Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Dreams...

by Toni McGee Causey

As I write this, there is a mosquito in this room, trying to pack me off for lunch. The buzzing is so pronounced, I’d have sworn the Goodyear Blimp was coming in for a landing, but I am not quite fast enough to see the danged thing and get to it to kill it before she jumps to the other side of the room. I could swear he’s over there saying, “Neener neener neener.” I’m sure he has his friends perched right outside the back door waiting, because as soon as I step outside, three billion of the damned critters will point toward me and the sky will darken and Moses will wonder who’s taking his schtick, and it’s ME, the WALKING DESSERT. Geez. It’s summer already. How on earth did that happen?

And in spite of how fast the summers seem to be arriving, I still look forward to this time of year with the longing of a school kid in the middle of finals. For the last three years, though, it has meant being in the throes of the best part of writing—working on the next book. For the last two years, it’s also meant actually getting to visit a bookstore and seeing a book out. (I once stood and stared so long, a customer who’d been browsing said, “Honey, it won’t bite.”) First it was Bobbie Faye’s Very (very, very, very) Bad Day (and when I sold it, there were SIX “verys” in that parenthetical. I may have lost my mind a little. I am having a hard enough time typing that sucker out every time I need to, can you imagine THREE MORE? “Hi, Ms. Causey, you just won the Carpal Tunnel First Place Ribbon if you can lift your hands to accept it, and it should like nice right there next to the WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? statue.”)

The new one, out this week, is Bobbie Faye’s (kinda, sorta, not exactly) Family Jewels, and I swear to you, the next series will have one word titles. The sad thing is, I did this to myself.

But wonderfully, the summer is still about books. Reading is, I believe, my first love, and in elementary school, the summers meant no more getting up at the butt-crack of dawn. It meant no more massive school projects late at night (er, 3 a.m. because I am an overachiever as the procrastination).

The weird thing was… I started anticipating, and dreading, the books. Anticipating because it was HEAVEN and I could read until my eyes fell out my head (which was a serious possibility, I read so much). But it also meant that when school rolled back around and we had to do that dreaded “what did you do for your summer vacation?” essay, I was going to have nothing. Nada. Except that I read books.

I could literally go weeks without setting foot outside. My dad would often drag me to the door and say profound things like, “This is the back yard, and don’t be afraid of that blue thing up there, that’s the sky, it won’t fall on you.” Honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t toss a book out there in the middle of the yard to watch me freak out, run to it and then slam the door behind me just to prove to me that I wouldn’t die in the sunlight. [And right now, my dad is reading this, thinking, “Damn, I should have done that.”] I’m pretty sure the only reason he and my mom agreed to let me have a car as a teenager was because I could not read and drive at the same time, and to get in the car was, by definition, “outside of the house.” (My mom and dad tried to take me camping once. Referred to by our family as “That Camping Trip” and referred to by me as “Hell.” I refused to pee. At all. Three days, people, and I wouldn’t go. Not behind a bush, a tree, or with any sort of enticements. I think they cut the trip short because they didn’t want to have to explain to Social Services why their child exploded.) When Lois Greiman mentioned at RT that she and her son had been purposefully camping across an entire state or two and actually hiking, my inner book geek went, “iiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee” and nearly fell over dead. (Strangely, I played softball and we ended up having a winning team; I’m not quite sure how my dad managed to convince me that outside was okay enough long enough to play a sport. I consider this one of those wonders of the universe.)

I knew, though, that the end of summer was coming, and I had nothing to report for the “what I did for my summer vacation” essay, and it would really start to bother me. After the first couple of years of reporting that I’d read books, (and I don’t think “annoying the crap out of my little brother counted as a reportable activity), I sensed the teachers (and the kids) were thinking I was somehow… not an extrovert. Maybe even… a geek. The eye-rolling would commence and the teasing, and somewhere along about the third or fourth year of having to do one of those stupid reports, I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t say the same thing all over again, so I made up a story about my summer. Just completely fabricated the whole thing, acting as if it was real, and turned it in.

