Donald and other Ducks

At the end of my fourth grade year, I was selected to be a member of the safety patrol. It was easy to imagine myself opening car doors and wearing a really cool, orange safety belt.  My elation wasn’t due to the fact that I was going to boss the other elementary school kids around.  That was just not my style.  What I was looking forward to was the end of year trip to Disney World.  Coming from a family of modest means, I had never been to Disney World. I also figured I could regain a bit of popularity that I had before we moved to South Carolina. This was a big deal to my eleven year old self.  Alas, it was not meant to be.

When my parents could not persuade the owners of the house we were renting to sell it to them, we had to move for the second time in less than a year.  This meant another new school for my sisters and me.  At the new school, my mom pleaded with the principal to allow me to continue to be on the safety patrol; however, they did not have a free spot.  My young psyche took another hit, but I wasn’t out for the count yet.

At my new school, there was a blue-eyed, brown-haired beauty that became the object of my affection.  Unfortunately, my puppy love went unrequited; but I would not be deterred.  I wrote her name on my book covers and would tell anybody who asked that I liked her and only her.  I gave her frequent notes asking her to check ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  It was always and would forever be ‘no’.  I was sad and confused.  This had never happened to me before.  I just couldn’t understand why she didn’t like me.  Such are the whims of a pre-teen girl. Not being one to give up too soon, my attempts began to become more infrequent, but didn’t end until I was in the sixth grade. Trying to figure this setback out led me deeper into my own little world where life played out the way I wanted it to.  Even more unfortunate was that I was doomed to repeat the process a few more times.

My elementary school emotional scarring did not end there.  My fifth grade class took a field trip to Furman University in the spring.  It was a perfect, sunny day and would be the one of many trips I made to the Furman campus.  I don’t remember all of the events of the day, I’m sure they were educational.  Lunch, on the other hand, proved to be the main event.  I had packed a cheese sandwich and a bag of chips lunch.  I set out my lunch near the lake and made my way towards the cooler to pick up a drink.  Little did I know that the foulest of fowl was about to ruin my day.  About halfway to the cooler, I heard someone say “Look!”  As I turned around, this large, white duck was standing over my lunch.  With the speed of a ninja, the duck grabbed my sandwich.  I ran after it and it darted towards the water.  There was no fear in its eyes as it watched me clumsily try to catch up.  It made it to the lake, swam out a few feet and proceed to enjoy my sandwich as I just sat down, watched, and held back the tears.  The rest of the class was laughing hysterically.  I don’t recall who, but somebody replaced my lost lunch with a PB&J.  I probably took the event to heart too much at the time. In hindsight it was kinda funny.

I finally made it to Disney World about 22 years later when my wife and I took our kids for the first time.  I’m still not very fond of ducks.

Here is a picture from that field trip.  I am in the picture below as well as the girl I had the crush on.

5gfieldtrip

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Moving Right Along

When I was in the fourth grade we moved to South Carolina. It was not an easy transition for me. I had considered myself a top dog in my old school and had a close cousin in most of my classes to back me up.  This changed when we moved and I was “the new kid” without any friends. The Alabama girls had liked me and I often had a “girlfriend” but the South Carolina girls just didn’t appreciate my budding greatness. Unfortunately, this continued through high school and my introverted nature began to take over.  The rest of this line of thought would fill a novel or two, so stay tuned

The schools in neither state really challenged me.  I made straight A’s, not counting Conduct, through elementary school.  My mom wouldn’t let me skip the second grade or maybe it was third.  I don’t think I ever really forgave her for that.  My fourth grade teacher would give us our week’s worth of assignments on Monday and by Tuesday afternoon I would usually be finished. We were allowed to read books or play games quietly while our classmates continued to work.  I might  have caused a class disruption or two when my mother actually suggested that the teacher give me additional work.  I felt betrayed.  I noticed one day that a girl in my class was using a different math book than I was.  It was a fifth grade book!  I looked at the problems and figured them out, but I wasn’t allowed to go to her math class.

The next year I was placed in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program. My mom had me tested or maybe it was the school, I don’t recall. I would come home from school and with total confidence remark, “I bet you don’t know what the medulla oblongata is.” Or, “Do you know what irony means?” There was no way my mom was going to be defeated by an eleven year-old smart-aleck and answered my questions,  Later that year, mom registered for classes at the nearest college and had the nerve to major in English and Religion.  A total anathema to my logical side.  As she worked hard on her education, we maintained a cease-fire in our ongoing battles of the mind. The cold war was not over though. Both of us were building an arsenal of discussion points of mass destruction by furthering our educations. I still need to get my PhD to win.

P.S. Yes I did fall off the face of the earth.  But I’m back now.  Posts will still be rather random.

