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  • Nelda Bedford Gaydou

POSTER PURGATORY: Introducing myself

Calico, my guide through Social Media Purgatory, stressed the need for introducing myself to potential followers, who love personal tidbits. However, she sternly warned me to avoid boring details and self-praise. Instead, I should strive for brevity, humor, and originality. In short, my posts should sound like everyone else's, only different. Sigh.

I asked myself what has universal appeal and finally came up with animals and children. I didn’t quite see how to fit in my dogs at this point, so I shelved that idea for the time being. That left me with children. I myself have not been a child for several decades, but I once was a child. I could work with that.

For an image, I settled on a photo of six-year-old me on my first day of first grade. Although it was rather dark and a bit blurry, it was not only cute (practically all six-year-olds are cute) and retro (1960) but different from your run-of-the-mill first-day-of-school picture, given the location and the clothes.

The picture was taken in the Patagonian city of Comodoro Rivadavia and I was wearing a guardapolvo, a white smock with a pleated skirt and a big bow in the back. I wanted that bow to hold its shape all day, which my mother achieved by a liberal application of starch. If it became loose or started to droop during the day, which it always did, I had the teacher retie and reshape it. I bet she never imagined that as one of her duties!

The photo hints at quite a bit of my personal history. I was born and raised in Argentina by parents from the U.S. and have been bilingual in Spanish and English my entire life. By the time that picture was taken, I already knew that I wanted to be a writer.

My parents sent me to public school, which was of course in Spanish. My mother reasoned that, if my siblings and I discovered how easy it was to read in Spanish, we would not want to make the effort required to read in English. Therefore, she taught us (as well as my children later on) to read before we started the first grade.

Mother ordered the Calvert homeschooling course. She didn’t really bother with math and science because we got them at school, but she made sure we read all the Language and Social Studies material. She instilled the love of language in us all, and we became voracious readers.

We read everything that we could get our hands on. In Spanish, we had books, magazines and graphic novels (back then we called them “comic books”): Superman and the Justice League, Little Lulu (La pequeña Lulú), Zorro and Patoruzú. However, most of my reading for pleasure was in English.

There was an invasion of foreigners in Comodoro at that time because the government had awarded big oil contracts, among them to several U.S. and Canadian companies. While I was not interested in socializing with North Americans or adopting their customs (from an irrational fear that too much contact would somehow lead to my parents leaving Argentina), I loved that they all contributed books to an English language library. There I discovered the joys of the mystery, adventure and detective genres, beginning with the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, Dick Tracy and Nancy Drew.

I knew right away that I wanted to join the company of the wordsmiths who brought me such pleasure.

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