Posted by: beansai | March 4, 2008

Journal Entry #9: Name All the Animals

    I must admit, that the first chapter…no, not even that…the first couple of pages of the first chapter had me ecstatic about the memoir Name All the Animals. This, of course, was due to the fact that I thought it was a memoir about figure skating. I was so excited…yes finally…something I can seriouslly relate to. OMG the smell of the rink, the cold, the wet after the zamboni smooths the ice top. I could smell the ice, the light freezer-burn scented air as I read about her going to the rink. The long drives in the morning, the early mornings, the childhood things missed out on because I was ice skating, and I don’t care that I missed them, because being on the ice is freeing and expressive for me, even before I can articulate this idea.

    I didn’t do the aspect of ice skating that Alison Smith did, scribing and all of that, I was a jumper, I liked the speed and the height, but there were early mornings my mom and I would get to the rink and one girl would be out there with the woman that coached our precision team, gliding backwards, neck twisted to see where she was going, where she had already been, following the tight circles, cutting that edge deeper into the ice. She was advanced though, following not two circles but three. The figure 8 with a small circle centered over the meeting point of the other two. This tight turn around the small circle gave her pull, gave her more velocity, more force and speed to work with, so that she would make it around the other two stronger and smoother.

    I remember the quiet of being the first one at the rink. I loved it, being there first, getting dibs to step out first (not that I ever called it or stepped out first every time) on the clean ice, refreshed by Brian. He handled everything, from playing our routine music, taking payments for ice time, and driving the zamboni, to playing “Only A Lad” by Oingo Boingo and “Mexican Radio” between well timed and pretentious bouts of routine music. Sometimes I would get there before anyone else and he’d be out on the ice, hockey skates on, with a stick and a few pucks. He’d tell me to get my skates on and he’d let me hit a few. I never was very good at it, but it was fun all the same. Other times he would let me run out on the ice in my shoes, because it was a challenge to stay upright without the tight thin blade and stiff boots.

    I wish this memoir had been about ice skating. I suppose part of me was hoping someone could take me back to before I got hurt and was taken from skating, before I got fat and lazy, before I had to learn an articulate form of expression. I wanted to be fifteen and skating again. It’s kind of funny…I was fifteen when I had to quit, after a bad fall, hurting my back. I could’ve continued after I healed, I could’ve kept going, but whoever held the pocketbooks had the say ultimately. And I took it like a dog lying down. I didn’t even fight. I hadn’t learned how to fight back by then. When she fell, I thought it was odd and awkward…it just seemed silly…though, honestly, a lot of my falls were because of little trip-ups and tangles of the feet and blades, so it really isn’t that unrealistic. It just came off much more dramatic than it seemed it should have. I mean, it’s a sport, you fall, you get up, you move on and try again. Then there was blood and I was confused…it really didn’t seem that serious of a fall, but perhaps she stabbed herself with her blade….i’ve done that, though never enough to bleed onto or through to the ice. But no…no such luck of that kind of drama…instead, she just started her period and then suddenly the entire memoir veered off in another direction.

    For awhile I was disappointed. Of course it was sad about her brother, and I sympathized, but I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about the memoir at that point. I definitely agree that the memoir began to pick up once she met Terry. Terry’s character added another dynamic to the story. It wasn’t that I found her or her family’s struggle to be boring, so much as wondering whether that was the only conflict in the entire book, because let’s face it, that happened really early on in the memoir. I liked that she struggled with her faith and that in the interview at the back of the book she mentions that she still doesn’t know where she stands on religion and faith and spirituality. I sympathized with that a lot, because frankly, I don’t believe in any of it. And I certainly know that it is something you don’t tell catholic parents lightly…I don’t dare go to there with my catholic parents. Basically if the topic of religion comes up, I refuse to talk about it or I steer the conversation in another direction if possible. I commend her for being fifteen and eventually confronting her parents on the issue. And I thought her mother was melodramatic. I mean, your lesbian daughter is going to burn in hell anyway according to you, so why should she believe in your god? Come on!

    I got that her parents were dealing with a serious grief, but I thought they were selfish. Their daughter’s safety wasn’t the real issue whenever she went anywhere or did anything, the issue was their fear of dealing with another possible loss. BUT they couldn’t even fucking see that their daughter was wasting away in front of them! Skin and bones how can you not see that? How did no one even try to do anything about it? Good for Terry, risking their friendship and love to make Alison sit down and eat some frickin food. I just wanted to slap her parents. They were so caught up in their own grief that they forgot about her’s. And then on top of that, struggling with the issue of her sexuality in the midst of fifteen and a catholic all-girls school. I don’t think I would have eaten either…that’s intense and a lot for a kid to deal with.


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