Friday, June 1, 2012

Laura Elaine Warshawski?

June 1 - Reverb Broads

With what fictional character (book, movie, TV, etc.) do you most identify? Why? 

Suggested by Kristen

As a kid I loved The Little House books.  Having recently read A Little House in the Big Woods, I was glad to see my love vindicated. The books are simple and true of spirit, and are filled with the foibles of being alive.

I won't say I necessarily fantasized about being Laura. But growing up on a dairy farm on the prairie in southern Wisconsin certainly did lend itself to easy day dreaming. I, too had to round up cattle at the end of the day, milk cows, and feed calves.

Laura must keep it from spilling the milk, if she could, and she had to teach it how to drink, because it didn't know.  She dipped her fingers into the milk and let the calf's rough tongue suck them, and gently she led its nose down to the milk in the pail. The calf suddenly snorted milk into its nose, sneezed it out with a whoosh that splashed milk out of the pail, and then with all its might butted into the milk.  It butted so hard that Laura almost lost hold of the pail.  A wave of milk went over the calf's head and a splash wet the front of Laura's dress (Little Town on the Prairie).

Oh, how I knew Laura's plight.  Teaching calves to drink from a pail is a pain.  Literally, their milk teeth have sharp edges and it's not unusual to get one's fingers pinned between the butting nose and pail bottom. Even though I grew up with other farm kids, it was comforting to know someone else, someone I didn't know had to deal with the same issues. Laura helped make chores a little easier to get through.  She had to deal with the same things.. And let's not forget I am a brown-haired blue-eyed daddy's girl.  Like Laura, I take pride being someone my "Pa" can depend on to help.

However, I am not, completely like Laura.  The money I earned from baby sitting was my money;  I didn't share it with my parents to help pay for my brother's schooling. I have never had any desire to be teacher.  Having gotten married at the ripe ol' age of 35, I can't imagine being married at 18 to a farmer. Actually I can't imagine, at any age being married to a farmer, but that's another post for another time.

Where Laura represented my confident rural youth, Cat's Eye's Elaine Risley spoke to my pained and alienated self.  Like Elaine, I had friendships troubled by mercurial loyalties and pre-teen and teen insecurities. I often wished there was a way to simplify my feelings towards my friends. “Hatred would have been easier. With hatred, I would have known what to do. Hatred is clear, metallic, one-handed, unwavering; unlike love.” Like many women I find myself in a place where I can neither like nor dislike a peer, but by virtue of our proximity feel we must be friends.  How I wish I could have learned to let the negative forces in my life float away with no regrets. And like Elaine, when I perform an act of kindness, I know the the truth. I'm a fool, to confuse this with goodness. I am not good. I know too much to be good. I know myself. I know myself to be vengeful, greedy, secretive and sly. I know that I am looking to see in what way my act of kindness will benefit me. What debts have I paid. What credits I have earned.

The wonderful thing about fiction is how one can finish a book and go on to the next and become an entirely different person.  Where Laura and Elaine represent the two sides of my childhood coin, V.I. Warshawski represents, at least partially, who I have become.  We both came from nowhere-near-upper-middle-class childhoods to attend Chicago universities.  We're take no prisoners tough (well, she is, I'm still working on it). We are willing to research issues to find the answers and proud to be pinko-commie-liberals, Chicago-style.

I'm proud to be Laura Elaine Warshawski.  Who are your fictional doppelgangers?

1 comment:

  1. Published in 1990 this book about a closed-off apple in England during the 1960s and the dematerialization of one of its accouchement is still a abundant read. A bit contemporary in its approach, this is still an columnist whose characters appear animate and whose autograph has a abyss not generally apparent in the abstruseness genre.