Drat! That is not nearly as strong a word as I wanted to start this with but I am trying to clean up my act so it will have to do. I am suffering frustration and lack of control. I have a Very Important Piece on our National Parks I am stuck in the middle of after a striking beginning and I am really very cross that after all this time, I still can’t get it right. Thoughtful analysis (not to say worry – are my blogging days over?) has found two reasons for my acute bloggers block. The first is that, having been to many parks and had many wonderful moments and memories while doing so, I simply can’t make up my greedy mind as to which ones to mention. If I give too many, you will pass out from author’s verbosity virus and never read me again. The bigger reason – although that first one is what stopped me in mid-paragraph! – Is that my creative gene has been overwhelmed.
I have been strenuously helping my visiting son panic about getting online and errandy things done in time (plus packing!) before an extended trip to Mexico and points south. I do not mean to say that my rising total panic actually helped my son. I tried hard not to let him know about it. However, this is a really awful gene he got from me which makes me feel guilty when I see it in action and, even worse, I relate so totally to it that part of me thinks it is I with all these goals and decisions on me and I am useless, a veritable basket case. I resorted to sitting on my bed reading catalogues by the score and falling asleep over them and doing nothing productive or helpful at all. Meanwhile, the true traveler soldiered forward, meeting all personal goals, getting everything squeezed in as we both knew all along would happen. That’s the real kicker in this problem. Long experience has taught us that we CAN DO IT but somehow doesn’t lessen the whole being panic an iota. Please do not tell me how smart people prepare and pack for trips. I’m smart enough to know the right way but incapable of doing it. So I once left all my clean bras drying at home and the cat sitter had to FedEx them to me – no big deal!
That felt really liberating, to tell posterity, strangers and the World all that! We will say it was to make similarly cursed individuals feel less stupid because other smart people do it too. This son scored perfect 800’s on two of his college admission achievement tests – one two years after taking the physics course – but is still prone to this pre-trip trauma. I think my only other child who has inherited this foul gene was a National Merit Scholar so it may take brains to be so dumb. Bad news: age neither heals nor lessens it – I’m worse than ever.
This sad similarity started me ruminating on familial differences which can be even more disturbing. I was reinforced in this by a younger friend telling me how hard she works to bring her family together over a good dinner as their one chance daily in their busy lives to share news, discuss and laugh together. To do this, when everything is ready she calls the family, puts the hot food on the table and leaves the kitchen “as is” to wait upon this important priority. Her husband, however, oblivious or unsupportive of his wife’s efforts to make this time happen at the food’s best moment, often pushes insistently to re-refrigerate the left out foods. If this happens, the hungry children speed into the meal before their parents can join them. My friend confesses to shouting “Not NOW!” nearly nightly but so far has resisted kicking her clueless mate.
Howdy and I had a similar difference in priorities. Ours emerged after family dinners when he would go to his desk and I upstairs for bedtime reading to our young instead of into the messy kitchen to clean up. A short reading time might have been accepted but we have five children of different ages and reading preferences and, again nearly nightly, I fell asleep over the last child’s book and had to be wakened and, escorted groggily to my bed, usually by Howdy. He then had the charming choice of attacking the kitchen or breakfasting next day in last night’s squalor. This did not endear me to him.
Howdy was a trustee at my old school and every year or two the trustees gave a festive dinner for the faculty. Spouses were invited but not seated at the same table with their trustee mate. At such a dinner during this period in our lives, Howdy was seated with the head of the Religion department, a former Head of the English department, a history teacher, and both a seasoned math and a new young Phys ED instructor. The Religion teacher began serious talk by saying how easily she could tell which new students had been read to as children and how disturbed she was to see the number growing smaller almost annually. Every one at the table chimed in, citing not only a lack of familiarity with reading for pleasure but a lack of knowledge of such characters as Ruth and Naomi, Cain and Abel, but of David Copperfield, Icarus, Ulysses, Joan of Arc, Rembrandt, et cetera, et cetera and so forth. “How is this a problem for you as a teacher or for the student or is it one?” Howdy asked. Innocently he claimed but knowing the deluge it would trigger. When he next had a chance to speak, he asked our Big Question. “Then you’d agree with Penny that reading to each of the children every night is more important than putting the food in the frig, and cleaning up the kitchen and getting set-up for breakfast?” A unanimous outcry greeted this and Barbara Jones, the Religion teacher whom we knew at church, scolded him. “Howdy, how could you not know she had her values straight? They’re your values, too. I can’t understand you of all people getting hung up on kitchen clean-up!” Howdy admitted he’d “been brought up to complete one job before tackling another” and guessed he had “really never factored in the kids’ early bedtime and our late dinner hour which is based on when I get home to eat it.” He then muttering something about “the kids would all be asleep by the time Penny finished the damn kitchen” Tidying as I go is not one of my virtues.
But my beloved was a generous, loving and honest man. Driving home from the dinner he apologized to me for all the hassles over my nightly reading and leaving the kitchen to him. He said he had never really thought it through and was sorry. He shared the dinner conversation and then wistfully asked if “some times he could read to the kids”, making the amazing statement that he was both jealous of that time I had with our children and that “the damned office work could wait!” and wickedly reminding me he could do his work while I “finished up the kitchen.” I still feel, 68 years after I said “of course” I would marry him, that of all the many blessings in my life, he is the one I am most blessed by and thankful for. I hope he knows it.
Also hope to be back with you, my pen pals, soon. Happy Thanksgiving! p