Dec. 30, 2008
Mistaking me for someone else, he asked me to marry him. This has
happened more than once. The first time, I was eighteen and the boy had
a diamond ring in a box. It was the Fourth of July, it was dark, he said, Happy
Independence Day. Of course, the ring was too large and slipped right off
my finger into the grass. (It belonged to someone else: the woman he
married, eventually.) And when I was twenty-one, that redhead, sloe-eyed
and slinking out of his grief, said he'd imagined I'd be his wife. But he was
mistaken. It wasn't me. Then a drunk who drove too fast, who threw the
proposal over his shoulder like some glittering, tattered scarf. I staggered
out of his car, saying, No thanks, No thanks, No thanks. And the man over
eggs one morning, in the midst of an argument, saying he planned to wait
for spring to ask for my hand, then he never asked. (So of course, I married
that one for a while; spent years convincing him I was not his cup of coffee,
not his girl.) And in Prague, on a bridge called the Karlův Most, a stranger,
a refugee, who mistook the way I stared at the river for thinking of suicide.
Who mistook my American passport for his ticket out of there. And
others-the man whose children grabbed the food off my plate, called me
her; the man in Chartres Cathedral humming the wedding march into my
ear. And tonight, at dinner with friends, happy, discussing their wedding
plans, a man I've known for a couple of hours turning to ask me to marry
him. I don't know who they think I am. Do I look like a bride in these rags
of wind? Do I look like the angel of home and hearth with this strange green
fire in my hands?
It's the birthday of the British writer Rudyard Kipling, (books by this author) born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India (1865). His father was an artist who got a teaching appointment in British-controlled India. So Kipling grew up in Bombay, in a house with a huge garden. He loved life in India playing with the paint and clay in his father's studio and spending days with his nanny. She was Indian, and she told him traditional stories and took him with her to the crowded markets. The boy spoke Hindi much better than his parents did, and he absorbed all sorts of songs, stories, and conversations that were meant for adults.
But his happy life in India came to an end when his parents sent him back to England after an outbreak of typhoid and cholera. He went to live with a couple in Southsea, but they were extremely strict. They constantly punished Kipling, and even made him go to school with a sign on his back that said, "Liar."
He went to an army school and got a job with the army back in India. He worked as a staff member on the daily newspaper for British soldiers. At night, Kipling had trouble sleeping, so he started writing fiction and poetry. He became a huge success. He also became a celebrity, which he didn't like at all. So he left England and moved to Vermont, and it was there that he started thinking about his childhood in India and wrote The Jungle Book (1894).
Rudyard Kipling said, "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."
It's the birthday of the Canadian novelist who coined the term "Generation X," Douglas Coupland, (books by this author) born on a military base in Baden-Solingen, Germany (1961). He is best known for his novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991).
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