Under Your Covers

Certain Saturdays, you need to lie in bed all day.

You need to let yourself do such a tremendous thing.

It’s Friday, and you say tomorrow, I’ll lie in bed all day.

It should be so simple.

Now it’s Saturday, your eyes open, and in your periphery is that thing that won’t leave you alone. You know the thing. It buzzes and it lights and it practically tugs your dependent fingers toward it, but you twirl your covers into your fists and shut your eyes tight again.

Your bed asks you to stay, begs that you stay.

With your eyes still shut you remember when your bed was a fort and a cave and a castle and a river and how it felt to be an eight year old in a bed.

You remember when you thought your bed was endless, full of depth and possibility, and everything that would keep you safe.

You remember when lying in your bed was the most special thing you could possibly do in a day, and you think you’d like today to be that sort of special.

Perhaps, this Saturday

The brunch isn’t special

The booze isn’t special

The groceries and laundry and goop in the shower drain aren’t special

It won’t be special to get work done

Or special to get dressed

Or special to let everyone know you’re doing just fine.

Your covers give you a hug. They’re happy you’re back. They thought you might have forgotten your bed from 2001, the one that made you feel invincible.

Your bed will let you go tomorrow; it knows you’re grown up now. But today, Saturday, you’ll stay warm and cuddley.

A good bed is a good bed. And you love this Saturday. And it’s nobody’s business.

Circa Third Grade

Having the privilege to return back to thoughts I had years ago is thrilling. To me, now, my 3rd grade self seems so fearless and brilliant. She reminds me of how important it is to maintain the freedom and expansiveness of a little-kid brain. And I’m sure, twenty years from now, I’ll be able to learn something from the journals I’m keeping today. In an effort to keep capturing my thoughts (no matter what they are, just as my 3rd grade teacher Ms. Davies said) I’m launching this project. I’m going through my childhood notebooks, entry by entry, and seeing what third-grade-Jenna motivates post-grad-Jenna to write. If you care to follow me as I work through this project that would be delightful. But what’s even more important to me than you following along is this: if you ever wrote anything down in your childhood, go find it, please, and hold on to it.

This Sucks

I keep finding myself, nightly, inside the bathroom cabinets. How am I in this position, again? I am thinking as my royal blue felt trunk presses up against the growing mold on the inside of the cabinet. Another thought I have is I wish I could walk on my own. Being a stuffed animal blows. It’s like, why do I always have to do everything She makes me do. Oh, that’s right: because I’m inanimate. If She doesn’t make me do anything I do nothing.

We are in the bathroom cabinet. She is talking to me, thinking I can hear her, which, by the way, Parents of the World: I can. You should really talk to your kids more. Stop giving them stuffed animals in lieu of wanting to have actual discussions with them. We – as a cotton-stuffed species – can’t move, but we do have brains. She says to me, “Okay, Royalton, we’re safe. We’ve escaped the Fire-y Beast of Duntron.” The Fire-y Beast of Duntron is her fat, snorting pug dog. He is barking at the bathroom cabinet, the one below the sink, the one we’ve squeezed into. I’ve played this game before. Every night, actually. We don’t get to leave the cabinet until “the beast” stops barking, and that seems to be an impossibility for this imbecile of an animal, so we don’t get to leave until Mom forces us to because it’s bedtime.

Fucking bedtime. This girl can’t sleep without me! It’s like, God forbid I would like to not sleep in the crevice of a six year old’s armpit for once in my life. I guess it’s better than bathtime, though. Nobody is teaching this child that she should NOT be submerging her felt stuffed animal in a tub of water. No, no. A tub of her own filth. Felt is not hair. It doesn’t dry nice. I’m getting crusty. My felt is a sensitive subject for me.

Also, yes, I’m a blue elephant! Get over it! Did She have to name me by my color? Royal-ton. This kid is an idiot.

I feel a tug on my trunk. “Royalton,” She says. “Listen.” There is no more barking. I’m thinking, please tell me this dog died. I would be freed from this game! Freed from this life as Her puppet.

Freed from being Her partner in crime.

Or Her make-believe child

Or Her

Pretend patient in Her Pretend Hospital.

From being Her stress ball,

Her bad dream killer,

Her absolute joy and vessel for imagination.

  

From being Her tissue.

From being Her only best friend.

