Name: Kim Tracy Prince
Web Site: http://www.kimtracyprince.com/about-me/
Bio: I am a writer. Most of my material is on the web, but the best stuff is still in my journal under the bed.
Posts by ktprince:
People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I’m o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game
Like most songs from the Beatles et. al., this one was part of the background music of my childhood, the songs I never paid any attention to. Last weekend at church we watched a video by Fr. Robert Barron who was addressing the idea of keeping Jesus at the center of your life, and how that brings peace and order to the rest of your life. He talked about the medieval “wheel of fortune,” and then quoted Lennon’s song.
I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go
By 1980 when this song was released, Lennon had backed away from the rat race of fame and success. He was much happier that way, at least in the song.
I was intrigued by the lyrics and looked up the song just now. I was blown away. It stabbed me in the heart…with hope.
Now this is something I can aspire to. “I just had to let it go.”
“Have you ever heard of a guy named Proust?”
So begins Keep the Ends Loose by Molly D. Campbell, who, I must disclose, is a writer I met several years ago on a creative retreat. I have followed her adventures ever since, joyfully reading her work, both because of her talent and because I am taken by the enthusiasm and cheerfulness that she seems to keep about her, no matter what life throws in her way.
That was enough for me, when she announced that her novel would be published, but when I opened up the book and began to read, I was gifted with an entirely new and unexpected world.
The story is told by 15-year-old Mandy – awkward, unsure, and keenly observant about her surroundings and the emotions of the people in them. The book reads at times like a cringeworthy teen’s journal, here all drama and hysterics, there much self-deprecation over her choice of words or worse, cliches. The narrator kicks herself, especially when she’s down.
This whole thing was going to become a broken record. I stepped up to the plate (okay, too many metaphors, I know).
It’s precious, and completely surprising. Campbell, a proud grandmother, gets the voice of a modern teen so spot on that you’d think this was a YA novel, and it is classified as such. Certainly its theme of innocence lost is one that the kids are digging these days…right? But the understated drama of subsurface family dynamics might be too subtle for them, and why Loose is a charming read for older readers who still feel like awkward teens, such as myself.
During the summer before Mandy starts high school, her otherwise unremarkable family splits open at the seams and its back story of premarital sex, adoptive and biological parents, and secrets kept for years comes gushing out. Everyone around her goes berserk, either instantly in her previously solid suburban stereotype mother’s case, dramatically in her brother’s, or slowly and unnervingly, as her father and aunt, both authority figures, crumple under the pressure. The only person left standing is Mandy herself, who struggles to support the family as a pseudo-mom, cringing as she cleans the house up after everyone else and keeps food stocked in the kitchen, and recruits her plucky best friend to join every family showdown, not unlike the imaginary animal sidekicks in Disney movies (except with much better eye shadow).
With Mandy as the moral center of this Midwestern storm, her family members eventually make a shaky peace with themselves and each other, but I was left wondering – when do they turn around and apologize to her? No 15-year-old should be left holding the bag the way she did, and when her mother Winnie comes back from her midlife-crisis girls’ trip, I expected tears and remorse, but what comes out is far less satisfying. As a mother, and someone who has been a 15-year-old girl trying to understand what’s going on, I was moved to tears reading Mandy’s title-inspiring realization:
What if this was why everybody loved movies? What if those were the only times when the loose ends got tied up right and stuff ended happily? Winnie tried to tie up her loose end and look what happened. A major debacle.
I guess that’s what is revealed to Mandy after the smoke clears – the nature of people in real life. Her childhood is coming to an end, and she’s learning the best lesson of all: how to take care of herself.
Keep the Ends Loose
$13.56 on Amazon
For the last few months, when Kyle writes his age in a registration form or similar, he has been entering “9 & 7/8.”
Every little bit counts. He is thrilled to be turning 10 today, but I held on to that last eighth of a year for dear life.
More than turning 40, more than this blog turning 10, Kyle’s 10th birthday has had me in shock, in tears, in reverie. I’m absolutely gobsmacked that this is here, now.
To mothers of older children: you’ve said it to me countless times: It goes by so fast, you’ll look back on this one day and miss it, etc.
To mothers of younger children: they were right.
Having grown to be 10 years old along with this blog, his stories told on the internet, his name never protected from the cloud, Kyle is happy when I share his life here. Sometimes he asks me to put stories on the blog, or Facebook, or pictures on Instagram. A few months ago he even started designing his own website (not published for public viewing) and he often asks me if he can have his own YouTube channel.
I’m not ready – for the emotions of a 10 year old, for him to discover the bad parts of the internet, or the world for that matter. I know I have to relax more and more as he gets older. But don’t forget, 10 is still a little boy. It’s easy to overlook that since Kyle is so big – at first glance you’d think he is 12 or 13, and there is a big difference in those ages. But he still feels confused and slighted like a little boy sometimes, even as he must navigate life in the outside world like a big one.
The days of me protecting him from everything, from holding his hand and exploring the world with him side-by-side, are numbered. I’m feeling it. I want it to be 9 and eight ninths, and nine tenths, and so on.
On the other hand, Kyle is smart and sensitive, and has a lot of common sense for a 10 year old boy. A few weeks ago, delayed on his bike ride home from school to help a friend with a flat bike tire, he flagged down some other moms and asked them to call me to tell me he was running late. He didn’t want me to worry (which I would have, even as I let him ride his bike alone).
Kyle’s precocious brain has blossomed at school and at home, and sometimes it still shocks me, the complexity of what he uses his brain to create. He emailed me an “I love you mom” message from Louisiana while vacationing there with Brady and Stew. It was written in computer code. I understood enough to know that it said “I love you,” but that’s where my knowledge ends. I can’t help him with his math homework anymore, because his work has surpassed my skill. He has a gift with words and can write very mature passages of poetry, fiction, and school work. (I’ll take the credit for that gene blossoming in him, thank you.)
But as a 10 year old boy, Kyle can be moody, reluctant, and unhelpful. Sometimes I miss the enthusiasm with which he approached the world as a toddler and little boy, how he wanted to show me everything, and run everywhere. Getting used to his personality at these different stages continues to be a challenge for me. Once I am familiar with him, he changes again.
That’s parenting, isn’t it? We are meant to work ourselves out of our jobs. The whole idea is that someday he won’t need me anymore, not like this, and not like he used to.
I’ve been planning his birthday party with great care the last few weeks, because I know he values the occasion as the one time during the year that he is made to feel extra special. Ten is a big number. Ten seemed impossible 10 years ago. I want to mark the occasion with the importance – in both of our lives – that it deserves.
May the next ten years be as painless as possible, for both of us. Happy birthday, big boy. You’ll always be my little one, in my heart.