Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Book Look Review "A Girl Named Zippy"

“A Girl Named Zippy”

There is something oddly comforting reading about peculiar, dysfunctional families. I find it makes me feel a whole lot better about my own attempts at parenting. Well, at least I didn’t do that! Haven Kimmel, nicknamed Zippy, introduces us to her family and neighbors described with the affectionate bewilderment of young girl. Her childhood memoir is set in the small town of Moorland Indiana during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Nicknamed Zippy by her father for her resemblance to a frantic circus monkey, this little girl was anything but typical. She did not speak until age three, and then her first words were: “I’ll make a deal with you.” (Her father was trying to convince her that it was time to give up carrying around the pink plastic bottle.) There may be a little exaggeration in this autobiography but it makes the story much more entertaining.

Her family consisted of a gambling, drinking, loveable father, a sit-on-the-couch mother, a seldom appearing big brother and an exasperated teen-age sister. Eccentric neighbors and peculiar young friends complete the cast of comical characters appearing in Zippy’s childhood play. In one scene, the next door neighbor complains about the Haven’s dogs barking. One night Zippy’s father rounds up a yard full of hunting dogs from his gambling buddies and proceeds to parade a caged raccoon through the canine crowd for several hours. This caused such a terrible howling and baying that the neighbor complaints ended. In another scene she describes one of her religious experiences when she absolutely saw a vision of Jesus outside in the treetops during an Ouija board activity.

Kimmel’s childhood was filled with loving neglect. She made frequent visits to the emergency room for the stitches and sprains that resulted from her imaginative escapades. She was rarely supervised and seldom instructed or cautioned. Her sunny description of a bedroom floor littered with dirty clothes and even a long-dead mummified pet rat in a cage should be horrifying to the reader. Somehow, since Zippy doesn’t care we just read on impressed with her optimism and resilience.

If you need a little parenting self-esteem boost choose a book like “A Girl Named Zippy”. At least you didn’t gamble away your child’s one and only savings bond. You for sure didn’t allow your daughter to go without washing her hair for weeks at a time. But hopefully you loved your children completely and they knew it as certainly as Zippy did.

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