QUINCY THE CHAMELEON

My trouble-blending-in story...
By Barbara DiLorenzo

Day 10 of the 10-day countdown to the book's release.

 

Welcome to the ten-day countdown to the release of my second picture book, QUINCY: The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In! (A little different than my first book–RENATO AND THE LION–but they both share a love of the creative.)

Since this is the first day of the countdown, here is my story of struggling to blend in from my elementary school years. I am impressed by the people that shared their stories with me, and their courage to admit how hard it is to look or feel different than the crowd. I will post their stories during the nine remaining days.

During elementary school, I should have been a somewhat likable child with a bunch of friends. But I was shy. That made socialization harder. I daydreamed in class, and had trouble when the teachers called on me. And I was poor at sports. Still, I should have been somewhat able to blend into the crowd. More than anything, that is what I craved. 

Somehow, my brain just worked differently. Though I had trouble fitting in, truthfully the other kids weren’t mean to me. Sure, sometimes they stared at the strange thing I said. Or they rolled their eyes when I pretended to be a horse (complete with neighing and pawing the ground with my foot/hoof). But although they didn’t bully me, I certainly wasn’t invited to be a part of the main social circle. I could read social cues well enough to know that me being on the fringe was probably best for everyone. 

 I did have a few friends that were on the periphery of the social circle with me. We enjoyed each other’s company and understood each other’s quirks. In the early days of school, these core friends were a lifeline. We all loved to laugh. That is the one element that glued us together.

When we were in 7th grade, some of their weird started to fade. But it was precisely at this time that my most embarrassing moment occurred. A small group of us were involved in the winter theatrical play, but assigned ensemble roles. We had a lot of time on our hands. Teachers had endless chores for us to do–painting sets, making costumes, helping the real actors learn their lines, etc..  We weren’t in the play because we were great at acting–we just disliked basketball more. So avoiding these chores became somewhat of a game. The one way to avoid everything was to leave the auditorium–and the only way to leave was to ask to go to the bathroom. After a few weeks, we learned that we could hang out in the bathroom, and no one seemed to notice our absence. The bathroom was a strange shape–a sort of blocky spiral from the main entrance to the stalls. The ceiling was immensely high. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but someone came up with a game of hide-and-seek tag. Clearly, a bathroom is too small for hide-and-seek, so someone else decided to turn off the lights to add to the challenge. Though bad at sports, we were nimble at scaling the bathroom walls and jumping over the top or two into the next stall. Reflecting on this, as a mom, I can’t believe how truly dangerous this was! But we didn’t realize that or care. The person who was "it" would wait outside while folks inside found a good spot. Then they walked in, and simultaneously shut the lights. Once the lights were out, the game began. We would silently wait until the “it” person was nearby, then scramble over the bathroom stalls to the next safe spot. Or, someone would sneak all the way to the entrance for safety. Now, once in awhile, an actual person needing to use the bathroom would come in. And naturally, they would flip the lights on. This was our cue to immediately stop playing, and drop down into a stall. Sometimes people would ask why we were in the dark. “Oh, the last person accidentally turned the lights out when they left” was a reasonable reply. This stupid, and dangerous game of hide-and-go-seek-bathroom-tag went on for a few weeks. We would play a few rounds, then return to the auditorium, and our chores, where no one noticed us.

In the context of our boredom and the imagination and daredevil energy of my friends, this all made complete sense to me. I saw no issue with it. But there were normal people in the auditorium too. One girl, with blond hair down to her bum, and a little bit of a sneer for a smile, was an important and very normal actor in the play. I so want to use her real name because it completes the picture. But if this insane story is passed along to her, she might be offended. And really, she did nothing wrong. No point getting her involved now. Let’s just call her Mary. 

One afternoon while we were playing crazy blind bathroom tag, I felt a bit bored. I was tired of scaling the bathroom walls like a monkey, and scrambling from safe spot to safe spot. I thought for once, maybe I could hide differently, and stay quiet, avoiding detection. I couldn’t fit under the sinks, and there was nowhere else to stand. I looked at the giant Rubbermaid trash can. It had a completely new, clear bag in it. Not even a paper towel. I had my hiding place! But I wanted to be able to pop out, should a non-tag player enter. Standing in the trash can would be too difficult to jump out quickly. So I considered sitting back into the clean can with my feet out for a fast exit. I was wedged in bum first.

The game started, and our “it” person entered and shut off the lights. I was so excited as she walked right by me without any hesitation. My plan was genius! But at that moment, click, the lights came on–a normal person had entered our space. No problem, I thought, just jump out. But nothing happened. My weight had pulled me so far down into the cylinder that I had created something of a vacuum. The more I struggled, the more stuck I became. I panicked. I flailed. I fell over with a trash can stuck to my bum. Flailing on the floor, bum in can, I saw the normal person come around the corner. The unmistakable long, blond hair rounded the corner first. Mary. She stood there staring at me, unable to wrap her head around what circumstances could have possibly led to me getting my bum stuck in a trash can. She looked at my still kicking legs, trying to get free like a bug on its back. Although I might have rambled some incoherent explanation, she didn't say a word. She simply looked a moment more, then turned on her heel–and walked right back out of the bathroom. 

To be fair, Mary didn’t do anything wrong. She just did not understand me. Heck, I didn’t even understand me. QUINCY was born from experiences like this, moments where I felt painfully different. In writing QUINCY, I realized that a person doesn’t need to blend in–she just needs a small tribe of folks that accept her. And I definitely had my tribe. After Mary left, the other tag players helped me up from the trash can. After laughing at my expense for a while, they congratulated me on a good hiding spot. 

BOOK DETAILS


ISBN 9781499805420
Publisher little bee books
Page Count 40
Format hardcover
Subformat picture book
Age range 4-8
Pub date April 3, 2018
Pub season Spring 2018
Rights World

PURCHASE


Please support your local bookseller! Some of my local shops suffer from folks who peruse their beautiful selection, then order online from a less expensive venue. With this set-up, many beautifully curated collections will fold without your economic support. Consider visiting your neighborhood store–or IndieBound online. Thank you for your book love and support!

IndieBound

Here are some in my neck of the woods:

jaZams
25 Palmer Sq E
Princeton, NJ 08542

Labyrinth Books (NJ)
122 Nassau St
Princeton, NJ 08542

Farley's Bookshop
44 S Main St
New Hope, PA 18938

Newtown Bookshop
2835 S Eagle Rd
Newtown, PA 18940

The Clinton Book Shop
12 E Main St
Clinton, NJ 08809

The Doylestown Bookshop
16 S Main St
Doylestown, PA 18901

Open Book Bookstore
7900 High School Rd
Elkins Park, PA 19027

[words] Bookstore
179 Maplewood Ave
Maplewood, NJ 07040

Moravian Book Shop
428 Main St
Bethlehem, PA 18018

Eleventh Step Books
31 Haddon Ave
Haddon Township, NJ 08108

Head House Books
619 S 2nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Joseph Fox Bookshop
1724 Sansom St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Inkwood Books (NJ)
31 E Kings Highway
Haddonfield, NJ 08033

Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni's Room
345 S 12th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Hudson Booksellers EWR778/396
1180 McLester St Ste 3
Elizabeth, NJ 07201

Hudson Booksellers EWR916/940
1180 McLester St Ste 4
Elizabeth, NJ 07201

Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Hudson Booksellers EWR396
Terminal C
Newark, NJ 07114

Let's Play Books!
244 Main Street
Emmaus, PA 18049

River Road Books
759 River Rd
Fair Haven, NJ 07704

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