Huge in Japan by Deb Tish

My earliest memory is sitting on my grandmother’s lap with a coloring book and coloring right to the edge of the page. The page looked fantastic. My grandmother took one look and showed me I’d colored too far. That I was only meant to color to where the line drawings ended. Grandma had the very best of intentions, she did, after all, give me chocolate Smarties afterward, but this was my very first experience with being edited artistically. From that moment on, I could never color without making that conscious choice–should I do as I was told, or extend the missing lines and go all the way?

I continued to go to the edge, but never without a little voice telling me I was a boldish sort of girl.

The thing is, I wasn’t.

I was afraid of other kids, terrified of misbehaving at home. I spent most of my spare time trying to lure home stray animals I knew my mother would turn away, or saving up enough money to ride my bike across the highway overpass to the ramshackle ranch where I could buy myself an hour on a fly-covered horse. I had crushes on boys I never spoke to and imagined great friendships with the popular kids.

I suppose it was something of an underbelly, my childhood. I lived on the edge, at least socially.

But on paper, in secret, I was bold—-it was the psychological equivalent to being huge in Japan. I knew I was doing something wrong and I liked it more and more every time. I began adding my own line drawings in the coloring books and, eventually, creating my own cartoons, always with lines that stretched to the edge of the paper. In many ways, it shaped my path, at least artistically.

It was where I came to live, along that extra strip of blank paper that surrounded the cartoon drawing. It was the perfect place for me–full of secret possibilities and mischief and dreams. The first person who hired me after art school asked me if I could paint swallows and a renaissance dusk sky on her closet ceiling. I honestly had no idea if I could, in fact, I was certain I couldn’t, but the boldish sort of girl inside me answered, “Yes.”

I was no longer only huge in Japan.

I was huge in a swallow-filled closet in Leaside.

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5 Replies to “Huge in Japan by Deb Tish”

  1. I SO love this self-confession, Tish, because that is precisely my image of you. Every Tishday — er, Tuesday — you’ve shared quirks and phobias BUT it was impossible to accept that you were meek or timid. Instead you’re the multi-talented, golden girl who allows her imagination to take over and rise above any fears of reality. One of my best memories will be opening up your “postcard” from that very first Deb contest. It was mid or late December, you were on deadline and had no postcards so you sent a holiday greeting card with a happy sparkling snowman. “Will this do?” you apologized. “Do?” Nothing could have been more perfect or more Tish! Thank you for sharing an amazing year that landed you in bookstores…everywhere.

  2. Eileen – you know it.

    Larramie – Thanks, sweetie. And, um, I never did send an actual postcard to anyone. Other than the snowman, I sent New Yorker cartooned dog cards and drew my version of Jack’s Town House – 117 Battersea Road – on the inside front cover to make up for my misbehavior.

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