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Saturday, October 24, 2009


After yesterday's rambling entry, I have a short one today. But I want to make a brief comment about yesterday's blog, and the few just before it. In general, I haven't gone back to read what I have written, but yesterday I did take a "bird's eye" view of this whole site, just to see what it looks like overall, what I am writing about. (As I have said, I never know WHAT I am going to write only that—and this is being 100% honest—that I simply MUST write that particular thing at that particular moment, with the inner drive that my life has somehow depended on it.

The one brief thing I would say about yesterday's blog is that it looks to me like some kind of "legal document" in my own mind. It reads like a rambling, unnecessarily wordy definition of what this blog is, laying the ground rules very clearly, defining the borders and boundaries of who gets to do and say what (mainly me). I am not a lawyer, and I don't know how to construct a real legal document, but my brother and my father are, and I've read and signed enough legal documents with their rambling, wordy texts to get a general sense of what they are.

I could have written this: "This blog is a safe place for me to write down my private memories, where no one can refute what I say. If you care what I think, please read. I want to recover from neurosurgery a stronger person than I was before, made up of the same memories, but perhaps with them prioritized differently. Thank you for reading."

That is all yesterday's blog really says, but I'm letting it stand because it just seems so oddly worded, so incredibly over-the-top in its brute force. As someone who considers himself a good writer, I view its writing style as foreign legalese.

But today I wanted to share one brief memory—a happy one—and one of those extremely lucid ones.

I know this took place on my first day of kindergarten (or soon after that). I was standing at the front door, about to leave the house, and my mother was teaching me a word. I was having trouble getting it, but she would not let me out until I could pronounce the word correctly, and I was having trouble.

"Kyger," she said.


"No . . . Kiiiiiiie-Grrrrrrr," she said very slowly. (If you think about it, saying "Kyger" is a bit of a tongue-twister for a little boy. The "K" and the "G" are difficult to say in quick succession. You open you mouth all the way to say the "I" sound, then clench down to make the "grrrr" sound. Kyger.

It was my mother's maiden name.

"Kyger," she repeated. "This is what mommy is. Kyger. You are a Kyger too. Say it—Kyger."


"Kie. Kuh-kuh-kuh."


"Alexander! Stop it! You are not a tiger."

"I am a tiger! Grrrrrr!"

"No. Say 'KAH.'"


"Say 'KIE.'"


"Say 'GRRRRR!'"


"Say 'Kie-Grrrr.'"


She breathed a sigh of relief. I can still hear that exhale. She said, 'Now say, "I am a Kyger.'"

I could not resist, so I instead tricked her with, "I am a TIGER!"


When she raised her voice, I knew I my life was always hanging in the balance, so I straightened up and immediately replied, "I am a Kyger."

"Good!" she said, and she was suddenly happy again, and I remember being let out the door so I could begin my first day of kindergarten.

That memory is quite vivid, and though not a traumatic memory, it still has that feel like it doesn't quite fit in with a lot of my other memories. It floats around, not really connected to anything else, and I don't group it in with anything or think, "This is one of THOSE kind of memories." It just floats around on its own. I suppose the unusual thing is my mother's urgency. Simply put, I was not going to get out that door until I got the word right, and perhaps in the "real" version of events that episode was quite a bit longer, hence the reason it stands out in my memory. So I know this happened, that I felt an unusual urgency from my mother, and it was somehow critical right then that I learn the word, that I knew this before I was let out into the world for my first time.

For me, I didn't really care what a "Kyger" was. That day was exciting because it made me think of myself as a tiger. Something clicked in my head.

Winnie-the-Pooh was a favorite in our house, but the reason I did not like it was because both my brothers had names which associate with the boy character, the only human amongst all the animals. I was left out. I may have this wrong, but my mother spoke often about the boy character in Winnie-the-Pooh and how both my older brothers (I am the youngest) had names associated with him. But she never said anything about me.

So when I said, "I am a tiger," I made the association to, "I am a Tigger," and all day I felt that—finally—I was not left out in the cold, "cast aside" as the ONLY one of my brothers who didn't have a rightful place in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. They could be the boy, but I could be Tigger. From that day on, I imagined myself as not an outsider in my family, but finally part of the club. I had a role. I was Tigger. Every Winnie-the-Pooh story after that was a good one, and I always hated them before that.  I simply put myself in Tigger's body and did and thought everything Tigger did.

The Wikipedia article on Tigger says this about his personality traits:

"Tigger's personality in the cartoons is much like his personality in the book. He is very confident and has quite an ego, he often thinks of himself as being handsome, and some of his other comments suggest he has a high opinion of himself. Also, he often undertakes tasks with gusto, only to later realize they were not as easy as he had originally imagined. As in the books, Tigger never refers to himself as a tiger, just as a "Tigger". When Tigger introduces himself, he often says the proper way to spell his name is: "T-I-double-guh-err (T,i,gg,e,r) , which spells Tigger."

"Another of Tigger's notable personality traits is his habit of mispronouncing various words, or stressing wrong syllables in them. Examples of this include him pronouncing "villain" as "villy-un"; "ridiculous" as "ridicarus"; and "recognize" as "re-coga-nize". "

Much later, my girlfriend at Juilliard was also a Tigger, I found out. One of our favorite things to do (when we were 20-22 years old, mind you) was to go into the Disney Store when we were at the mall and play-act with the Tigger stuffed animals at each other. For her birthday once, I bought her a very large stuffed Tigger. It was not a "joke" gift. It was a real gift, coming from me and to her, and it as given and received with the same serious appreciation as any more meaningful "adult" gift.

Car trips with her, almost every one, she would sing, and I would sing along:

A wonderful thing is a Tigger;
A Tigger's a wonderful thing.
Their tops are made out of rubber,
their bottoms are made out of spring
They're bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy,
fun, fun, fun, fun, fun,
The most wonderful thing
about Tiggers is:
I'm the only one!


  1. Kyger: /k/ and /g/ are phonetic "siblings": they are made in exactly the same location and with the same manner of articulation (velar stops). The only difference is that the /k/ is voiceless, the /g/ is voiced (vocal cords vibrate). However, to transition from one velar consonant to the tricky diphthong /aI/, which entails moving the tongue up and front, and then back to the other velar consonant is difficult for beginning language learners. The /t/ is also a voiceless stop, as is /k/, but /t/ is an alveolar stop (made in the front of the mouth and closer to the /I/ part of the diphthong /aI/. Hope that clears up why it is easier to say tiger vs Kyger.

  2. Yes, that clears everything up. Now I'm all cured and everything inside me is fixed. Thank you doctor burkellp!!
    [sorry for the sarcasm, but I do appreciate the explanation!]