Monday

…film-a-tive years

We didn’t have a television when I was young. There was no epic phenomenon that caused our old black & white to die. (At least not that time.) The picture tube just faded and the joy of sitting under a tent of blankets watching the screen roll, faded too. Soon, listening and imagining was not enough and the T.V. went the way of the radio; the guts became parts[1] and the rest of it became a lovely planter.

At that point, there was even more incentive to visit Grams and Gramps, or at least their television. Their house was just around the corner, so from a toddling age, I’d go “over home”. Spontaneous visitors were always welcome.

As I think back, even the television was boring at Grandma’s. The topic on 60 Minutes was never as exciting as the issues being debated right in front of me by the aunts and uncles. Six of the seven siblings lived close by and I shared time with thirty-four cousins.

On rare occasion, my long-distance aunt visited, and pandemonium ensued. Family would spill out of the T.V. room, and up two steps into the kitchen. I could sneak in by the stove, sit cross-legged between two cousins, and soak it all in. Everybody came early, stayed late and talked as fast as they could.

The rules for engagement were shoes off at the door, first-come first-serve, for leftover Sunday dessert and as far as the discussions went, no holds barred. Any topic was fair game and at times, things got pretty heated. I remember the 5’2” aunt jumping up, hands in knife position, to defend karate vs. boxing to the 6’ 2”, 220 lb. uncle. Ah, those were the good old days.

The debate topic was open; religion, the economy, world events, race and social issues. The topic had to be interesting—they added the controversy. No debate ever died due to lack of opposition, for somebody always took the conflicting view. Questionable sources weren’t questioned, supposition flourished, conjecture abounded, and ignorance was no deterrent! The goal was to explore every issue and express an opinion.

I remember Grandpa as the silent referee. He sat listening and nodded once in a while. Grandma, for the most part, spoke only to give advice on dishing the ice cream. They didn’t interject often, but when they did, we all listened.

Because it happened in the walls of safe familial surroundings, nothing was ever held back. Whoever was insulted would go home, think about it, assess the validity of the argument and be expected to write off feelings as inconsequential.

To hubby@worn.out
Honey, in my family, no apologies are offered or expected, everyone has to forgive, forget and move on. I get a clean, fresh slate. This is why, sweetheart, I write off most of your contradictory opinions as misunderstandings or ignorance.
You’re #1 T.

As the cousins and I matured, it was a privilege to join the conversation and have our own input. We were granted no special reprieve. Whoever dared enter the conversation was open to criticism. We were still family and there was no quarter given.

If you weren’t careful, you became the topic of the day. More than once, girls were asked flat out what was wrong with them that they weren’t married yet. The boys were remanded for being lazy or unkempt—a heavy-handed attempt to show concern.

After going home in tears, we processed and went back, full of should’a-said’s and witty comebacks—but not until we cleaned up, got a job, or got married. When the in-laws joined the bunch, they were tested. Those who could take it stayed and the great-grand babies came, as did advice on parenting, and life.

Those evenings by the woodstove—stoked by the heat of debate—taught me that discussion is good. I also gained a healthy mistrust for absolutes. There are true sides to every story that may become untrue tomorrow.

The tradition continues. At “home” the debate centers at the kitchen table. It gets pretty heated, but the table can take it. Mom can’t. She’s not Grandma. She barely tolerates the dissemblance of nine siblings sitting, standing, and grazing around the kitchen table, debating life and interjecting our opinions, but she dishes out great ice cream and it makes me nostalgic just thinking about it.

Reality Bite: The only proven statistic is that any statistic can be disproven.[2]


[1] Which were interchangeable back then.
[2] One thing I’m sure of, I didn’t learn that quote in college stat class.

Sunday

…long-lost life

I grew up with a perfect sense of direction. My little hometown didn’t even have street signs, and unlike now, I never got lost; I always knew right where I was.

Dear Me,
That's a new twist. From now on, I am not lost, I have temporarily misplace the rest of the world. T.

Mom turned us loose in the mornings after chores, and we would run all day long. We caught minnows and frogs in the irrigation ditches across town, and kept our catch in baby food jars with nail holes we poked in the tops, sometimes impaling our specimens in the process. We ran free from one end of town to the other and if I had trouble finding my way back home before dark, it wasn’t because I was lost.

When our new ambulance driver moved in and she was given directions like, “so and so lives by such and such,” it became her life calling to bring the town into the 20th century with house numbers and street signs.

That became a defining moment for the little town. Up until then, people lived in relation to the post office or the bank or the grocery store, which all occupied the same block downtown, but shortly thereafter, the town began to change. Somehow, defining our spot on the map, seemed to lead to discovery by everyone else and the town began to grow.

The post office moved around the corner, the bank moved across the street, and finally the grocery store, down to the corner; all of these serving to redefine the outskirts of town. It was now a block bigger in every direction.

When a new highway raced over the hill, connecting us to a dying mining/resort mecca, our town became the fledgling community’s affordable housing for the rich and famous’ service people.

The culturally diverse folk moved in and we joined them and became fiscally dependent on the independently rich. They required condominiums, ate fish eggs and ordered champagne, and we cleaned their homes, their fish and catered to their other feckless requirements.

