Weird Finds: Ghosts from My Past at Grandma’s

I spent the past week at my grandparents’ house in rural Indiana, about forty-five minutes north of Louisville. While there, I was unexpectedly confronted with the sins of my past. Before we get to that, though, some exciting news.

My short story, “Diversion,” is going to be published in fall of 2015 by Shade Mountain Press in their anthology, The Female Complaint!

The story summary is as follows: On a commuter flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima, a young woman overhears two fellow passengers having a sexist conversation and decides to teach them a lesson. If you’re into feminism, Japan, or funny revenge stories, consider giving it a read. When it’s published. Er, in a year.

Now, to return to our regularly scheduled programming. My grandparents live in Vallonia, Indiana, an unincorporated community in Driftwood Township. It was a minor center of combat during the War of 1812. In 1853, it was legally platted. And while I have no idea what the hell ‘platted’ means, I’m sure it caused more of a stir than the town has seen before or since. It’s a quiet sort of place, is what I’m saying. Residents have to make their own fun.

Vallonia, Indiana

Unfortunately, if there’s one thing I suck at, it’s making my own fun. If I’m left unstimulated for even five minutes, I start clawing at the wallpaper, drugging myself for science, and walking around with my jaw unhinged until someone chucks something nutritive down my gullet. I once got so bored I punched a hole through my sister’s wall and then tried to cover it up with a poster from school reading SHOULD MARIJUANA BE LEGALIZED FOR MEDICAL USE? That ruse worked for all of twenty minutes before my mom took down the poster and realized what I had done–I still don’t know how she saw through my fiendish cunning.

My point is, I’m not good at remaining idle. Which explains why I spent an hour yesterday cataloging my grandma’s book collection. She’s a devout southern woman, so her literary holdings tend toward a certain theme…

The Ladybird Book of Prayers Through the Year

For Such a Time as This

What Does the Bible Say?

Leonardo DiCaprio

Whoa whoa, wait a minute, hold the phone. What was that last one?

Leonardo DiCaprio

That’s right: an unauthorized biography of Leonardo DiCaprio. You’ll notice that Leo looks rather young in the cover photo–indeed, this book was published in 1998. And it was published by Troll, which is either a subsidiary of Scholastic or a company they work very closely with, I can’t tell which. Taken all together, these facts can only mean one thing: my grandparents were massive Growing Pains fans.

Growing Pains

I don’t know what’s more disturbing: the smug-ass look on Mike Seaver’s face, or the way Carol is touching Ben.

But not really. It actually means that I, at the age of 11, must have used my mother’s money to purchase this book at my school’s Scholastic Book Fair. I can imagine how that went over.

MY MOTHER: Are you kidding me with this? We’re subsisting on baked beans and powdered milk, and you spent ten of my hard-earned dollars on a Leonardo DiCaprio biography?
ME: Did you know Leo owns dozens of pairs of sunglasses?

Leo owns dozens of pairs of sunglasses.

That’s not the only exhilarating Leo Fact contained in the book, by the way. It also says the following:

  • Leo likes to keep it real.
  • Leo likes people who keep it real.
  • Leo speaks fluent German.
  • Leo’s just trying to be real, you guys.

You know what else was real? My crush on Leonardo DiCaprio. I had a picture of him on my wall, and I kissed it so many times the lip portion wore through and I had to laminate it with packaging tape. I later took that picture to school and “married” it on the playground in a ceremony attended by my three Beanie Babies and my zero friends.

I even wrote Leo a fan letter. It was full of lies. I told him I was a twenty-two-year-old graduate student in Chicago (never mind the Detroit postmark on the envelope) and that I understood the pain of public scrutiny because I was pretty popular on campus. I told him it was okay if he didn’t have time to write back to me, because just the thought of his reading my words was enough.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Gatsby

It wasn’t actually enough. WRITE BACK TO ME, YOU BASTARD. (

As I held the book, all of this flashed through my mind in the space of an instant. I was floored. I was humiliated. I was grateful that my teeny-bopper phase had ended in seventh grade and that I’d never again gotten worryingly obsessed with a celebrity.

Sherlock sighing.


When I mentioned the find to my grandmother, she revealed that she’d been on the point of pitching the Leo book the last time she’d cleaned house, but had retained it in her possession “just in case [I] wanted it.” Thanks, Grandma. That’s both a sweet and embarrassing gesture.


2 thoughts on “Weird Finds: Ghosts from My Past at Grandma’s

  1. jenhaeger

    I feel your pain. I had a BIG TIME crush on Christian Slater to the point that I was saying “Greetings and Salutations” to people instead of hello. I didn’t have the guts to write him a letter though. The crush mysteriously faded around the time the movie “Kuffs” came out…

  2. joannalesher Post author

    Ha ha wait wait, what is “Kuffs”? I don’t think I ever saw that one–maybe there’s a reason? 😛
    Having a crush on a celebrity is a really fraught thing. Part of you knows you’re going to be really embarrassed about it in a few years, but you can’t help yourself. I don’t know if it takes guts to write to a celebrity so much as an obsession bordering on sociopathy. Anyway, I obviously couldn’t do it without lying about my identity!


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