Look familiar?


Mr. Halfstory asked if I would gather together three pairs of clean dress socks for his upcoming business trip to Seattle.  This is what I came up with:

“Good job,” he said to me.   We have a problem pilfering each others’ things in this house.  Because the girls and I are willing to have sock heels ride up our calves we are able to steal both Halfstory’s socks and The Son’s; it’s a good thing I love boots.  Ramona was always stealing Yvette’s clean, folded uniforms, jumping into the car before Yvette was awake enough to grab her.  Halfstory habitually steals off everyone’s plate because, in his world, everyone has to abide by the 20-minute rule and then he gets it all.  The Son daily rifles through Halfstory’s sweatpants box – yes, a box, as we also have folding and storage issues – for something clean until his floor is littered with two used and discarded wardrobes.   I am more than happy to take the girls’ jeans; eventually they will outgrow them, but I won’t.  So, my question is not, where do all the missing socks go?  It’s, why do we need to keep buying more?  (Ok, to be truthful I get so annoyed at this I just wear unmatched socks on principal and never buy new ones.)  Why can’t we just upend everyone’s room so the guy who makes most of the money can have 3 stinkin’ pairs?  We.  Just.  Can’t.  Families all have their foibles and this is one of ours, benign and, at its worst, an indication of household laziness.

Rosemary’s family in We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (by Karen Joy Fowler) has much bigger problems.  Raised by scientist parents who’ve also chosen to raise a chimpanzee alongside their children, Rosemary is now having difficulty engaging in her own life.  She’s 22, crazy-smart, and damaged by memories that seem poignant but are both faulty and murky.  She has not seen her older brother since he left – he was 17 –  angry that Fern, the chimp, was removed from the family and sent to “a farm.”

I have a serious distaste for anything involving animal torture mostly because I can’t take it.  I know it exists.  I read the news.  And this book has some; it’s responsible for most of the tension.  But it’s not gratuitous.  Fowler writes with such engrossing detail about how the girls were raised, basically as twins, that the other details are tragic, but necessary.   And it’s not a book about an adorable chimp and her cute sidekick.  Everyone is an intense, well-structured and fallible character, including Fern, who is the most fascinating.  I particularly like how Fowler plays with memory, how each of us holds our own experiences so differently, even if we were raised under the same roof, with the same players.  Fern herself is a reflection of this, and sometimes, the image is not what we expect.