As I write this, I am coercing the Sour Apple Laffy Taffy out of my molars with my tongue. 89.1 is on the radio in my kitchen. My husband has just left for work, and when he left, I was slicing a piece of fiction (inspired by a 1920s plane crash in Brockport) into paragraph-sized morsels with kid-scissors. I realize I am alone for the first time in nearly a week.
Compelled to rummage through the candy bowl from Halloween, I stopped my project, and stared down into the bowl: Sour Apple everything. Whoppers. Clark Bars. Runts. Blech.
A week or two before Halloween, Johnny and I were watching the cartoon Gravity Falls, a Disney series that explores an eerie village through the eyes of a creepy family. Johnny loves this show. I was unsure at first, but loved it after seeing this: The Summerween Trickster–a candy monster made out of the bottom-of-the-bowl-rejects that the children of Gravity Falls have termed “Loser candy.” So I sifted through my own Loser Candy, and succumbed to Sour Apple Laffy Taffy. It was neon green (and tasted it), unsatisfyingly waxy, nothing like an apple. Not even sour. Not tasty enough to warrant the tiredness of my jaw after minutes of chewing.
Cory is not a fan of the show Gravity Falls, and I thought that by telling him about the clever Summerween Trickster, he might change his mind. But this is the same person who looks at me strange when I watch Coraline with Johnny for the twentieth time. Or The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Cory looks at me cross-eyed when I say to Johnny, “Hi, Johnny. I’m your other mother.”
Johnny will say, “You do not have button eyes!”
My students think it strange that I watch such a creepy movie with my child. But why hide the scary? Johnny sees monsters all the time in movies and cartoons, but acknowledging that what appears in real life can be scary or threatening, too, like in Coraline, might make him more… prepared?
My cousin bought me The Happiness Project for my thirtieth birthday, so I’m sure some consider it abnormal that I dwell in the dark. But I see it as pulling at life’s unbound strings, just braiding these fibers together, attempting to understand the fabric.
When brainstorming writing ideas, my students have said, “But I don’t have any conflict in my life.” I press them with questions until they find something. When students resist conflict and tension, the feared candy at the bottom of the bowl, I ask them, “Well then, if you understand everything, why write?”
Sometimes I feel like I understand nothing, and that’s when I write the most.
It doesn’t all have to be negative, but most of us don’t dwell on what makes our lives easy–the happy times, because we enjoy them, and take them as memories for a “rainy” day. We live in the awkward, fearful, combustible moments and stare hard at the uncomfortable moments that play tricks on our minds or come back to haunt us when we think they’ve gone for good.