A few days ago, I was tagged in a blogging chain interview by a great friend who doesn’t realize how this would hang over my head if I didn’t do it immediately, so I’m doing it, already!!!! She asks 11 questions, I answer. Then, I have to come up 11 of my own – questions AND blogging friends – and tag said possibly-soon-to-be-former-friends to answer the questions. If they don’t, (to quote “The Oatmeal”) Jesus sets fire to a school bus full of children. Or something. I don’t want that shit on my head. So, Ciaran Blumenfeld– Here you go! (That link also takes you to Ciarian’s answers to the interview SHE took.)
Ciaran asks me to describe the following:
1. A recurring dream
I have a few, but in this one, I am driving a car that’s going really fast, but unable to see where I’m going – either because of the weather, a hat I’m wearing, the direction I’m facing (towards or away from the steering wheel), etc. Gee. I wonder what THAT might mean…
2. A good luck charm
I don’t have one, but I think it’s extremely good luck that I have such an enormous amount of charm.
3. A secret wish
I wish I could hock a lugie. You know, where I could actually get the phlegm to my mouth to spit it out. (This may seem incongruous to my answer to #2 above.)
4. An important letter
Can I go with two, here? From the same person? Also, neither letter was written TO me, but they were both written ABOUT me.
1. A professor from Hopkins whom I absolutely idolized and adored – he’s the reason I became a history major – wrote a letter of recommendation for me when I was looking for teaching jobs. He sent them to me, each individually sealed in an envelope for delivery. Curiosity got the better of me, and I opened one. I got what I deserved – a massive punch in the stomach. He said nice enough things about me, but what got me was that he said something to the effect of, “Well, she’s not Ph.D material – she’ll never be published or do ground-breaking research – but she’d be WONDERFUL for teaching middle school.” Confirmed was my self-assessment – I was good, not great. Especially compared to the brains around me at Hopkins. I always felt like a little bit of an intellectual lightweight – especially in the upper-level classes. Well, there it was, in black and white – my inspiration and mentor declared me (in my mind) mediocre.
It seemed so strange to me, though, because in my first seminar with him, he gave out awards, and I got the “Firefighter’s Award.” He was a famously harsh grader, and I had gone from a D on my 1st paper to an A on the last, so I won for “putting out the most fires” in my writing over the course of the semester. In my senior year, he had moved to another state, but traveled to Hopkins to be at my thesis defense. This recommendation just didn’t seem to accurately reflect the kindness and encouragement he’d shown me during college.
On the plus side, at least I knew enough not to use it when applying for a teaching job, because the insinuation was insulting to teachers, K-12. On the negative side, for almost 20 years I have allowed this to be the way I remember him. Until a few months ago…
2. My parents were cleaning out a closet and came across a number of mementos they’d saved from my schooling career. Among them was the following note from this very professor:
“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lirtzman:
My wife and I were flattered to receive the invitation to Aliza’s wedding. She is, as you do not need to be told, a wonderful person, and, as you may be less aware, one of the best undergraduates I have ever taught. You will understand why we regret that other engagements make it impossible for us to be there, in the flesh, to share her important moment.
But we will be there in spirit, raising a glass to her happiness and hoping you all have a memorable day.”
Even though he could have used the enclosed RSVP card to decline, he hand-wrote this letter on JHU notepaper to my parents. As I re-read this a few months ago, I once again felt like an idiot. This time, for allowing what was probably just an inelegantly-worded letter of recommendation fill me with self-doubt and cloud my perception of what this beloved professor thought of me.
5. A Souvenir
I still have the tiny red suitcase I packed my things in the time I almost ran away from home. I was 6 or something.
6. A Scar
Nothing very interesting – I do have a few marks on my hands from when I was glassblowing and a small piece of glass that had cooled cracked and flew off the pipe. Knock wood, I’ve never had stitches (not counting episiotomies) or an operation.
7. Your First Kiss
Well, it was run of the mill, I had braces, etc. My first (and only) ON STAGE kiss, though, happened when I was 14 during a camp production of “Pippin.” In front of my parents and hundreds of other campers at Buck’s Rock. Gah.
8. Something You Won
When I was 21 I won money in a Super Bowl football pool in our office. Bought a purple raincoat with it.
9. Something You Lost
My shit whenever my sister beat me in ping pong or Israeli jacks.
10. Something You Found
Name something in the linen closet that my kids tried for hours to find. Anything at all. I found it in 8 seconds.
11. Where your Heart Calls Home
Apartment 1G in Brooklyn, and a little street in Baltimore.
Now, if you’re someone I can think of tagging (so sorry), here are the 11 questions I would like for YOU to answer. Remember: In a blog post of your own:
- Answer the questions
- Come up with 11 of your own
- Tag 11 people to answer them.
If I didn’t tag you on FB to do this…um…activity, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear your answers! Feel free to answer in the comments!
1. What talent do you wish you had?
2. Who’s your favorite Muppet, and why?
3. What kind of restaurant would you open, and why?
4. What’s the first movie that you remember giving you nightmares?
5. What sporting event have you never been to, that you dream of attending?
6. What class did you take in high school or college that you wish you could take again now?
7. Country Living or Architectural Digest?
8. What book do you hope your kids never read?
9. Ringo Starr. Good drummer or not?
10. Theme parks – thumbs up or thumbs down?
11. Are any of you still my friend?
(I joke about this being a chore, but truly, it was lots of fun for me. Thanks, C!)