Johanna Spyri's Heidi and Me
When I was a kid, I had a record of the story Heidi.
I should really just start a whole longstanding series called "When I Was A Kid", because half of the crap I write starts off with those five words. If white, suburban childhoods of depressed, schizo-affective gender-queers are popular right now, I could make a mint.
When I was a kid, I had a vinyl record of Johnanna Spyri's story, Heidi. (I threw "vinyl" in there to clarify "record", because I am starting to feel that I sometimes sound like my grandfather when he would use a word like "stoneboat" and then not bother to clue in the young'uns as to what the hell such a thing was). I had already read the book, which was a musty, yellowed copy with gold leaf on the spine from my mother's childhood library, but I do not remember much of the story past the middle, because I read the first half several times in my effort to finish the damn thing.
I had a problem with Heidi. I found her intensely difficult to like. Even I, a child who drew up elaborate fantasies of kidnappings and parental death and natural catastrophes, could not feel any sympathy for the complete tragedy that was her life. In fact, I came to want bad things to happen to her.
Since I was raised a pacifist, I felt terribly guilty about my Heidi hate. I knew that she was a tragic character who was being unfairly tossed from situation to situation and that it was even more unfair of me to hate her for her seeming helplessness, but really? All that just fueled me on. Not only did I not like her, but I felt guilt about not liking her and hated her more for the guilt she inspired. That all added up to my being even more disgusted at this wet kleenex of a character.
Maybe it was part of my process of learning passionate emotions and how to deal with them, but I became obsessed with the vinyl record version of the story, and in particular, the part of the story during which Heidi's stress drives her to sleepwalk off the end of a dock. The voice of Heidi on the record was obviously done by an adult in a ridiculous falsetto, so, on top of her annoying perpetual tragedy, she sounded like a pubescent Mickey Mouse.
At one point in the story, she sleepwalks down a hill to a dock over the lake. Her guardians are there but will not stop her, because it is more important to let a sleepwalker nearly drown herself than it is to attempt to save her life, don't you know. I always hoped that she would walk off the end and drown, but, much to my disappointment, someone always stepped in to stop her. What saved the scene for me was the ludicrous scream that would erupt just before Heidi was to possibly meet with a mortal end, and it became my thing for a while to play that scene over so I could hear her scream and then lift the record player needle just before she was saved so that I could imagine her drowning in an icy mountain lake in the middle of the night.
I was such a sweet child.
The satisfaction that would well up inside me each time I lifted the needle post-scream was very nearly perverse, and someone in my house must have picked up on it, because that record disappeared shortly thereafter.
What sparked this memory is a recurring dream that I have had for three nights running. It is in drawn pictures much like what you would find in old Dick and Jane readers, only with more colour in the background, and it looks as though I am flipping through pages so that the images move but are jerky. In the dream, a blonde little girl wanders down a hill, trips over a rock, and rolls head-over-heels into deep water and drowns. As soon as the little girl hits the water, I can hear my own voice laughing heh, heh, heh to myself, as though everything has gone according to plan.
Frankly, I think Heidi and I have some work to do on our relationship.
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