There was never any doubt that we were headed in a new direction and it wasn’t long before we plotted our fiscal path; and it led to the bathrooms of the upper-class elite.

Reality Bite: And I mourn again what is lost.

Friday

…outtakes

My life is one big movie that I’m supposed to be directing, or at least taking in a lead role in the acting. For the first half of it, I was only a bit player, but it worked out because I only remember bits, and most of that is blurred. But, it’s not really a bad thing to have a lackadaisical memory; that way I can blame others for my past mistakes with aplomb!

I certainly took no conscious hand in any decisions. For the most part, I think I sat back and ate popcorn, as life was indelibly impressed on the reel-to-reel film that was my brain. The memory bites that I recall from childhood are a situation comedy, full of pratfalls, miscues and pathetic sympathies for the outcast underdog—me.

I've read that emotions have the power to put memories at the forefront. When my emotions were cruelly swayed or ecstatically weighted, I remember![1] It’s really too bad that embarrassment doesn’t have the same effect. I forget when I make myself a fool, and it may be better that way.

In retrospect, my teenage years were horror flicks, particularly for my parents. I just hung out, oblivious to the fact that I could intervene in my own picture—that I could avoid the nasty ending by doing what everyone yells at the screen, “Just don’t go there!”

Now and again, in times of crisis, my film hits auto-rewind, then play, and my response is conditioned from those “film-ative” years. It is interlaced with weird yet wonderful moments that flick on and off entirely unbidden. Mom has since encouraged me to get therapy to erase and overwrite some of that old stuff, but think I prefer my youthful misperceptions.

To: Sis.ter@win.out
I’m not ready to give up while I’m still perfecting this technotherapy thing. I’m writing my memories—besides, when we all talk about it, I get nine different versions anyway. Love T.

[1] Births are vivid! Like it was yesterday!

Thursday

…life as hyperbole

My husband knows my buttons. All he has to say is “Stop lying.” That’s it. The rocket is lit and I go ballistic.

I do not lie! I exaggerate. I always have. It’s a trait found in all good writers and I'd like to think that someone, sometime will exaggerate enough to consider me one of those.

He thinks I should warn him when I’m exaggerating—that it should be identifiable. Good grief, it's not like it’s a foreign language.

To me,
“I never exaggerate.” Note the voice inflection, and the facial expression? See, it’s easy to spot.
[1] Venting again, T.

I only use exaggeration when I feel that it’s absolutely necessary. When I screech, “I’ve told you for the millionth time,” it is because that is infinitely more believable than calmly stating, “Child, I’ve told you for the eighty-eighth time.” Nope, it has to be millionth.[2]

To me,
As I was saying… how can he exist, always living totally grounded in reality? Life is so much more entertaining when the dull and mundane are exaggerated. For example:

I’ve eaten a horse,” when in actuality, I’ve only eaten six peanut butter cookies, two pieces of bread, tuna casserole, most of the lettuce and cottage cheese, the spaghetti leftovers, and a box of Girl Scout cookies? It feels like horse, and the exaggeration makes the point! T.

Is that lying? I don’t think so! It’s my life—just one more extreme after another. I speak and live an exaggerated non-reality because it’s more pleasant to think that the inanities I am living are just part of a hyperlife.

When I walk around with an inflated view of everything, nothing can ever be as bad as I perceive it to be. Life isn’t truly crazy; war is an overstatement; drugs are inflated; food or oil crisis is nonexistent, big brother is an embellishment; terrorist threats are overdone. It’s all hyperbole.

In my mind, it’s okay to state facts, to live mostly in reality, but never go for the whole thing! Real is all too real.

Reality bite: I’m really good at rationalization too!

[1] For the record, all of Hollywood speaks in exaggeration.
[2] Million, by the way is a keyword warning of overstatement—except, of course, when relating to the government.

Wednesday

Missing Teeth

I lost my teeth this morning. No, not dentures, it was my retainers I misplaced. As a late-in-life victim of braces, I expect to be in retention for the rest of my life, “Because,” the doctor warns, “at this stage in life, who knows which direction the teeth would take if they were all set free.”

I remember putting them in before bed, both the top and bottom set, but at the four forty-five a.m. wake-up call, when I glanced in the mirror at my breakfast head, they were missing in action.

Two-hundred and fifty dollars worth of scenarios raced through my mind as I panicked because, this being my second replacement set, I’m less assured that left alone they will find their way home.

As I searched, I rehashed the ideas out loud. “My teeth are missing. Could I have dreamed a very expensive snack, like escargot on really stale crackers?”

My bunkmate rolled over and groaned. A lot of help he was. “I went to bed with a headache, did I pull them out at midnight?” They weren’t on the nightstand, or on the floor, and only the top set was missing. Weird.

I searched across the room by the distant wall, where I’ve been known to fling them before. As the panic increased, I slung covers and sheets into the air, and the frantic panic ensued, “Where could they be?”

“Finally,” I yelled, “I found my teeth! They were under the pillow.” My bedmate, roused by the chaos crawled back onto the bed, pulled the covers back over himself, and mumbled, “Well, I hope the fairy left money.”

