Tag Archives: adolescence

About Libraries

Activity Being Avoided: None. It’s a writing day. I’m allowed to be doing this.
Music In My Head: Kaa Khem — Yat-Kha
Tea Being Drunk: None. It’s water. I celebrated the civic holiday with chocolate cake, and I now have the same stomach ache I recall from childhood.
Books Being Read: Rebecca–Daphne du Maurier, My Happy Days in Hell–George Faludy

The Globe and Mail published this on Friday: Amid growing demand, GTA libraries are helping to fill a social-services gap

That’s my library they’re talking about at the beginning of the article.

Much as I appreciate this article, I’d like to correct the author: libraries have always filled a social-services gap.

 The small town I grew up in didn’t have a lot for kids like me: there were church groups and Brownies, and sport things. As a child, I had some friends but was more interested in books. (The inside covers of my childhood books all have death threats for the sister who had the audacity to thieve from my shelves.) I was eleven years old when I started volunteering at the local library. Very likely, I wasn’t what the average librarian might call helpful, but I was very happy to be there, touching all the books, getting quite side-tracked by reading the books I was supposed to be sorting, and maybe being a little bit useful or something. I felt mature.

I felt like I was being educated in a way that school could never offer.

The building was dusty, high-ceilinged, hushed except for the creaking of old wooden chairs and titanic reading tables. I can’t find any pictures of the interior, but here’s the exterior of heaven:

Image from Canada’s Historic Places

In 1980, someone made a prediction about the town: because of all the sinners and implicit sinning in the area, God was going to lose His patience and deal with the whole sinful mess. Sadly, God (or someone with a flourishing complex) chose fire to express His displeasure. Along with a good handful of other places, the library went down in 1980.

My heart broke. I think there might still be a small fissure beneath the thick scar.

Not to be thwarted, I volunteered at the school library. It was limited in both size and scope, filled with a lot of books that were, frankly, boring. The library contained books that were “appropriate” for W.A.S.P. children up to Grade 8.

I needed better than that. I needed adult books. I needed my big library.

We moved to a larger town just before my 13th birthday. The library there was much the same: old, creaky, educational and safe.

I had even fewer friends as a teenager. Didn’t need them. I had Timothy Findley and Jane Rule.

Can’t think what I’d be, or where I’d be, without public libraries. Certainly, I would be a demand on social services. Where else, pre-internet, would I have learned to be who I am? Where else would someone like me find sufficient sources of words for their sanity?

It’s always good to see public acknowledgement of our need for libraries.

If you need further proof that a good chunk of society’s money needs to go to libraries, you can also check out WMTC’s Things I Heard at the Library. (She’s a librarian, not just someone who would be a drain on society if she weren’t given enough to read.)

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Checking on Mr. Skeffington

I recently got back in touch with a friend from high school.  (Lesson: don’t list your high school on your Facebook page, or else you pop up in that little sidebar that’s always telling me with whom I should be friends.  Your name might stand out like a beacon of light in the fog of “who the hell are these people?”)  It’s been great; I missed her.  We hadn’t seen each other for about 18 years.

We wrote an awesome play together for our Grade 13 drama class.  Our drama teacher was really encouraging and gave us free creative reign.  The creativity, of course, kinda got out of hand when we (okay, I ) hypnotised one of the guys in our class and then couldn’t bring him out of it; we were doing “research” for the play.  But the experience did give us a tone of terror which we attempted to work into the final script.  Then our teacher went on maternity leave, and left us in the shaking-yet-capable hands of a student teacher who was doing his practicum.  We practiced him good.  I figured we killed him – or, at least, permanently traumatised him – but my friend did a little searching and found he is still alive and teaching drama.  Mr. Skeffington, you must be the strongest teacher in the history of teaching.

