It occurs to me that now that the Martian is going to be twenty-five years old next Friday, it’s time for me to finally scratch something of an itch by giving her a Liography in continuity with my other efforts to make sense of the Pattersons. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to get started by sharing her life up until Jeremy Jones came into view:
It should be noted for the record that one of the few things April Patterson remembers from her very early childhood was asking herself what her brother Michael meant when he said “April fools all of us” one stormy night when she was three. This is because her early life was filled with questions that were not really answered accurately until she was twenty-five years of age. The most important question of all was “Do Mommy and Daddy really want me around?” because while she can’t actually remember the world gelling into a sort of narrative before her being chided for getting out of the yard and letting Farley the dog play hopscotch with Mrs Poirier’s dog, she always felt like everyone was trying to hide from her like she was some sort of monster from the scary movies Michael wasn’t supposed to watch. Daddy, of course, made sense when he went to play with his toys or to hide behind his newspaper because that's what daddies on television just did. Michael was someone she remembered as someone who didn’t spend much time at home in the first place and didn’t spend any of that time with her if he could avoid it because, as someone older and wiser told her later on, the boy suffered from the delusion that he was this cool dude who everyone respect and thus couldn’t waste time babysitting when that was Elizabutt’s job. Ah, well. That checked out because there were guys like him on television who people laughed at. There were also angry older sisters like Liz who seemed to be under the mistaken impression that there was a waiting room somewhere in Heaven where naughty kids could choose to be born in such a manner as to deny innocent kids like herself a childhood. They were funny too because that’s silly. She didn’t ask to be born and she did not spend her days looking for ways to ruin lives. Anyway, another odd habit she noticed from early on was that for some reason, her mother would never give her a straight answer about anything. She first noticed this when Elly did not simply come out and say to ask her or Daddy if she could go out but instead said to ask someone. While the April of the here and now knows what she meant, she also knows that to the child she was, someone could mean anyone. That was the thing in her life that was NOT like television. The mothers on the television shows that were said to be good for her were supposed to be the sensible ones and love their kids. Elly acted as if being near kids was the worst thing ever and she, as Grandpa Jim and Grandma Carrie said when they didn’t think any kids were around, had not the sense God gave a goose.
Sadly, it took her almost drowning to start to really sink in that what her mother said was not always what she meant. If she had figured out that Elly spoke in code earlier, she could have avoided a trauma that defines who she is and always will be. While the others try to downplay how much it affected her, the subconscious dread that she would die alone and forgotten by people who did not really want her around seems to have been fixed in her mind after a sort of second honeymoon. She still sort of remembers that they were going to go on a big trip for a reason she hoped wasn't to leave her and never look back. The reason this matters is that her mother said that there would be nothing to do but watch the boat go up and down. She can still remember the confusion she felt when she told Mrs Poirier about all the great stuff they did. Either they added this stuff or (as April feared and still does fear) her mother lied to her to shut her up because she didn't think a child had a memory. (Your humble author says to his displeasure that this was the first time of many that April remembered her mother not only lying to her but also thinking that she was too stupid to realise that she HAD been deceived.) IF there were fun things she simply was not allowed to have because (as always) they just didn’t want her around (because no one seemed to), she was going to have her own boat trip near the river outside the house. She really doesn't quite remember anything between slipping on a rock and sitting in an observation room having Liz bellowing at her that it was her fault Farley’s dead which is something of a blessing. This way, she was spared Elly’s patented retroactive recognition of a risk. To allay her fears that she was not the dog-killing monster some family friend from Minnesota later called her, John came along later and said that Farley was old and sick and ’that a dozy old cow drinking coffee with another blind-eyed idiot should’ve done a better job taking care of a responsibility’ but she could no more shake the feeling that if she’d played nicer, Farley would have lived longer. (This feeling still sort of persists to this day, I’m sorry to say. So does her fear that she’s supposed to be the sidekick in her own life and no one told her.)
Said feeling that everyone can’t wait to love anyone who isn’t her more (owing to her mother making very little effort to hide her anger at being a mother in her forties) probably explains the jealousy she had (and still sort of does have only now, she admits it) of Becky McGuire who was sure to take everything from her and leave her with nothing and nobody like she was always afraid of because that’s what prettier girls just do, it happens on television all the time. It was nice to have a friend her age but being told once again that being a nice girl meant smiling and telling people “That’s all right, Mommy…I was bad and wrong to want anything for myself in this life. Good girls let takers take and smile all the while.”
April didn’t like saying so out loud because she did not want to be lectured to but her mother was really good at saying things that didn’t work in real life like that. It seemed that if Elly had the odd belief that when she said something while turning her back to people, you weren’t supposed to question it despite the fact that a lot of the things she said didn’t really work out all that well. Take, as a for instance, the horrible feud she had with Jeremy and how Elly insisted that she could and should make friends a boy that wanted to beat her up for no sane or decent reason. While John knew that she wasn’t ever going to make friends with a crazy mean kid who wanted to mess her up for playing Grandpa’s harmonica because his dad ran away and shouldn't have it asked of her, Elly did not because she didn’t live in the same world as you and I do. Oh, April was smart enough not to say that where Mom and Dad could hear it but Grandpa Jim and his lady friend Iris said so all the time and since they were older, they must have known what they were talking about.
And hey, it was not as if Mom she practiced what she preached with the smile-through-the-eating-other-people’s leavings stuff. While it looked as if Mike’s mother-in-law was a cartoon monster who wanted her and the others to lose all the time because of this family politics stuff Mom was talking about, when things like that happened on TV, it was usually just because the so-called bad person was too much like the person screaming about them for her liking. Simply put, this Mrs Sobinski was better at being Elly Patterson than Elly Patterson was and it burned.