A sweet childhood memory tarnished by bullshit

A few weeks ago, the mums calls up to let me know that she’s clearing house, getting rid of all the collected crap from who knows where and who knows when. She wants my and my brother’s help in deciding what we want to keep lest it be thrown out. I list a few things. There’s the single-volume edition of Lord of the Rings I got as a present years ago (and obviously have yet to crack open). There’s the collection of Calvin and Hobbes, or was it The Far Side? I don’t even remember so it can’t be that important to me.

A couple of weeks later, I realize I can’t make the trip and ask if my bro can be so kind as to just toss the stuff that isn’t on my short list. So mom asks for the short list. I let her know that there are only two things I really, really want. One of them is this children’s book Anton B. Stanton and the Pirats.

When I was a kid, I knew no one else named Anton. I knew Christophers and Erics and Jacobs, but not one single Anton. I didn’t realize at the time that it’s actually quite a popular name in Europe. But that knowledge wouldn’t have helped me at all since I wasn’t living in Europe. I was the only one. It was a little like that Simpsons bit where the family’s at Itchy and Scratchy land and Bart finds the vanity license plates, which even include a “Bort,” but no “Bart.” And with my stupid tinted, extra-thick, Coke-bottle glasses, I was plenty unique. This was before the whole bullshit anti-bullying thing caught on so being singled out for being unique still happened. No, I didn’t get the shit kicked out of me, but I did feel like the only one for a long time.

One day, I get this kids’ book from my godmother Bonnie. I was only recently reminded of her giving it to me; for decades, I’d thought it was my actual parents who had. I have no memory of the event. I do, however, have memories of my initial reactions.

I’d pull the book off the book shelf, take a peek at the title and think, “I’m not the only one.” it didn’t hurt at all that the protagonist in the story looked a little like me and did cool shit like live in a castle and fight pirats.

Anton B. Stanton and I had some good times. I’d often scan the beginning and ending pages, illustrations of pirats climbing around in the grass, to try to figure out what they were up to. Some swung from blades, some brandished swords, etc.

“I want Anton B. Stanton,” I tell my mom.

Days later, she calls with some bad news. Turns out that in the hullaballoo of cleaning up, one of the two items was discovered destroyed–eaten by rats (ha!)–and the other, my cherished book, has vanished, most likely accidentally included in the piles of books that were sold off.

Poo.

Mom says she’ll find a replacement. I tell her only if it’s easy and cheap. I don’t want her spending too much time and money tracking down my book.

Flash to yesterday. I get a package from her and lo and behold, the book is there along with a very neat memorial program from my Bonnie’s funeral.

And the note.

My family has a habit of writing sweet dedications in books we give to each other I doubt this is unique to us; I imagine everyone does it. It’s something one can expect in a gifted book. And my mom had written one here. It basically spoke kindly of Bonnie, about her original dedication, and all that good stuff.

But then.

One of the last lines was this:

“Know that Bonnie is still watching over you and taking pride in what she sees.”
–Mom

Very kind, right? Except I came out to my mom as an atheist when I was 19. She knows that not only do I reject the claim that Bonnie continues to exist in some supernatural form, but that I also reject the claim that she’s watching over me.

Moreover, what the fuck is “watching over” supposed to accomplish? Last week, the wife and I were walking around the Echo Park area in LA. I accidentally bumped into this thing outside a store front. It kinda hurt and I felt that irritating adrenaline rush I get when I trip or bump into things. Which happens all the fucking time. What, Bonnie couldn’t be bothered to say, ‘Hey, Anton, look out for that metal thing off to your side. Might hurt to bump into it.”? Or how about, “That gallery you guys are looking for? It’s about two blocks down on your right.”? Or even better, “You know that student loan stuff you’re waiting to be approved on? Yeah, I just checked the dude’s desk and it looks like you’ve been approved. Congrats, kiddo.”?

Nope.

But the issue more at the heart of the matter is if I were any religious faith, any at al, my mom would most likely feel a social obligation to respect my faith and all that entailed. Yet years and years after politely letting her know that I don’t believe any of this bullshit, I get the same old condescending, made-up-bullshit sentimentality predicated seemingly on the premise that my lack of belief is somehow deserving of a lack of respect.

I’m not angry at mom, more disappointed. I doubt her attitude will ever change. Or that she’ll even be aware of why it’s offensive. Oh, well. Gonna go hang out with B. Stanton now.

4 Responses to “A sweet childhood memory tarnished by bullshit”

  1. Anton, you’re funny. At least your mom cares. I think If I asked my mom for my comic books (to share with my daughter) they are most likely sold to the highest E-Bayer! But I did leave them at her house, for years so fair is fair. The empathic view, of your mom, is that is she phrased it the way she sees it and with the most affection. I don’t know why I am being so sappy, my mom’s a bitch and I don’t talk to her. LOL

    • You’re right. She cares. And that’s not trivial. We have a usually great relationship. It’s just this shit pops up every once in a while and rears its irritating head. I understand she said what she felt was sincerely appropriate. What bothers me, and I think this is the whole “privilege” discussion, is that it doens’t cross her mind, even with over a decade of experience with my lack of belief, to consider the words she uses. In fact, a few years ago, she told me that she told someone else that her son “thinks he’s an atheist.” Does she think she’s a Democrat? Does she think she’s a liberal? Of course not. No one would ever question those convictions. But for some reason, it’s perfectly acceptable to question mine. But even as I say this, I say this has been going on for years so it’s not like I should be surprised. It’s just… sigh. It’d be nice if once ina while, my lack of faith were treated as just a given.

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