Last weekend, my friend and I had high tea at the Old Mill (which we don’t recommend, and which was immediately followed by tea at David’s Tea ’cause the Old Mill tea really wasn’t satisfying).  It was a day of nostalgia… followed by a lot of confusion and giggling, as we both remember things differently.  I’d just like to point out that I was considerably more in touch with reality than she was at the time, so my perspective is probably more reliable.  So there.  I also kept all of her letters, and therefore have fodder in any circumstance where she begs to differ.  So there.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot – the time period, not her inability to remember things correctly.  It was an interesting period, as I’m sure most people find their last year of childhood to be.  There were a lot of people who had a profound and permanent effect on my life.  There were a lot of experiences that shaped my adult personality.  There were a lot of things I’d really rather not remember.  It freaks me out that we remember them differently, too, because the only thing weirder than a weird memory is a potentially incorrect weird memory.

My favourite t.v. show at the moment is Being Erica.  I like the idea of being able to travel back and check things out again (and am also desperately glad that it’s only a t.v. show, and that I only have to travel to some fictional character’s past).  I’d like to have my current adult perspective on the things that were happening.  Did we really traumatise Mr. Skeffington?  Did we perhaps traumatise him even more than I think we did?  Were my friend and I really so strange that we should have been separated from the rest of the drama class (did they not want to work with us, or were we the ones who wanted to be alone)?  Were we really just normal adolescents and it was only in the cheery setting of Brockville that we stood out as abnormal?

Unlike Erica, I wouldn’t want to go back to change anything, just to see what it was really like.  Perspective is everything.

Now that we’ve rehashed the teenager years, my friend and I can get on to an adult friendship.  She’s still good and weird, so I’m interested in seeing how this turns out.  The future doesn’t freak me out half as much as the past does.

LATE NIGHT ADDENDUM (emails):

Friend Who Freaked Out Skeffington: I have to remember that my life isn’t an episode of “Being Erica” where you can go back with your current knowledge and experience and relive/redo your regretful behaviour as a form of therapy.  I do love that concept though and am a faithful viewer of that show – just wish I had come up with it first.

Me: You were reading my blog.

FWFOS: OMFG.  I just read it.  Honest to god, I did not until I got your email.

Who needs I Ching?  We have fate.  And Being Erica.

Take Your Adult To Life Day

Radio Free School recently put up a blog about changing the way we view teens.  I spend most of my time with teenagers; I actually think they’re not much different from adults.  I take that back: most of the time, they’re easier to get along with.

RFS  quotes Robert Epstein’s The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen: “Our views can reasonably be conceived of as a kind of irrational prejudice programmed by our culture-almost precisely the kind that mainstream Americans bore towards women and blacks until very recent times,” says Epstein.

They then say: What we need then is more avenues, more opportunities for this to take place-for adults and kids to come face to face in meaningful ways. Take your kid to school day won’t cut it.
I want to hear your ideas and experiences on what can be done (what is being done) to restore the continuum. Please write in.

Some of the suggestions include getting rid of high school and put the kids into something more like apprenticeship work programmes.  Not a bad idea.  Why do we expect children to go to school until they’re about 23 years old, and then go into work?  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I’d like to flip it around a bit, though.  Rather than having the kids live our lives for a day, how about we live theirs?  What if each teenager got to make an adult get up three hours earlier than they wanted to, hang around school for 7 or 8 hours, work a crappy job for a few hours, then do two or three hours of homework?  They could also make the adults sit on the floor in a big, affectionate pile and talk about love, religion, politics, society, etc.  They could make the adults listen to music which makes them feel extreme emotions.  They could show the adults what it feels like to risk their health-and-well-being by leaping fences, BMXing, fleeing the schoolyard in a frenzy of parkour or crossing the road against the light.  They could make the adults try something new or do something unpleasant just because it’s good for their character.

The teenagers didn’t choose this lifestyle for themselves: adults created it for them.  We decided this was good for them, and then we complain because they don’t act like adults.  I think we’re just ticked off with them because they still have youth and freedom and all those things we want to have but got rid of in favour of careers and money and material goods.  I think if our society is to the point where someone has the audacity to write a book about why we don’t like a whole group of people, maybe the fault is really, really easy to pinpoint.