When I was a kid, my family would usually go to Ocean City, Maryland for about a week most summers. OC was awesome to me then, though now I think it’s trashy. To a child, the boardwalk is exciting, OC T-shirts are the bomb and nothing is finer than a make-your-own sundae from Candy Kitchen. (Actually, that sundae part still sounds like heaven to me.)
One year, I want to say I was about eleven, we were in OC and spending the evening on the boardwalk, when someone spotted a dude drawing people’s caricatures. I can’t remember if the guy had a store front, or if it was just some dude squatting on the boardwalk. Either way, my parents agreed that each of us five kids could get our caricature drawn. Do you know what I mean about the caricatures? He would draw us with overlarge heads doing whatever activity and over-charge my parents for the privilege of having a picture that looked nothing like us, drawn by an art school dropout. Basically, a stunning display of capitalism at its finest.
My four siblings went first. I can’t really remember exactly what he had everyone doing. I know my oldest sister was running track, I think my next sister was in her cheerleader uniform, my brother was probably playing football and I’m pretty sure my youngest sister was roller-skating.
I hung back and watched, as always, until it was my turn. I sat on the little stool and the caricaturist asked what it is I like to do.
“Read,” I answered.
The dude looked at me like I was from another planet and said, “No. Like a real hobby.”
I don’t remember exactly what was said, but this guy got a new asshole torn by The Sandy. (The Sandy = My mom. More on The Sandy in a few minutes.) Because how fucking offensive to readers! Like cheerleading is somehow more important than reading??? (Fact: I spent a short time as a cheerleader in middle school because I wanted to be like my older sister Carrie. Another fact: Carrie reads every bit as much as I do.)
I think he was appropriately chastised, because my caricature was the best of the bunch. He drew a bookshelves around me, with me reading a book while sitting on another stack of books. And a little glasses-wearing bookworm peeking out from a pile of books. It was cute. It was also the only caricature of all five that looked anything like who it was supposed to look like.
Now let’s move on to The Sandy’s defense of me. I think it’s a lot harder for a parent to raise a kid who is shy and awkward and frankly, terrified of new people and situations than it is for a parent to raise a kid who is naturally outgoing and sunny. My parents had four kids of the naturally outgoing variety……and me.
My mom was tops, I tell you. She never pushed me to be anything but shy. If I was shy, that’s just who I was and she never made me feel like I had to talk if I didn’t want to. It was fine with her if I wouldn’t play with other kids, but would watch them play. It didn’t bother her that on gorgeous sunny days I would sit inside and read all day. (Fact: I did like to ride bikes in the neighborhood and play flashlight tag with the other kids. But only after I finished whatever I was reading. I wasn’t a total loser.)
If I can do half the job that The Sandy did in respecting exactly who her kids were, then I will have done a fine job as a parent.
I love my mom. I really really do.
Also, fuck you caricaturist. Reading IS a real hobby.