the incomparable Slouching Mom offered interview questions. like a fish to bait, i bit. i’m a person who’s always found minds attractive, and Slouchy’s mind – from what i can piece together from the online personae she unmasks for us – is fascinating, and intuitive, and friggin’ brilliant. i wanted to know what she’d ask, so bad that i actually promised to answer. if i can’t sit down and have coffee with Slouchy and her generous, curious brain…then this virtual exploration will have to do.

but she does have an open invite to visit PEI.

1. Offer your high-school self a piece of advice you wish she’d taken.
oh lord. just one?

i reel a little when i try to get a sense of who i was twenty years ago: a part of me feels like that girl was older, in her certainties, than i’ll ever be again, and another part of me feels slightly mortified that she ever existed in the first place. i was so earnest then, and so confused – a total sponge for input and information, yet so completely abstract, without a compass. all i knew was that i didn’t want to be like anyone i knew, that i didn’t want the adult lives i saw in front of me. looking back, i feel a narrative connection to where i was then, in my life…ie. how i got here from there…but no more. like Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” that young me is a painting on a wall, which i can dissect in detail, even with warmth and sympathy…but ultimately, i killed that girl, traded her in for the new model(s) i’ve become in the interim.

however, for the sake of pain avoided on the road to here, i would happily sit down with that younger me – that much younger me – and say two things. first, for god’s sake, little girl, no one is expecting you to have your entire life together by the time you hit eighteen. it’s okay to be unsure. it’s even okay to start again if you find yourself on a bad path. time isn’t really wasted, especially if you learn from it. stop being such a perfectionist – you’ll only disappoint yourself.

two, you’re not fat. it’s hormones, and not worth hating yourself over. pluck your eyebrows and get out of those awful unflattering ’80s clothes and stand tall: there’s beauty in there, and someday, someone will come along to reflect that back to you, thank jeebus. for now, it would be good if you could believe it yourself.

2. Describe the most vivid memory you have from your early childhood.
i always struggle to come up with answers to “most favourite” or “most vivid” or “most whatever” questions, as they make me feel vaguely deficient for reasons i’ve never quite explored. like i’m excluding too much from the package, perhaps. but i do clearish-ly remember the first day of kindergarten, wherein i launched myself into the classroom and proceeded to show the teacher how i could count. to one hundred. i have no firm recollection of whether or not she actually let me go all the way…i really, really hope not.

3. What would we be most surprised to learn about you?
that depends, erm, on what image you’ve constructed of me from reading between the lines of this blog.

i imagine you’d all be shocked, for instance, to learn that i’m a little neurotic. :) oh no? you knew that. hmmm….

whiny? nope, that too.

tone deaf? ha. you can probably hear me humming from where you are, and it probably hurts your ears.

okay…how ’bout i have a paroxysmal fear of large dogs but send Oscar to a home with a bull dog in it, all day long every weekday. Bruiser is rather like a coffee table with a tail, really, but still…he has teeth. tell me what that tells you. please. ’cause i don’t know if it’s surprising, but i do know i don’t know what to make of it and could use the feedback.

4. Tell us what books are on your bedside table right now — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
by “bedside table,” do you mean strewn about the bed, under the pillows and stuffed down the side stuck up against the wall? good. we’re working on a collection that includes the most recent Harry Potter, which i believe Dave can now recite aloud, a Keegan history of World War II, Proust’s “Swann’s Way” (which i open at random, glory in about two pages of, and then promptly fall asleep. works like a charm. i have never finished the book and never hope to, but start it afresh every year), a biography of Mark Rothko, a Richard Scarry chewable book, and Nancy Friday’s “My Secret Garden.” sex fantasies of the seventies, oh yeh.

5. You were an only child. Oscar may end up without a younger sister or brother. Using your own experience as a frame of reference, what about being an only child do you not want for Oscar, and why?
ah…ah, great question. and carefully framed, which touched me. i don’t want O to grow up an only child in part simply because he was born a second son, and i feel bound, almost, to honour both him and his brother by having him grow up with a sibling. but i don’t know if that makes any sense or is just a vestige of grief, and therefore about me rather than O. but i wonder if he will have his own grief, someday, too…even just in the form of wonder and wistfulness, and i’d like him to have someone to share that with, someone to whom it belongs just as it belongs to him.

that sharing of memory and identity is really the key for me in wanting to raise two, even had Finn not been a part of our lives. it’s less about practicalities or even the supposed socialization benefits of siblings than about the weight of carrying an entire family legacy on one’s own shoulders.

there is, for me at least, an urgency to being an only child…and a loneliness, but i wasn’t lonely as a kid. it was in transitioning to adulthood that i realized i was leaving behind a whole world that had no existence outside of me, no narrative outside my own. there is no one but me who remembers my Nannie as a grandmother. no one but me who will remember the names of the dolls i loved, or recall the narrow hall of the apartment i lived in with my mom in elementary school through the eyes of a child.

i live in an odd and privileged limbo in the sibling department, as i do have half-siblings who live me near me now in our respective adulthoods, and while i don’t see them much i do like knowing they’re out there. there’s something comforting to me about them. and yet i know that so much of who i am and how i see myself is a near-direct result of having grown up as an only child, and i don’t think it’s a terrible thing, just not one i would choose for O if it turns out to be within my power.

we shall see.

and on that effervescent note…if you haven’t fallen asleep or slit your wrists with the palpable maudlin angst, and would like to know what questions MY mind would blather out if we were at virtual coffee, you may, erm, beg in the comments. even though i’m late to this and you’ve probably answered fifteen people’s questions already.

’cause i really will ask odd ones, i promise.