I’m not entirely sure how the English teacher knew that I hadn’t visited Morocco and slayed a couple of dragons, but geez, she was wily and she knew. And she gave me an A+. She also gave me that pursed-lipped angled-over-the-glasses glint, but I didn’t realize it was because she was on to me. I thought it was just because of the twist at the end where I’d saved a couple of street kids. (I thought that was a nice touch, for a ten year old.) That’s when I realized, though, that my summer vacation was wherever my imagination took me. Books and dreams.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

So how about you? If you had the ability to have a long summer vacation, even you people who like to go outside and do stuff, what would you do? Where would you go? What would you dream?

Toni McGee Causey lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She and her husband, Carl, are licensed general contractors and, in order to support her writing and reading addiction, run their own civil construction company. You can visit Bobbie Faye and Toni (and view videos, read excerpts and participate in contests) at

Toni will be giving away a signed copy of Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day and a $15 B&N gift certificate. Leave a comment to enter the contest!


Annette said...

Hi, Toni. And welcome to Working Stiffs.

I was one of the geek children, too. Mom packed me off to vacation bible school where the big kids flattened me playing dodge ball. Besides (or maybe because of) being a geek, I was also a very small, skinny, scrawny little kid, so even dodge ball as a sport was beyond my abiility. But, oh, did I read...

I just got home from a week in Williamsburg, Virginia, but if I had more time off and gas for the car, where would I go? Hmmm. Probably out west. Wyoming or Colorado. Just plop me down on a dude ranch and let me live out the Zane Grey novels I read all those years ago.

Joyce said...

Great post, Toni!

I have so many inner geeks in me that I should probably be on some kind of medication. Although I did play outside as a kid, I also read a lot of books.

Most of the time I'm content staying home. Three or four days away at a time is plenty. My favorite place to go is Gettysburg. Great place for my inner history geek.

Gina said...

Toni -
I was another book addict as a child, often being yelled at because I "always had [my] nose in a book." One of the lower grade teachers ran an odd experiment: she told us that we could do anything we wanted for one minute. Most of the kids started running around and yelling. I pulled out a book and started to read, only to have her react by saying, in a very hostile condescending voice, "I just bet you'd sit and read if you could do anything you wanted to." Apparently, she thought I was pretending to be a reader to impress her or something, but that really was what I wanted to do! Confused the heck out of me, because I'd taken her literally, and thought that I really did have permission to do whatever I wanted for that minute, only to find out that even the teachers despise kids who want to read.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

You must be reading my mind Toni. I've been dreaming about vacation. Last year there was a long weekend in Chicago to celebrate our 30th anniversary, but it wasn't long enough.

I'm more the adventure sports kind of guy and baking on the beach isn't a vacation to me. It just gives me more time to think about the work I have waiting for me at the office.

This year I planned a Carribean cruise, but instead settled for a 52" LCD Flat Panel HDTV and ALL the fixins and a week in Gulf Shores. My wife's suggestion, not mine. My wife says (in the immortal words of Cousin Eddie - Christmas Vacation) "The entertainment system is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year."

There are a few things I've thought about doing. Going on a Whitewater Raft adventure or a Scuba trip to the Great Barrier Reef (despite the couple that just spent 22 hours in the water after being seperated from their group.

Then there's always that month long trip to explore the Hawaiian Islands.

Oh, and Annette, I'll be in Williamsburg next week, on business.

ramona said...

Ah, Toni, what memories you've brought back. I grew up in Lafourche Parish. I did a lot (lot, lot, lot) of reading in the summer. My other choices were fighting with my brothers, listening to cows moo and watching sugar cane grow. Nothing worth writing about--or so I thought at the time.

Now, I'd love a summer like that.

PS - This site hates me. This is my 4th attempt to post! What did I ever do to you, Mr. Blogger?

nimrodiel said...

I was one of those kids who read all the time as well. I once had a teacher tell my parents that she never thought she would say this about a student, but I read too much (it was a form of escapism from home issues).