I guess, at the end of the day – and also in the middle of the day and at the beginning of the day…and just always – She is my only friend? Somewhere underneath this blue felt I think maybe I’m really glad she makes me do stuff. So, thanks?

Mom calls.

“Bedtime!”

No. I still hate everything.

A Class(world)wide Tragedy

Johnny sat on the blue, tattered carpet of his third grade classroom. He listened as Jessica gave her report on Woody Guthrie. She was singing a little country song, with her little voice, and Johnny had no idea who Woody Guthrie was. He just sat, un-tying and re-tying his shoelaces over and over again, proud of this new skill he’d picked up last week. He no longer had to face the ridicules of the Velcro-shoe-life. He was a lace-up kid now, and he had never been prouder.

When Jessica’s report finished, she sat back down on the rug, avoiding a booger Caitlin had spread across the carpet just a second before. Caitlin wasalways spreading boogers. Johnny had a crush on her, and he didn’t know why. She was exceptionally pretty, her freckles spotted perfectly on the bridge of her nose, but even Johnny knew – at 8 years old – that the booger spreading should have been a strong turn-off. 

The children were seated around the perimeter of the carpet, Ms. Kent at the front of the room with her easel and her floor-grazing peasant skirt swallowing half of her body in its flaky, olive green fabric. “Okay, kids,” she began. “Let’s move on to math. We’ll have three more ‘My Favorite Musician’ reports tomorrow.” Johnny took a moment to re-consider who this Woody Guthrie guy was, and how he couldn’t possibly be Jessica’s favorite musician. She was eight, and it was 2001. His wonderings were interrupted, though, by the sound of a loud thud against the radiator at the other side of the carpet. “Henry!” Ms. Kent shouted. “Henry, get your hands off Jack.”

Johnny’s classmates were shoving their pintsized bodies at one another, banging up against the clattering radiator. Their feet tripped over the pillows on the floor beneath them, which was exactly what they were fighting over. The pillows were at the heart of every single third grade argument at Dandall Elementary School. They were golden beacons of comfy, fabric-torn fluff. If a student was lucky enough to get the “pillow corner” of the rug, he would be instantly shrouded in a film of sour envy from his classmates. Johnny always tried to get the pillows for him and Caitlin, but he never tried too hard, knowing there were greater tings in the world worth fighting for than old, communal pillows.

Henry and Jack continued to push and shove, rolling around on the ground. Ms. Kent, with her brittle, chapped hands, tried to tear the boys away from each other. Most of the other kids in the class were cheering, Caitlin was crying, and Jessica tried to sing the room back into peace with her little rendition of This Land Is Your Land.

“This land is yoooouur land,” she sang. “This land is my…”

“Jack, let go!” Ms. Kent yelled.

“…From Califooorr…”

“I’m serious, boys! Stop it.”

“…to the New York island…” Jessica was still singing.

“I’ve had enough of this!” Ms. Kent shouted in a voice that was inconceivably loud in relation to her frail, bony frame. Johnny jumped up from the rug, away from Ms. Kent, as if she were a hot stove. With a punctuated tug, she picked Jack up off of Henry’s thrashing body. There was a collective gasp from the entire class. Johnny stood on the tile floor outside the perimeter of the carpet, his perfectly tied shoelaces shivering in fright. Ms. Kent placed Jack back on the ground, took a defensive stance between him and Henry, and breathed deeply. Her salt-n-pepper hair was a mess. “Boys,” she began to scold them. “Inever want to see anything like this again.” Ms. Kent panted. “So help me God, I will take those pillows, and throw them out the –”

The classroom door slammed. Stillness interrupted Ms. Kent’s rant. Just inside the door stood Johnny’s father, in his pristinely cut businessman suit. “Johnny,” he said, looking as if every ounce of blood had been drained from his body. “We have to go home now.” He took a couple of soft steps into the classroom. “I have to take you home.” Johnny followed his dad’s eyes, as they shot to Ms. Kent, and then to the carpet full of children, all frozen in bewilderment.

“Where’s Mom?” Johnny asked.

“Come on, Johnny,” his dad motioned toward the door. Johnny didn’t ask again. He knew to trust his parents before anyone else. And so he crossed the classroom, looking toward the motionless tableau of his classmates. He met eyes with Caitlin who quickly withdrew her finger from her nose and smiled a little bit. Johnny smiled back at her, followed his dad out the door, and hoped – whatever this impromptu exit meant – that he’d still see them tomorrow.