Why “O wonderful, wonderful?”

I love the joyful, over-the-top exuberance of this quote from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act III, Scene 2

“O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful! And yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping.”

Who? What? Where? When? Why?! 

Remember the 25 Random Things about Me Facebook meme that went viral back in 2008? Here’s what I wrote back then:

1. Although I’ve been asked many times to participate in these sorts of soul-bearing exercises, this is the first one I’ve ever actually done because:

2. I’m a profoundly private person,

3. with a penchant for alliteration, apparently.

4. I decided to come up with a list just for my own amusement and once I got started, I couldn’t stop.

5. That essentially sums up my mode of being; i.e. it’s hard to get myself started, but once I do, I’m unstoppable, (for good or ill).

6. For that reason, I’m sometimes afraid to start reading a book because I know that for however long it takes me to finish reading it, I’ll be a completely unfit, slatternly mother. My children will be unfed, unkempt, unbathed, and will be living in a house that’s even more slovenly than usual.

7. For the same reason, once I eventually get fed up with living in filth, my husband will shudder at the dreaded reeemergence of what he calls…The Surface Nazi.

8. Happily for the sanity of all, my Surface Nazi phase never lasts more than a couple days before I surrender to my true shiftless self.

9. Another reason I started compiling this list was because I thought it would be a good writing exercise. My one resolution for the year was to start writing again every day.

10. I used to think I’d be a writer, and wrote all the time before I went to grad school and it squelched all the creative juices right out of me.

11. Don’t get me wrong, getting a Ph.D. in Russian literature from Columbia is probably the accomplishment of which I am most proud.

12. In fact, after 11 grueling, soul-crushing years and a stomach-churning dissertation defense that left me shaking, it really bothers me that I don’t get an alumni magazine addressed to Dr. Adrienne X, like Dr. Colin X does. Shoot, I’d be thrilled to get a fund-raising appeal every now and then. I might even give them a buck or two. The fact that I don’t get junk mail from Columbia deeply disturbs me, and makes me wonder whether I dreamt it all.

13. When I confessed this to my husband he got a gleam in his eye and I had to tell him that if he made a call to the alumni office, the ensuing junk mail from Columbia would be meaningless to me. Meaningless!

14. I fully comprehend how crazy this sounds.

15. I am double dog daring myself to post this is because I want to be a braver person.

16. Once I led a group of graduate students on an exchange program in Russia when I was a grad student myself. One night the students had all gathered in my room when a drunken policeman wandered in and started brandishing his gun at everyone. I got him to leave. The point is: I used to be brave.

17. I used to be the kind of person who thought she could do anything. When I was little, I used to practice flying for hours and hours. While I never actually got airborne, (except quite frequently in my dreams), I was confident that it was only a matter of time and perfecting my technique before I’d start flying to school.

18. I started taking a writing class this week and I was the only student who couldn’t bring myself to read out what I’d written. In fact, I could barely open my mouth at all. I came home feeling like I was back in middle school: completely demoralized.

19. When I grow up, I want to be just like my daughter Tatiana: fearless, openhearted, wholehearted, saucy, spicy, and sweet!

20. Five more to go…I am fascinated by the grotesque and what my sister calls the seamy underbelly of life. This is probably why I am drawn to Russian literature.

21. I am a spectacularly bad dancer.

22. I can do a mean Louis Armstrong impression.

23. I really miss singing and performing.

24. My life feels incomplete without a dog.

25. This bears only a passing resemblance to my original list.

What’s changed since then? 

Not much except that I’m writing more and that I now have two cute, but rotten dogs, who have done nothing to make my life feel complete. I still stand by my statement that I am a private person, though I do reveal a lot of personal things about myself in this blog. Maybe this is a sign that I’ve gotten a little braver.

To round out this list I should probably also mention that:

My father and mother moved to the United States from South Korea in 1963. They had four children: my two older sisters, me, and our younger brother. My parents are roving gypsies at heart…We moved a zillion times to Korea and within the States to follow my dad as he acquired a staggering number of degrees and credentials, teaching posts, and ministerial positions. My siblings and I grew up eating kimchi, but unable to speak Korean. We felt like aliens in Korea, and at times we felt like aliens in the United States as well. Sometimes we would be in one place for no more than 6 months before my parents would decide to give away all their worldly possessions and move again. The one thing that always accompanied us on all of our many moves was my dad’s huge collection of books, which included everything from dogeared copies of Heidegger’s Being and Time to Goats and Goatkeeping. My family, the stories we shared, and the books we treasured were my source of stability throughout our many moves and dislocations.

My husband and I met in graduate school. Colin was born in Scotland, lived in England for many years, and spent summers at his grandparents’ house in Belgium. We now live in Charlottesville, Virginia with our three children: a boy, age 14; a second boy, age 12; and a girl, age 8.  Colin teaches; I work with international students and teach Russian literature from time to time. We both scramble on a daily basis to keep up with our kids and their busy schedules. To be honest: our household is always teetering on the edge of complete and utter chaos. Our multicultural kids haven’t had to move around too much, but they have traveled the world to visit their far-flung relatives. We’re creating a whole new set of our own family stories and are amassing our own collection of books…You’ll find everything from Nate the Great to Oblomov to Rawls’ Theory of Justice on our shelves (and on our counter tops, behind the couch, under our beds, on the bathroom floors…).

I started this blog as a practice run for the blog I dream of co-writing with my two sisters – the funniest and best storytellers I know. What started as an experiment has become a form of self-therapy. There aren’t many things I can control in my life. This blog is the one small corner of the universe that I can have more or less exactly how I want. It combines all the things I love most in the world in one place: my family, friends, stories, photography, poetry, music, and all the “junks” I collect. (My mom says I’m like a crow who’s attracted to bright, shiny, worthless objects. She’s always telling me “Don’t collect junks!”). I do collect a lot of junks as evidenced by the state of my house, but I also collect words, children’s books, pebbles, toys…Not “junks,” really, but things that are “wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful wonderful, and yet again, wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping.” I’d like to share them all with you here.

7 responses »

  1. Hi- We are writing a book for the National trust in England and would like to possibly use your photograph of Agecroft Hall
    Posted on April 29, 2014 by owonderful-
    please can you contact me Polly Bagnall

    • Thanks, Victoria! I was both inspired and chastened after reading your latest, beautifully written “freshly pressed” article. It made me want to spend more time writing!

    • My son keeps saying things like, “Hermit crabs can die of loneliness. They’re meant to live in colonies. I think we need to get her a friend or two.” I’m actually considering going to the pet store later today to get some more. I’m pretty sure I’m certifiably insane!!!

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