The Santa Cause

I began kindergarten eagerly. There were no tears or cries for mommy. I was ready to start building up ammunition for the Great War to come. That winter one evening, my parents decided to take our Christmas presents out of their hiding place (the trunk of the car this time, another time in their locked bathroom) to put the necessary batteries in some of them. I had been begging Santa for walkie-talkies so my parents got them working first. About that time, I decided to wake up and walk into the living room to see her in the green chair with a walkie-talkie saying, “Testing. One. Two. Three.” I didn’t say anything, I just stared. Mom told me to go back to bed and I complied.

Mom wasn’t sure what I would say or ask the next day, but she knew it wouldn’t do any good to lie or try to cover up the blunder. She decided to let me make the first move, which I did around lunchtime.  I walked over to her with my head bent low and a quiver in my voice and said

“Mom, Santa Claus didn’t bring our toys.”

Trying to sound surprised she said, “He didn’t?”

My response was quickly and matter-of-fact, “No. Me and Christi was so mean, you and daddy had to buy them.”

Yes! Mom thought.  She had been saved by my own budding logic, and she considered this a monumental victory. Unfortunately, I figured out the truth not too much later and promptly told my four year old little sister that there was no Santa Claus.  I don’t recall the fallout from that, but I’m pretty sure I got a lecture. 

Over the next few years, I grew physically and mentally, which caused Mom to have to use more sophisticated strategies on the battlefield. Scrambled up words were no match for me.  Pig-latin wouldn’t work.  Mom said my second grade teacher told me (or was it Mom?) that she had taught him everything she could and couldn’t teach me anymore. Mom considered this a tactical mistake because I believed her. I thought it was time to move up a grade.  Once again, I lost and Mom would not let me be double promoted to fourth grade.  Ah, the stories that could have generated.  

The war between mother and son moved from the trenches of logic to the jungles of intellect.

The Logical Toddler

According to mom, I began to ask questions that many scientists and theologians would have trouble answering:

How do you make grass, dirt, plastic?

Where did the sun, moon, and stars come from?

Who made God?

Then, there were those times when an underlying question was evident and I thought I knew the answer. A vivid example of the development of my logical side occurred soon after Mom became lost. Mom, my sisters, and I had been involved in a car accident.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  The 1969 Ford Galaxy did a Mae West twist on a slippery road, slid sideways, and landed in a ditch on its side.  Mom did not realized the effect this had on me until a few weeks later.

Because of Dad’s negligence, and because we did not have regular garbage pickup, Mom was elected to take trash to the landfill.  Mom was filling the truunk of the Galaxy with trash bags when I popped up out of nowhere and asked if I could go with her. She gave a nod of consent and kept on working.  In less than a minute, I was back and wanted to know if he could take my puppy with us.  Mom gave another nod.

Since Mom was busy loading the car,  I figured that I should go ahead and load the dog into the back seat.  Then I went around to the back of the car  to oversee the job that Mom was doing. Well as soon as my puppy realized that it was all alone in a strange place without his friendly boy owner, it began to whine. Mom went around the back of the car to free it from its misery and saw the familiar blond head bobbing around the front. I picked up the dog, held it lovingly to heart, gently stroked its head and concluded, “Dat’s okay, puppy. Mommy’s not gonna run in a ditch!” The slight differences of opinion my Mom and I had uncovered in the past were now changing to a cold war that appeared to have no end. 

Mom knew it definitely was a war on the day she grabbed my hand as we walked across a busy street.  I was still only three, maybe four years old.  I jerked my hand free and said arrogantly, “I want to to be on my own!”  Mom did not fall for my declaration of independence and grabbed my hand in a vise grip, looked me in the eyes, and with confidence said, “You’re not old enough, yet.” From that day forward I would pout, squint my eyes, clamp my teeth, and stomp my foot every time I fought authority and lost. This was a battle of the wills and Mom just knew that victory was hers.  

I still ask those same types of difficult theological, social, and political questions.  The battle may have ebbed and flowed, but I never forgot my desire to be “on my own.”  I went off to college barely two weeks after graduating high school, but that is a story for a different day. 

Big Wheel Keep on Turnin’

A few months after my commercial success,  my Mom’s secure feeling was again smashed when she saw my Big Wheel overturned at the end of the driveway, but no me.   She called my name everywhere, only to hear the echo of her own voice whistling through the trees. Mom ran to the backyard and saw blond hair glistening in the sunlight, as I wandered on another street. Mom ran to me and guided me in the right direction towards home.

I looked up at her with sincerity in my blue eyes and said, “Mommy, you got lost!” Those words traveled up her spine until her mind began to understand that this child was actually trying to make sense of this thing called “Life.”

