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Questions from the very talented

1 – What was it like growing up with your mother?It was never boring. At first, it was just us, and she used to make my clothes out of scraps of her own. When I was five, she married a man I now both hate and pity. He was abusive, the classic result of /being/ an abused child, and, in retrospect, I can see his horrible childhood in every action he ever took. Still, my mother made sure I was safe, and loved, and mostly happy. One Christmas she stayed up til dawn for weeks, sewing clothing for an entire wedding party of Barbie dolls (and, I'm told, cursing at the tiny darts), so that they'd be all in position under the tree. Another year, when 'stuff with your name on it' was really popular, I had sweatshirts, rulers, a wall-hanger for storing office supplies, all personalized with my name, and, something you might have seen in my house, a carved block of wood forming my name. She worked, of course, so I was a latchkey kid before the media coined the phrase “latchkey kid,” and one of our daily rituals was the Afternoon Phone Call, during which I'd check in so she knew I'd made it back from school, and she'd give me her ETA. When she was working retail, and there wasn't enough money for food, she'd skip meals so I wouldn't have to, something I never knew til a conversation with my aunt, just last year, and something my mother does NOT know I know (kudos if you figured out that sentence).

She managed to make every birthday, holiday, start of school, amazingly successful. She never missed a school performance, and, despite working full time, never failed to bake cupcakes or create a costume in ten minutes. When the open auditions for the orphans for the 1982 movie of Annie hit Denver, she spent hours helping me learn to sing “Tomorrow,” and took off three days of work because parents had to be there. When, on the third day of callbacks, I was cut because I'd never had formal voice lessons before, and had sung myself hoarse (because ten-year-olds with no training really should NOT belt) she took me out for ice cream, and we talked about boys.

As I got older, our relationship changed, of course. We started sharing tastes in reading material, and often she'd come home looking forward to the new issue of only to find her eleven-year-old already reading it. Our trips to the library would be intense, with each of us coming home with tote-bags overflowing. And on weekends, we went ice-skating together.

When we moved to California, and I moved toward being a teenager, we started to fight more, but I suppose that's really typical, but still, it was never boring. When she married Ira and I suddenly, after 12 years of being an only child had a stepbrother, who was just a year ahead of me in school, she made sure I still got my solo summers in New Jersey – I needed the space. And arguements at are house were never about name-calling but more like, “Mom! He made a sexist comment!”

We went to “ban the bomb” rallies and pro-choice marches all during my teen years, and she still never missed a school performance. When I was cast in I Remember Mama in another town, she drove me back and forth to rehearsals every night, after working a full day. When we moved to Mariposa, she'd break me out of school for shopping trips because we both hated the atmosphere there so much. When we moved to Fresno, and I started high school, I had less time, and so did she, but when, the same year, she went back to college to finish her degree, I helped edit her papers, and made her snacks on class nights. One of the proudest moments in my life was watching my mother get her degree, because no one has ever worked harder for such a thing.

It is true, that we had screaming fights, but they never lasted, and Ira was more affected by them than either of us. Neither of us holds grudges, we yell, we let it out, and it's over. It's true, that I hurt her deeply when I finally eloped, but we worked through it, and now, we're both finally old enough and past all the teen shit, and we can be friends, although, sometimes, I still feel seven when she's around.

2 – If you could get the answer to any one question in the world, what would that question be? What will rates be like tomorrow?

3 – Describe your perfect relxation spot. I do my best thinking and best writing from bed, so mental relaxation takes place there. I love being surrounded by soft, cool, cotton sheets, and propped by a gazillion fluffy pillows, with a mug of spearmint tea on the bedside table, and my dogs flanking me, while I noodle on my laptop or get lost in a good book. Even as a child, I did most of my homework sitting on my bed, not at my desk, and in college, my best paper ever was written while sitting cross-legged on the oriental rug in a friends room, while watching Dirty Dancing for the gazillionth time. Physical relaxation, though, requires water. Last week I bought a water hammock. It's a metal frame encased in an inflatable tube, with a web stretched across it, and an inflatable pillow section, and when you lie on it, you're suspended just enough so that you're half way in the water, but not completely covered, and it's like lying in a cradle, or on a ship, with the gentle motion of the water rocking you into bliss. When it's too cold for that, I relax in the bathtub, with lots of hot water and bubbles, and sometimes a book or a glass of wine. Or I go to the beach and just commune with the waves. But, either way, I'm totally a water baby.

4 – Who can take the sunlight, sprinkle it with dew, cover it with chocolate and a miracle or two?The candy man. The candy man can. The candy man can, 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good. … I'm going to have that song running circles in my head for the rest of the day now. Curse you! :)

5 – What's your favorite joke?I'm not really joke-oriented. I prefer irony, whimsy, sarcasm, to out and out jokes, but I used to collect lightbulb jokes, and one of my favorites is:
-How many Californians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
-Dude! You don't screw in a lightbulb. You screw in a hot tub!

If you want me to interview you–post a comment that simply says, 'Interview me.' I'll respond with questions for you to take back to your own journal and answer as a post. Of course, they'll be different for each person since this is an interview and not a general survey. At the bottom of your post, after answering the Interviewer's questions, you ask if anyone wants to be interviewed. So it becomes your turn– in the comments, you ask them any questions you have for them to take back to their journals and answer. And so it becomes the circle.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 More answers by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.