She couldn’t have known how it would affect me. If she had, I’m convinced she’d have forbidden me to have contact with it. My mother’s German. She’s a strict disciplinarian. Had she known my life would forever be shaped by it, well, there’s no telling what would have happened to my Horton Hears a Who book. I’m thinking it would have conveniently disappeared one day when I set off to school, much like all our family pets. “That’s strange, when I left this morning, Mom, we had a tank full of fish.” “Mom, where’s the cat?” “What do you mean you grew bored with the birds?” “Mom, we only had that dog for fourteen hours!”
Oh, yes, I’m certain Horton Hears a Who wouldn’t have stood a chance.
My typical grade school morning sounded like this, “You missed the bus AGAIN?” she would say. Her accent is only noticeable to us when she’s angry. Shit. She was angry. She sounded more like, “You meeezed zeh bus AGAIN?” “Yeah,” I would say, pretending I didn’t know she was using the voice which made my older sisters call her “Eva Braun.” Missing the bus wasn’t intentional on my part. I knew she was trying to get ready for work. She was a single parent. She most certainly didn’t have time every blessed day to take me to school. “Well you left here in good time. What were you doing?” Why did this last question always need to be asked? It’s true, I set out in good time to make the school bus. But there were so many little rolly-pollies on their backs, and snails in the middle of the walkway, they all needed rescuing. I couldn’t leave them there. Someone might step on them. I’d come home in the afternoon and find the carnage. Oh, no, it couldn’t be borne!
I’m vegetarian. I’ve been one since I was 18. I dare not have been one sooner. She’s German, I said that right? They’re a people really into their meats. The lectures I would have been given. I shudder to think. It’s bad enough now, “Denise, you look disgusting! You’re so thin!” “Disgusting? Ah, thanks. I’m not thin, I’ve got back fat which would counter your argument.” (It is usually around this time I’m tempted to whip off my shirt, even if we’re in a public place, and show her said back fat.) “Don’t you eat REAL FOOD?” (This is said in such a repulsed tone, as if tofu is the work of the devil, and plainly all my troubles would be solved with a nice slice of liverwurst on pumpernickel). “Yes, Mom. I eat. Says my muffin tops.”
Flashback to Horton: I don’t kill anything, no matter how small, hence my ant escort service listed in my previous blog posts. There must be some reason that ant’s alive. Far be it for me to harm him. In fact, not only do I not kill anything, I rescue everything that needs rescuing – always have. Even if it made me late for the bus.
Don’t get me wrong. There were days I took the bus, just many when I didn’t. I still remember Zane, one of the older neighborhood boys, picking up snails and hurling them at the wall at the bus stop. My jaw dropped. I went around trying to gather them all up before he could begin the next major league windup, but it didn’t make a difference. He wouldn’t stop. He was “bored.” That day I didn’t MISS the bus, I ran home, sobbing at his cruelty. That was 5th grade. I still remember the sound they made on impact. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Zane grew up to be a serial killer.
My softhearted nature has been passed down to my children, I’m happy to say. Though they’re not vegetarian, they have respect for life. They’ve both gotten into scraps at school protecting bugs or mice. When I’d be called in to discuss it with the principal or teacher, I would tell them how proud I was. “And, by the way, glue traps are inhumane!” Go me.
It was at some point when I was nineteen that I realized everybody needs a Horton. That while I was looking out for the best interests of the living beings within my sphere (“Mother Nature” as my husband calls me), someone bigger should be looking out for mine. That I was just this little speck alone in the world, in need of someone to pick me up and dust me off on those days when life seems such a burden. All these years later, I’d still like to have a Horton. I thought I had a Horton once, but that was just silly, it was more like a “blankie.” There’s no Horton. And there’s no knight in shining armor. And I realized I’m nothing more than an individual speck floating around amidst a sea of other specks. Life isn’t about being rescued by someone else, but by coping with things on your own, but while I’m coping, I save those that need saving. That’s just how I roll.