Saturday, February 26, 2011

Scattered Childhood Memories #4: New House (and a dash of freakiness)

I was three and a half when we moved into this house. My parents searched and searched for the right place, and when they found it, they were overjoyed. We were staying/living at my grandparents' house at the time. They had a big box of wooden blocks I liked to play with. The day my parents finally decided on "the house," my dad told me all about it. We were sitting in my grandparents' living room, and my dad used the blocks to make a model of "the house". He used blue blocks to represent the doors. "See? There are stairs here. One set goes up, and one set goes down." Ooooh.

Sometime after that, my dad took me to the house itself, just me and him. We parked across the street and entered through the garage. He took me upstairs and showed me the three bedrooms. "This one will be yours," he said. He didn't try to explain that I'd gotten this one because it was the second-largest room (the largest one going to my parents, and the third-largest going to my baby brother.) Instead, he said, "I thought you should have this one because of the neat lightswitch -- look!" 

And there it was. A lightswitch that was not ordinary. It was not one of those little stick-out ones that you flip up or down like I was used to. It was rectangular, with a slight bend in the middle. It was flattish. Clap on, clap off. "And the best part?" He turned the light off -- and there, on the top half, was a ball of glowing orange. A nightlight! This thing was a freaking nightlight!

The nightlight glowed throughout most of my childhood. As a young teenager, it began to dim and flicker, but it held on. By the time I graduated high school, however, it had gone dark. So it goes. I decorated the lightswitch with stickers and went off to college and came back and barely gave it two thoughts anymore. Except... sometimes it was hard to find it -- I mean, the lightswitch -- in the dark. Sometimes my hand would fumble all over the wall, searching for it. You'd think after twenty-odd years, I'd be able to locate it blindfolded, no problem, but nay -- I tend to get a bit disoriented in the dark. At some point along the way, my mind seemingly forgot that there used to be a light there to guide me. Light: a distant memory.

And then came this morning.

When I got out of bed and went to turn on the light, I saw it -- a flicker. An orange flickery glow.

I was sure my eyes were playing tricks on me. Maybe it was the sunlight dancing off my mirror. Maybe... maybe I was still dreaming....

I cupped my hands around the lightswitch and peered at it as best I could in my early-morning spectacle-less state. And as I watched, the light began to glow brighter.

Convinced the whole thing was about to burst into flames, I quickly turned on the light (thus eliminating the nightlight portion), and have kept it on since. Well, shoot, you can't be too careful, can you?

But then I got to thinking how strange my reaction was. And how strange the situation was. Isn't it funny? Something can be dead and gone for years and then suddenly -- it's back. I know it's just a nightlight, but darnit if I can't turn everything into some kind of metaphor. I'm an English major, after all. It's what we do. And in this instance, I can't help but think of this light-revival as some kind of minor miracle. Miracles, I believe, happen regularly. But many times, we dismiss them. We look the other way. We come up with some semi-rational scientific explanation for 'em.

Or we run screaming.

And why is that? Is it too hard to believe that something might actually be happening around us that's GOOD? That's special? That's beyond earthly explanation, but hey, who needs explanations? Why do we fear these things so much?

I know it's just an tiny, flickering orange light. But I want to believe it means something more.

Edit: Well, it turned out it did mean something more. It meant we had a busted transformer on a nearby power pole that was causing power surges throughout our house. A few other wonky things prompted us to call the power company. After they came out and replaced a part, the nightlight stopped glowing once again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wizard Trip

So the other day my friend Jenn and I took a roadtrip to Seattle. Since we live in Portland, this wasn't an incredibly wacky undertaking -- totally doable, really -- it's just that neither of us had ever done it by ourselves before. Seattle is a big city. I have a penchant for getting lost while driving, especially in big cities.  I can imagine it's probably pretty easy to get lost in Seattle ("hey, didn't we just pass this?" "no, that was one of the other 5,291 Starbuckses.") But luckily, we had a few things going for us -- one, Jenn had a GPS, and two, I spent three months in Seattle a few years back... and if there's one thing I learned from that experience, it's this: If you can find the Space Needle, you can find the Pacific Science Center. Which, it just so happens, was our destination.

For the past few months, the PSC has been hosting a Harry Potter exhibit.  The exhibit has been all over the country, and Seattle was its last traveling stop.  So, yeah, I'm a big fan Harry Potter.  Not Big McLargehuge, but still pretty big. I don't go to the movies on opening night, nor have I ever worn a costume to a book premier party... however, I did get books #4-7 on release day.  And I've read them all multiple times.  And... I doubt you care. Okay, moving on, all I'm saying is I Love Teh Potter, and so I wanted to go to this.

And since so many other people had the same idea, everyone had to purchase tickets with a specific entry time stamped on them. We got 11:15. At the designated time, were herded into a building with about 40 other people. Three volunteers were selected to be sorted by the noble Sorting Hat.  Two Gryffindors and a Hufflepuff later, we entered the exhibit area.

It was a walkthrough exhibit, full of props, costumes, posters, and pieces of scenery from the movies. Some notable pieces included: Harry's four-poster bed (which looked alarmingly tiny), that giant creepy clown from the third movie, and the sorcerer's stone, which looked just as shiny and rubyesque as it did in the first Potter film.

The costumes were less impressive -- having all been worn, and, perhaps, because they'd already been moved/displayed so many times, they looked pretty faded and sad.  Even so, it was pretty neat to be able to stand next to a headless mannequin wearing a "Harry Potter Year 1" costume, and then, a few minutes later, stand next to one for Year 7, and realizing how much Daniel Racliffe really changed in that time span. (We were commenting on how it didn't seem like it had indeed been 10 years. But yikes. So it had.) And, of course, there was the outfit worn by one Mr. Robert Pattinson in movie #4, which we could not help but swoon over.  ahem.

The walkthrough's exit led right into a gift shop (surprise!) full of mostly-over-priced Harry Potter merchandise. We both agreed that a $170 tiny Triwizard Cup replica just wasn't in our budget, nor was a $50 sweatshirt or a $45 hat.  And so we left, exited into the sunlight (such as it is in Seattle this time of year), and spent the next few hours having Potter-less fun around the PSC and the Seattle Center. We walked through a butterfly pavilion, watched banana taffy being pulled, and wandered by a creepy, abandoned amusement park.

 Accio money bin full of gold!

In the end, I'm not convinced the Harry Potter exhibit was entirely worth the trip and the ticket price ($30 each for that and admission to the PCS, plus about $40 for gas and $15 for parking), but roadtripping with a friend can not be beat. Those five hours in Seattle were fun, and we can now proudly say we've driven there and back by ourselves. An impressive feat indeed.  (You know, if you're easily impressed.)