You’ve probably already noticed that both of my girls tend to be just a bit theatrical. Their make-believe play is not just straightforward Everyone Is Happy And Life Is Peachy. No, the characters they create – for themselves, for their Barbies – are always facing some terrible predicament… Someone is gravely ill. Their house is falling apart so they have to move to a mansion. Their clothing has been reduced to rags (I mean this in literally; they tear old clothes into rags and toss them about for effect). Their parents have been murdered or died years ago or have mysteriously gone missing (why are there always no parents?).
I listen and I can’t help but chuckle because, as a kid, I, too, leaned just a bit toward the melodramatic (this is a shock, I know). If a story involved a tragedy, being poor, or orphans (seriously, orphans were awesome), I was entranced. One of my favorite books was The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, a tale of the five turn-of-the-20th-century Pepper children who grew up in ridiculous poverty with only their mother around (except she wasn’t really around, either, because she had to be off as a seamstress or something to try and make a meager living to support her five littler Peppers).
I didn’t just love reading about the Five Little Peppers… I wanted to BE the Five Little Peppers. Or, at least, to live like them. I would have traded all of the delicious Betty Crocker Stir ‘n Frost cake mixes (please tell me that you remember these) that my mom made for our special occasions for just one Pepper cake that was cobbled together with flour, water, an egg, and a handful of raisins.
Today, while attempting to tidy the basement (“attempt” is key here), I came across some childhood papers of mine, including this gem of an illustration from when I was in fourth grade:
You understand now why I’m not an art teacher.
Although I don’t remember this particular drawing, I definitely remember this type of drawing. Please note that the children are wearing clothes that are too small, riddled with holes and patches. Everyone is filthy (that’s dirt, not smallpox). The black-haired child is obviously on death’s door. The girl holding the sick child? That’s not her mother, silly; that’s her sister – they have no parents.
This was not a drawing of a family to be pitied. This was the family I wanted to join. There was probably a raisin cake baking just around the corner.
In addition to physical and illustrated theatrics, both Ella and Annie manage to slip rather dramatic proclamations into their writing as well. Annie is currently writing a story where the main characters (young girls; again, no parents) are fighting for their lives. It’s a chapter story that she fully expects will be hardbound when it’s done. I’ll keep you posted.
Ella tends to use save most of her drama for when she’s a) writing about Harry Potter (duh), b) trying to convince us to get her something that she absolutely must have, or c) woefully proclaiming how difficult her life is. She especially likes to write us little notes that make sweeping, absurdly melodramatic generalizations (“I think maybe I’ll never have another friend again because everyone in this house hates me”) accompanied by spots for us to fill in the blanks (“Can we please get a pet chinchilla? Write your answer here”) or “Circle Yes or No” to let her know that we’ve actually read what she’s written.
I’ve been saving most of these pleading missives because, for one, I think they’re hilarious; for another, I think that Ella might get a kick out of them in the future; and also, I want to remind myself that these seemed “dramatic” when she’s calling us from college at four a.m., drunk, declaring that she will never love again. What I didn’t realize was that maybe I was saving them because they’re awfully… familiar…
To wit, a note that was tucked away inside the same Emily: Fourth Grade folder in which I found my Pepper family drawing:
Can’t read it? Oh, please. Allow me:
“READ ME 1st!
DEAR Mom + Dad,
On this note DO NOT write back! I wanted to say that tonight I was thinking of all the fun times we’ve had lately, but I couldn’t because we haven’t had any.
(ed. note: OMG THAT SENTENCE IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I’VE EVER WRITTEN)
No more playing baseball, riding bikes (for Dad). No more sitting on laps just cuddling (for Mom). Am I getting to (sic) old? I hope not. So since it’s close to Christmas time, let’s try to get together more.
OK NOT OK
Please circle one of these and bring the note back to my room.
I hope you had a good time tonight.
(I assume they went out for dinner? Also, passive aggressive much?)
P.s. I LOVE YOU!
TURN OVER -> “
READ ME 2nd!
P.P.S I really missed you tonight + last night.
BRING THIS NOT(e) BACK TO MY ROOM TO (sic).
IF YOU CAN READ THIS NOTE CIRCLE YES. IF NOT CIRCLE NO.
(ed note: omg, the second best thing I’ve ever written)
I LOVE YOU
GOOD NIGHT. SLEP TIGH (I assume this meant “sleep tight”?)
I love you
You love me right?
You’ll note that my mom or dad indicated that, yes, they could read the note, but did not respond to the “You love me, right?” question. VERY CURIOUS.
I can only assume that my mother saved this note for the same reason I’m saving Ella’s: because she laughed her ass off when she read it, and because she thought perhaps one day I would, too.
She was right. I almost hurt myself over these.
And also: apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Maybe I’ll humor Ella the next time she writes us such dramatic notes and be sure not to giggle when she can see me. I’ll also be sure to actually circle “YES” when asked “YOU LOVE ME, RIGHT?” because, come on Mom and Dad, can’t a girl get a little love around here??