly complains about grading his students' term papers. He's grouchy, somewhat irratic, a complete know-it-all, and slightly scattered.  Yet to my eight or nine year old mind, there was something oddly glamorous and completely cool about his life: A teacher who goes by "Professor," teaches adult students, grades important-sounding things called "term papers," knows tons of random facts about stuff like the Crusades (whatever those are), can translate a handful of foreign languages, and enjoys baking chocolate cakes on the weekends? Sign me up--that sounds awesome!  Can I be a grown up like that?

Be careful what you wish for. (Then again, I can't do most of that stuff, except for the cake part and grading the term papers.  So I guess that makes my outcome... worse?)

So what's the truth: Do we really channel the energy of all those childhood books into our adult lives? Or do we house something within ourselves that would've been attracted to the adult lives we've shaped for ourselves regardless of those books? Maybe if I never had seen the Bellairs book on the library shelves all those years ago, I would be a totally different person today?  I don't know.

So anyway, I typically save October for this book, but I have a late start this year.  Then again, it hasn't felt like fall too much this year (not because the weather hasn't turned, but because my head's not in the game of the changing season).  Hell, with 2-4" of snow coming this weekend, I guess we're just skipping to winter?

I'll update soon with the finished cake pops.


Cat Lady, Esq. said...

Stealing that Bellairs pic. GIMME SOME CAKE POPS WOMAN!

Shaunj said...

This was the first book I remember reading on my own. I bought it from a book fair when I was in the third grade, now I'm searching for this edition for my little ones. Thank you for posting!