When It’s Gone

I just learned that Santa Claus isn’t real. Ok, that’s really a metaphor, but I have had a fundamental shift in my beliefs, so I’m comparing it to learning that Santa doesn’t exist. For the first time in my 30s, I read Gone With the Wind, and I realized that it’s not my favorite book any more and I don’t like Scarlett O’Hara.

For anyone who hasn’t known me since I was a pre-teen, this probably doesn’t sound like foundation shifting news, but if you have known me since I was 13 or so, this is big news. For the last 25 years, when asked what my favorite book is, I have easily, without hesitating, answered Gone With the Wind. Now, I’m questioning why and how I could have obsessed over this book.

I fell in love with this book after falling in love with the movie. It was my version of Twilight or Harry Potter. I soaked up the words and the stories, fell for the characters and the sweeping dramas. I pestered every teacher (History, English, Social Studies) to let us watch the movie, hoping to infuse my fellow students with my love. I collected anything that I could afford that was about the 40+ year book and movie — movie posters and postcards, autobiographies about Margaret Mitchell, Vivien Leigh, documentaries on making the movie, collector’s plates, dolls. If I had had money, I would have had the most extensive GWTW collection possible. My mom named our cat “Scarlett” in honor of my obsession.

My first day as a freshman in college, I was hanging one of my GWTW posters in my dorm room, when my new roommate said that the girl two doors down also had a GWTW poster on her wall. Expecting a “wanna-be” fan, I stopped by to see for myself the inhabitant who also liked my Scarlett. I then met the girl that would be my roommate for the next 3 years, but only after we circled each other like lionesses, throwing out GWTW questions, sniffing each other for weakness and blood. Only when Betsy and I were both satisfied that we were equally devoted (and knowledgeable) about GWTW did we realize that we each had found a friend for life.

So, this is why it is so hard to accept that, after deciding that it was time to reread the book, I don’t like Scarlett, and that I am offended by some parts of the book. Scarlett isn’t heroic, she’s selfish, two-dimensional, unimaginative and hard. The love of money, the absolute hunger for money, gives her the justification to turn her back on her God, her family, and her morals.

She is a survivor, however, and I can understand how her story would be so compelling when it was published during the middle of the Great Depression. The story is, in essence, one of surviving after the world in which you know is completely turned upside down. I have thought several times while reading it recently that this story has become relevant again during our current ecomonic and financial breakdown, war, massive lay offs, etc. Thousands are people are dealing with the same issues that these characters dealt with — how do you live you life when your life doesn’t resemble anything that you’re used to?

I don’t want to deal like Scarlett did. I don’t want to become hard or focused only on money, with no thought to how my actions impact others, or with only “me” in the middle of my actions. Here is my lesson — not how to survive, but how not to survive.

I’m looking for a new favorite book. Betsy, if you read this, I don’t know if you are saddened, indifferent or surprised that it took me so long to come to this realization. But, I’ll always be glad that Scarlett introduced me to you.


In 1771, British essayist Joseph Addison wrote “Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week.” I have to respectfully disagree with J-Add. At this point in my life, Sunday is not one of my favorite days. I am afraid that I spend too much time fretting about Monday, the week to come, and the weekend past to “clear the rust” from the past week. Logically, I can admit that it is a waste to chew over the last 6 days while also worrying about the next 6, but I can’t seem to help myself. It’s an illness.
I haven’t always felt this way about Sundays. When I was younger, Sundays were great days. They followed a certain pattern, changed only by the weather, holidays or birthdays. My mom, sister and I went to church each Sunday morning, after which we headed to my grandparents house. The memories made at my grandparents’ home are some of the strongest ones of my childhood.
Sundays at Mamaw’s and Papaw’s meant many things: good food, playing with my cousins, listening to my aunt’s talk about how much we were all growing, visiting with my grandparents’ brothers and sisters, and hearing stories about the “good ‘ole days.” Mamaw was such a good cook — beans and biscuits, cabbage and corn, pintos and potatoes and all other kinds of good food. The table would be full of bowls of food, and yet it seemed that she just threw it all together, kinda nonchalantly.
Even though I saw most of my aunts every Sunday, my sister and I and my cousins went through a weekly “interrogation” — school, boyfriends / girlfriends, extracurricular activities. The older we got, the more intrusive some of the questions could become (i.e. “Are you kissing any boys? With tongue?”) And my aunts (and my mom with my cousins) were especially interested in how we girls were growing / developing, i.e. were we getting boobs? I don’t know if this interest was born of the fact that most of them were not well-endowed or what, but I’ve told people before that the first time that anyone ever “felt me up” was in my Mamaw’s kitchen when one of my aunts was checking to see how big my boobs were getting. To us, this behavior was normal (and I don’t think any of us have been scarred by it).
But the best part of Sundays was playing with my cousins. If it was warm outside, we would play in the yard, playing Red Rover, or climbing trees, or running as fast as we could. When my cousins, Wendi and JJ, and I became cheerleaders, we spent a lot of time cheering in the front yard. Sometimes we would just swing on the porch, telling each other secrets and stories.

If it were cold (which it often was in the mountains), we would sit in the living room, looking at old photo albums. Sometimes we would go into one of the back bedrooms and whisper and talk. Sometimes we would even cheer in the living room. Papaw would sit in his chair, reading his Bible or doing his crossword puzzle, and never say a word about how loud we were.

Sundays when I was a kid were days to create memories. I can remember like it was yesterday the sound of Mamaw and Papaw’s front door opening and closing. I can remember the sound of Papaw’s voice as he said the blessing before each Sunday lunch. I can remember the smell and the sounds and the events. And in this remembrance of the Sundays past I have finally been able to clear away my rust.

A New Year, a New Me

Two thousand and nine is here. I have to admit that New Year’s Eve is a holiday that I have never understood. Why do people get so excited about one night — ringing out the old, ringing in the new? What’s so wrong with the old? Old is comfortable. It is known. It isn’t scary. New can be frightening. It can be overwhelming and disorienting. Why would we want to celebrate such a chaotic event as the changing of the year?

I guess it’s safe to say that I’m not a risk taker. I have no desire to jump out of a plane, drive 200 mph, or eat medium-rare hamburgers. I like my drama either on TV or between the covers of my book, not in my life.

I am boring. Dependable, stable, comfortable, but boring. I am that “back-up” girl that some people had in high school, that girl you could invite to the dance if you couldn’t get your real crush to go. You knew she wouldn’t embarrass you, that you could talk to her, but there were no sparks, no vavava voom. I’m that girl — spark less.

Maybe that’s what makes New Year’s Eve so appealing to most people. It’s an opportunity to redefine oneself. It explains all the resolutions — “here is the line in the sand where I stop being “x” on this side and start being “y” on this side.”

Thus, I banished my boring self as of 12 am EST this past Wednesday night / Thursday morning. I resolved to take more risks (emotionally, physically, fiscally), inviting more excitement and drama into my life. I will try para sailing with Matt in February when we go to Mexico. I will try rock climbing at the Whitewater Center. I will order salad with the dressing on it instead of on the side. I will be someone 2 degrees to the right of who I have been.

The chance to change, I think, is worth celebrating. That I can understand. Happy New Year!