Thursday, February 6, 2014

It goes back a long way

Photo credit to Gatlin Essary, high school yearbook photographer

One of these days my big mouth is going to get me into real trouble.  I blame my occasional insolent attitude on my elementary/junior high classmates.  Early on we were a good group of kids, well behaved and model students.  But sometime around the sixth grade our numbers began to dwindle and those of us who were left became a tighter and closer knit group. The tighter the knit, the stronger the weave.

Our sixth grade teacher was the cool teacher who tolerated our obnoxious retorts and our seventh grade teacher was sharp enough to give it back to us.  By the time we reached the eighth grade our concerted effort of acerbic sarcasm reached an intolerable level and I don’t know how we all were not expelled.  
Our eighth grade teacher, bless her, once dismissed class before the end of the day and ordered us all out of her classroom in a bellowing voice laced with tears.  I think we may have laughed.  We had a reputation, but hey, we were entertaining.  I remember an inspiring serenade of “Another Brick in The Wall” we gave our school principal, Sister Anne.   I don’t think she got the joke.

That somewhat separatist attitude has stayed with me all these years.  I’ve always had a slightly slanted point of view of things, never in total agreement with the major majority nor the minor minority.  I try to bring a different point of view through the back door and let it seep into consciousness.  It’s almost like looking at a photograph of a person standing in a room and instead of looking at the person I see  mundane things like the painting hanging on the far wall, or the couch, or the cat in the corner and then use those items to explain the expression behind the eyes of the person in the photograph. See? I can't even explain it very well.

The acerbic sarcasm has stayed with me as well, and that is what is going to get me into serious trouble one day.  See, when I get stung I tend to use words to sting back. Ironic, I know, since I was once selectively mute and still do not initiate many conversations.  My downfall will be the way I sometimes use my words sharply and quickly, like slicing a piece of raw meat with a ceramic blade.

I know I need to count to ten and think before I respond when I’ve been stung, but the biting sting can be so bitter and the reactive impulse so impetuous that before I know it I’ve stung back and then the poison spreads like histamine in an allergic reaction. 

I am doing better, though.  I’ve learned to make more use of facts to give me credence. (like here... I made a snide comparative comment about people with upper-level degrees but I deleted it because it wasn’t very polite)  I’ve learned to carve words and use them as building blocks instead of deadly weapons.  But I have bad days, too.  My husband can attest, bless him. 

So, I apologize if I’ve stung you before. It probably was my intention at the moment, I can't lie, but I’m sure I felt guilty about it later.  I blame it ALL on Malcolm, Jill, Brian, David, Lisa, Cheryl, Greg, Eric, Tray, Bruce, Terri, Marvin, Eileen, Cathy, Missy and Joanna.  Did I miss anyone?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Families are what dreams are made of

Sometimes the best dreams happen in the shortest time.  I had an aching back last night so I had to change my position several times to make it ease.  I woke up sometime very early this morning and thought I could hear the slightest drip of rain outside my window.  Knowing if I opened my eyes I would never go back to sleep I kept them shut and tossed over to a new position.  

I dreamed my Oldest Friend and Traveling Partner had a friend who was part of a very large family, as in “Duggar” large.  This friend invited her to her family’s house for an overnight stay and she, in turn, invited me.  The house was enormous.  There was an immense great room downstairs with a balcony overlooking it. It was more like a big hotel than a house.  Our room was down a long hallway and there were three single beds in it.  All of the rooms had multiple beds and every room was full.  We were called downstairs and on the way down I counted 10 beds and many of them had sleeping children in them.

The rooms were clean, neat and homey, but the common areas of the house were terribly cluttered.  I had to climb over piles of junk to find the stairs only to not find any stairs.  That is when things began to change.  The parents of the family saw me struggling and laughed and went to “get the stairs”.  They rolled in two large, beautiful staircases and aligned them with the few steps attached the second floor.  

Instead of going down immediately I watched from above as the family members streamed into the great room and greeted each other.  They had a roll call and each said their name and waved.  It was as if the Robertsons from Duck Dynasty met the Duggars and the von Trapps and a new breed of extreme families was born.  Come to think of it the parents looked an awful lot like Phil and Miss Kay.

I went down and mingled around and then went back upstairs to change my clothes for the next activity.  I watched awhile from the balcony.  There was a tingling feeling that overcame me at that moment while I was watching the family downstairs.  I fell in love with that family.  They were so warm and welcoming.  To them the more they filled their home with family and friends the happier they were.

I commented to someone in the room that in my town my family was considered large, but nothing like the family that lived in this house.

At that point everything in my dream grew and expanded into the ridiculous.  Festive decorations of an anonymous holiday appeared everywhere, especially hanging in streamers from the ceiling.  Now instead of one hallway there were several and I got lost trying to find my room.  I got out my cell phone to take a few pictures and then set it down while I explored one hallway and when I went back to get it I couldn’t find it.  I was just about to ask the hallway desk clerk (yes, desk clerk) to call my number when my cell phone sounded my wake-up alarm and I did just that.

I wasn’t ready for that dream to end.  I wanted to find my room and change my clothes and go back to the festivities that were happening downstairs.  It brought back the feeling of being a child in a more realistically large family of seven children.  It was rarely quiet or still in our house.  If I wanted to be alone I would go outside to play.  But I don’t ever remember wanting to be alone.  I don’t think I ever wished I could be an only child.  

By the time I was in high school I was like an only child.  I remember feeling very anxious when I found out my brother was moving out of the house.  I already felt like I was being left behind by the others who left before him.  When he moved I felt abandoned.  It’s hard to be the youngest child in a large family and have them leave you one by one.  That was probably the loneliest I ever felt in that house.  But the feeling was short-lived because I was never really alone.  I had a nephew everyday after school and a sister who came everyday to take him home.  I had an invalid grandmother so there were always aunts, uncles, first cousins, second cousins, friends and neighbors drifting in and out.  Then the oldest sister moved back in and so ended my only child days.  After that I had three parents telling me what to do.  When she moved out I was happy to have the house to myself that is if I didn’t count the nephew, nieces, aunts, uncles, first cousins, second cousins, friends, and neighbors drifting in and out.

Maybe I didn’t want to leave my dream this morning because it was somewhat a reflection of my own life; neat yet cluttered, festively decorated, and with husband, children, nephews, nieces, in-laws, aunts, uncles, first cousins, second cousins, friends, and neighbors drifting in and out.  I like it that way.