But come summer, I was outside reading and running amuck with the kids on the block (we had over 40 kids on the block at one point). As I was one of the older kids a big part of the summer reading was reading stories to the younger kids who still loved to have some one read to them.

I miss going camping and boating as schedules now end up being so crazy we don't do it as often, but I can count on a good book to take me out in the woods and the world to explore areas I haven't seen yet. Currently I'm about to start exploring Australia with Bill Bryson's In a Sunburnt Country...

Someday I'll get there myself :)

Toni said...

Annette, thanks for the welcome! (And sorry I'm late here today.)

Wow, I had forgotten the hell that was called dodge ball. You and I must've been twins, because seriously, I was so small, the ball would slam me into the next week. I did learn to be fast (eventually). You have to wonder about a practice that honest a kid's survival instincts to razor wire sharpness. ;)

Ooooh, my oldest son lives in Colorado and last summer was the first time I got to go and spend a few days, just relaxing. We rode horses up in the mountains and it was just a stunning day. I read so many books on that trip! Excellent choice.

Toni said...

Thanks, Joyce, for the welcome and the invitation! Gettysburg is one of those places I've never visited -- is it a place where you go to relax, or you go to visit a lot of the historical sites? What's your favorite thing about that area?

Toni said...

Gina, what a strange teacher! I can't believe she mocked the Goodness of Geekdom! There should be some sort of law against that. ;) Especially from teachers who, above everyone else, ought to know what it's like to be that kid with a nose in a book. If not from their own experience, at least from classroom observance, because she had to have seen other readers. I hope. ;)

Thanks for the welcome!

Toni said...

Wilfred (do you prefer Wil?)... oh, you have me longing to go back to Chicago now. We visited there for a week a few years ago and loved it.

Luckily for me, my husband likes going places and doing fun things and coaxes me out of the office (he and my dad have had conversations about how I have literally been inside an entire week without thinking to open the door, not even once). Carl wants to do that white water rafting thing. I wouldn't mind going as long as the evenings are in a hotel. ;)

Toni said...

Ramona! oooh, the watching the sugar cane grow... how could you not be enraptured? (I'm not entirely sure I can ever make that sound good. Unless it suddenly had Clive Owen in front of it. Maybe dancing. Or swinging a sword.)

LaFourche parish... we just shot some footage there for a film I'm producing. It really does have some gorgeous places, but I totally empathize on not having anything to do there. Thank God for books, huh?

Toni said...

nimrodiel, yeah, I totally got that lecture. Too much reading--and definitely very good for escapism.

I do think that's one of the things I love the most about reading, is traveling to other places, seeing parts of the world in an intimate way I'd never get, not even if I visited in person. If the author's done a good job of evoking that locale, I am forever grateful... it's like having stamps in my passport.

Joyce said...

Toni, Gettysburg is one of those places where you can tour the battlefield and still feel relaxed. Nothing like walking across the same field where 15,000 men marched and many lost their lives. There were more than 50,000 casualties over 3 days. And the ghost tours are cool.

Will, I'll be going to Busch Gardens next month. We're picking up our older son from Prince William Forest Park and heading down to Williamsburg for a few days.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hello, Toni! We met at RT and I'll be blogging about the new release over the weekend. I've still got my extra copy of Bobbie Faye's Very(4) Bad Day to give away. I've been playing around with ideas how to do that beyond the usual.

Toni said...

Joyce, wow, I'd forgotten how many casualties there were there -- that's astounding. I bet that ghost tour is phenomenal.

Susan, hi! I'm so glad to see you here, and *thank you* -- I appreciate it! (And checking your blogger bio... I so have research questions for you as a concert promoter.) RT was a blast this year -- it was great meeting so many cool people. ;)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Toni, e-mail me and I'll be glad to help. My e-mail's on my blogger profile, or on my website.

Toni said...

Susan -- definitely will be doing that. Thanks!

And thanks to everyone for the warm welcome today and allowing me to guest blog. I had a terrific time.