When we got home, Mom sat me on the couch and, very reasonably, tried to explain why I should not go walking alone.  She told me that mean people would take me away and Mommy would never see me again.  She also told me that a car could come down the road and run over me and I would be just a greasy spot.

Mom’s concern must have made an impression on me because I have always been good about letting her know where I was going and when I would be back. Of
course I do that to keep her from feeding her own paranoia.  She says I do it because I learned my lesson. Unfortunately, I have to take extra steps not to spend as much time worrying as my mother.  That resistance can occasionally backfire like it did when my son’s arm really was broken, but that is a different story.

As for the Big Wheel itself, we were drifting before drifting was cool.

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Lyrical Musings

And now for something other than the expected childhood escapade.  This is a short list of music lyrics that have stuck with me over my lifetime.  I was singing many of these to myself last night as I was lying in bed and thought I would share with both of my readers. 

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

– Rush, “Freewill”

Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy

 

She’ll beat you if she’s able

You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet

                – The Eagles, “Desperado”

 

Have you heard about the Lonesome Loser?

Beaten by the Queen of Hearts every time.

                – Little River Band, “Lonesome Loser”

 

..you only want the ones that you can’t get

                – The Eagles, “Desperado”

 

If I said you had a beautiful body – Would you hold it against me

                – Bellamy Brothers, ” If I said You Had a Beautiful Body”

 I must admit that I didn’t get the double entendre above until late into high school.  Sad.

Poor ol’ Kaw-Liga well he never got a kiss

Poor ol’ Kaw-Liga he don’t know what he missed

                – Charley Pride, “Kaw-Liga”

 

 And a rock feels no pain;

And an island never cries.

                – Simon and Garfunkel, “I am a Rock”

Compare that to the line from a John Donne poem:  “No man is an island.” I picked up on the dichotomy between this and the Simon and Garfunkel song some time in Middle or High School.  I realized I was neither a rock nor and island. I still tend to sing “I am a Rock” in December or on snowy days.

 Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon

                – Simon and Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson”

 The line above is the best lyrical alliteration in my book.

My life seems unreal,

My crime an illusion,

A scene badly written

In which I must play.

                – Simon and Garfunkel, “Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.”

 

“Still a man hears what he wants to hear

And disregards the rest”

                – Simon and Garfunkel, “The Boxer”

 

No one knows what it’s like

To be the bad man

To be the sad man

Behind blue eyes”

                – The Who, “Behind Blue Eyes”

 

Some guys have all the luck

Some guys have all the pain

Some guys get all the breaks

Some guys do nothing but complain

                – Rod Stewart, “Some Guys Have All the Luck”

 

Owner of a lonely heart

Much better than – a

Owner of a broken heart

                – Yes, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”

 

 I’m only human

Of flesh and blood I’m made

Human

Born to make mistakes

                – Human League, “Human”

 

 If You Can’t Feed Your Baby, Then Don’t Have A Baby

                – Michael Jackson, “Wanna Be Starting Something”

 

 And as I hung up the phone it had occurred to me

He’d grown up just like me,

My boy was just like me.

                – Cat Stevens, “Cats in the Cradle”

 

 People are fragile things, you should know by now

Be careful what you put them through

                – The Editors, “Munich”

In hindsight, I should have just titled this “The Melancholy of Steven.”  What lyrics have found meaning to you and a permanent home in your brain?

Commercial Success

More stories from Mom and commentary from the peanut gallery.

As I grew, so did the logical side of my brain. I would argue with my Mom over trivial things. My vast knowledge included counting to twenty and saying my ABC’s by the time I was three years old. My vocabulary of television commercials had increased threefold by this age. I loved to sit on the dining room table as Mom emptied brown bags full of groceries. I would call out the name of every name-brand product she had purchased.

One time I yelled, “Mommy, you bought JIFFOAM!” and Mom said politely, “No dear, it is Easy Off.”  In a very excited tone I yelled back “No, Mommy, it’s JIFFOAM!”  Mom was too tired to argue any longer with a pint sized Einstein (I think she meant me), so she ignored the confrontation.  As she put up the can of oven cleaner, she noticed the word “JIFFOAM.”

And people think today’s kids watch too much TV, heh.  Something from this experience must have clicked within my subconscious.  If I think I am right, I will argue until the end of time.  Somewhere along the line I did learn a bit of humility and gained the ability to give some ground if I’m not quite sure of my position.  As I have gotten older I have realized that very few things are black or white.  There must be at least fifty shades of grey between.  😉 

I still love a good argument/discussion over religion, politics, or college football.  I guess I like impolite conversation, but I’m really just trying to get into folks heads to find out what they think and why.  Kinda odd for an engineer, hmm?