Reality Bite: Yup! Two hundred and fifty dollars!

Monday

...bespattered bliss

I advised the next-door neighbor child to always seek fun in his chores.

His mom responded, “Sometimes work isn’t fun.” I was taken aback! If I can’t make work fun, I stop doing it. I learned early on that work had to be a game. I remember when I took one sunny afternoon to move all bricks in the backyard to make a yellow brick road leading to Oz. When Dad made us put them all back, that was a weeklong tearfilled drudge.

Then I learned that work must be fun!

I have to find ways to stave off the boredom in life’s drudgery or I’d be tempted to abandon my toys and go home. I dance with the vacuum, reward bathroom cleaning with M&M’s and after reading about Babe Dedrickson strap scrub brushes to my feet.

I challenge my imagination to make work fun and have been doing it for so long—this manipulation of my mind—that it doesn’t have much basis left in reality. I can jaunt off pretty much anywhere and find entertainment in most anything.

Dear Journal, Today my fun is mud, wallowing in it with both arms up to the elbows. Blobs have dropped on my feet and are smeared across my chin. My lashes are gray with dust and the white powder inside my nose is not drug induced. Neither is the supreme happiness I get from immersing myself in mud. It’s primitive, simplistic and serenely joyful. Go figure, T.

When I seek incentives and rewards to encourage myself, I find a really good one is mud. It is soft, and squishy, smooth and silky; a paste that undulates, seeps, fills, covers, and exudes happiness. It’s malleable and forgiving, but has the ability to dry strong and inflexible, an amalgamation of joy.

The contents of mud aren’t particularly exciting: Dirt and water. But somehow, mixing the two creates bliss. It can be so soothing, and peaceful, so creative, yet simple. I did it again, played in mud all day today. What possesses me to do this? It’s simple, it’s cheap and it’s readily available. It’s a creative outlet when I’m thoughtful and lazy, and crucial aspect during my productive phases. Does that somehow make my mud mania more rational?

I’m not alone in this.[1] The world has a mud fixation; gourmet and aromatic mud as facials and other kinds of therapy. There are unique recipes used for throwing and sculpting. People love hot mud, cold mud, even kids with chicken pox love playing with mud and I’ve no doubt that somebody, somewhere finds mud sexy.

Although I love all kinds of mud, I have a particular fondness for gypsum.[2] Gypsum has superior qualities. I prefer its smoothness; no lumps, bumps, no rocks or foreign objects. Unidentified objects in mud can be potentially disgusting, and although I like intrigue, challenge and unpredictability in most things, I don’t like it in my mud. Why does this make me so happy?

Why do I spend so much of my time in the mud? Is it a benefit of the wisdom of age—appreciating the here and now—being in the moment—searching for and enjoying the simple things in life?

The world today utilizes mud as an integral part of creation and repair. Mud acts as glue, mastic, slurry, and mortar, so it’s easy to look really busy while playing with mud. Could this be the reason for my mud mania?

Nope, it’s even simpler than that. I’m learning like a child to fix everything I break! It’s convenient to use mud to repair my mistakes.

As it dries, and things tighten up, I’m a little uncomfortable, but I look at myself in the mirror and see a face split wide open in a smile, and the laugh lines deepening with the pure delight of mud. From the first to the last, each of my children has been introduced to mud, due to some project I've undertaken. They love sitting in mud, feeling it slowly seeping through clothing, oozing through fingers and experimentally tasting it. The last child wallowed in mud for months as I finished the front driveway.

Journal 1990 Today the six-month-old sat by and then inside the hole with her Dad while he dug for the broken waterline. Two feet deep, then three, five and then deeper, but eventually success! They discovered the source of the mud! In it over our heads, T.

Everybody once loved mud at some point in life. Yet, tragically, some of us have given in to societies mores and the love of mud was cleaned out of us. It became a dirty word that, like most things, research has deemed unsafe. I’m saddened by the report that states, “…mud is dirty and harbors disease, so glove up,”[3] (and prevent yourself from experiencing yet another basic joy.)

Journal 2002 This season, I’m using mud to repair the neighbor’s house. The four-year old thinks we’re fixing it because Mommy broke it. He doesn’t know we go there to prevent more damage to our own. Assuaged momentarily, T.

It’s my opinion that every house should have a mudroom, in lieu of that, a room being actively mudded. That is sublime happiness. Where have our mudrooms gone? We’ve shielded our children with such expensive clothing that somehow prevents them from enjoying filth. Heaven forbid…a dirty child! We’ve landscaped and sodded, and there is no longer a corner left for mud.

The children at my house have created a puddle, in the corner near the back fence, in the shade of an umbrella tree and they’re feeding it. They call it the muck pit. They beg peelings and cores, and add holly berries, grass clippings and select leaves for garnish. The household silverware is slowly disappearing into its endless depths. When it thirsts, the water pitcher disappears too. They delight in it and so do I.

Reality Bite: Besides, really good mud washes.

[1]My goal is to find commonality in every odd aspect of my life. [2] I sound like a connoisseur—having a preference makes me an expert. [3] Trust me, it was a reasonably reputable media source.