Yes, I am a little late catching on to the literature phenomenon also known as David Sedaris. I’ve heard little quips and quotes from his essays here and there, sat alongside my brother and mom as they shared a secret insight into the hilarious world of Mr. Sedaris, me being the outsider, admired the work of his sister Amy on Sex and The City and Strangers With Candy, and pretended to know what other people were speaking of while praising his work. I knew that I was missing out on something good, but had yet to find time to join the party, the Sedaris party.
Finally, I stole a copy of Naked off my mom’s bookshelf. I packed it (and Me Talk Pretty One Day for afterwards) home in my purse. I thought about it all night as I made dinner, cleaned up dinner, brushed 3 sets of teeth (okay, I brushed only 1 and supervised the other 2), read stories and made proverbial grown-up talk with my husband. I couldn’t wait to go to bed and open that book.
Are you ever the last one in the room to “get” the joke? That’s how I now feel. I can’t believe how funny David Sedaris really is. Sure, I heard this was the case, but like finally understanding the punch line to a great joke, I was reading this for myself. His autobiographical essays paint vivid portraits of his brilliantly funny family and his childhood. The glimpses inside his boyhood brain are more than entertaining and oddly VERY familiar.
In “A Plague of Tics” Sedaris writes about the numerous childhood tics that accompanied him almost into adulthood until he stopped smoking and they magically disappeared. The most famous of his tics was his inability to walk by a light switch without licking it to death. Imagine the troubles this would cause a boy in elementary school – excuse me, David, stop licking the light switch! I read this piece, glued to each word and description, laughing inside not only at the gut-busting images being drawn by his words but by the similarities between my oldest son and the behavior Sedaris writes about.
Before you think I’ve jumped off the deep end, let’s just hear a few snippets (which happened in a 5-minute time frame) of conversation from our family dinner at Lucky Dragon (our favorite Chinese restaurant) last week:
McRae: Those bugs up there look like prehistoric bugs trapped in sap! (Admiring the “collection” of insects which had perished in the amber-colored glass of the hanging lamp above our table)
McRae: How do they make sugar cubes?
McRae: Ummm, no I don’t eat pineapple today.
McRae: Care for another pot sticker? Good ‘cause I’m going to eat all of them (insert evil laugh)
McRae: Feet tapping, feet tapping, feet tapping (Hey, honey, stop tapping your feet)
McRae: Do the fish in the tank get bored?
McRae: Katie, gimmee a kissey-koo
McRae: More tea please
McRae: That face, the face he has made since he was about a year-old.
Anyone who knows him knows this face – where he flares his nostrils, stretches his mouth from cheek to cheek, scrunches his eyebrows together and the veins in his neck look like they’ll explode at any minute. It has been suggested to me that this face he makes is a “tic” which he does most often when tired and he will grow out of it. I have answered the concerns of many a family member who was worried about that face he makes, calmly telling them that it’s just a face he makes, assuring them that there is nothing wrong. And as the years pass, I notice this face less and less.
The “face” has become part of my son, a mannerism that is uniquely his. Although the “face” worried me a lot when he was a toddler and it seemed to show itself 6-8 times a day, I have grown to love it, accept it, and understand that it is just his little “thing”. I don’t even get to see that “face” everyday now. McRae is getting older and the “face” is gracing our presence less and less, just as the doctor said it would. I am going to miss that “face” when it’s gone.
And so, I finished “A Plague of Tics” wiping a tear from my eye, not because I was laughing so hard at Sedaris’s writing and story telling, but because I knew that all these odd little behaviors that define my boy right now, at this moment, will someday be no more. And although he doesn’t go around licking light switches, the young David Sedaris (and I am not even going to go there regarding things I have not read yet) and my son have a lot in common.
I can’t wait to read more.
And I can’t wait to see that “face” again tonight, just before bed, as McRae tries to convince me that he is not tired at all and should be allowed to stay up an extra hour to watch "Deadliest Catch”.