Monday, July 29, 2013

The Armpit Continues to Sweat

After Cheerios and swimming lessons, we had lunch. Granddad would come home from the store and eat with us. We would sit at the table while he came around and kissed the top of our heads. He must've liked his job because he never seemed irritated with it.

How could you be irritated when you served ice cream? Correction...Blue Bell ice cream.

After lunch, we'd take a nap.

As you read this, I am raising one eyebrow communicating the following: Not gonna happen.

But, I didn't argue. I dutifully followed my sisters and brother to our beds. I laid down for around ten minutes. It was all I could take.

I would give my hair a good shake, messing it up as much as possible. I would walk into the kitchen and in my sleepiest voice say, "I slept."

She would always give a great sigh and then say, "Alright, Kara. Go watch TV."

At this point, I would skip over the divan, plop down, and turn on Nickelodeon. I watched Pinwheel and You Can't Do That On Television while Maria, Wendy, and Bill slept.

I don't know if they were ever irritated that I got out of taking naps. My thought was, if you didn't want to sleep, you too could mess up your hair and fool your grandmother.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Armpit

As stated earlier, we spent two weeks every summer in a hot, dusty farm town close to the Rio Grande with my mother's parents. The first week without our mother; the second week with.

Grandmother rose at 5:00 a.m. to read the paper and eat poached eggs. Granddad rose a little after that and went to the store he ran with my great uncle. It was your average American drug store complete with soda fountain and counter top seating.

Grandmother was a retired school teacher. She taught English to middle school students for thirty years. Words, books, and the structure of sentences were her hobbies. The gift she wanted from the district to commemorate her retirement was an Oxford English Dictionary. The book was huge. You could tone your arm muscles with it. (But don't let Grandmother catch you at that.)

To continue:

Grandmother rose at 5:00 a.m. and read the paper from beginning to end. She kept a red pencil at her side and carefully edited their mistakes. Then she'd put the corrected paper in the mail and send it to the newspaper office -- "The Valley Morning Star". She entitled it, "The Valley Morning Disappointment".

We rose at 7:00 and went for our Cheerios. She kept the cereal in the largest circular Tupperware I've ever seen. We scooped them out with this little cup, then shook liquid saccharine on top to give our breakfast sweetness.

Grandmother had diabetes. No sugar in her house -- except for emergencies.

We sat at the table, swinging our legs and eating our Cheerios while she patiently underlined misspelled words in her reading material. Her eyebrows were always raised, her glasses always perched on her nose. She wore her satin robe and gown, sipped her coffee, and shook her head at supposedly qualified writers.

If she were reading this, I wonder how many mistakes she would find.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Some Teacher

Learning to swim must be very important. Learning to swim from Mrs. Rife must be extra special important.

My mother sent us all the way to her hometown for swimming lessons. My mother's childhood home, known affectionately by my god sister as "the armpit of the south", is thirty minutes from the border. It takes eight hours to get there. (5 if I am driving.)

You have to drive across King Ranch and you better have at least a half of tank of gas before you do.

So, I was under the impression that Mrs. Rife must be some kind of teacher.

We spent two weeks every summer with my granddad and grandmother. Part of our itinerary (the rest is for a later post) was an hour with Mrs. Rife.

Certainly you are patiently awaiting my opinion on this. By now you know I should enjoy the pool and swimming. You should also be aware that me and my mother's big ideas don't always mix well.

However, Big Idea #6 turned out pretty good.

Maria and I walked to Mrs. Rife's house every day. We spent an hour learning the various techniques for successful and safe swimming. I concentrated hard. This woman was teaching me something quite valuable. I definitely could see a future where I used what she taught. (Multiplication was another thing.)

I can still see her very short hair, her wrinkled face, and her bright red pants swimsuit. Yes, she wore pants when she was in the water. Maybe because she was modest. Maybe because she had a condition. I never could figure that one out.

She taught me well. Soon I was diving off boards and racing boys across the length of the pool without a lick of trouble.

After each lesson she put some kind of medicine in our ears. To keep us from getting a swimmer in our ear. (Like that could happen.) But I didn't argue.

The last day of lessons was the neatest. We had to jump in with all our clothes on, take off our shoes and pants while in the water, then swim to the side. Pretty cool....

My mom's big ideas were starting to gain some ground. Maybe I didn't have to hide anymore whenever she called a family meeting.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Scourge

We must take a step back. I forgot to mention an important moment in my life.

At the time, it did not seem very important. Of course, it is a small thing, and I'm only capable of understanding its strength now that I am an adult.

Come back with me....

It is the year E.T. came out. A very heartbreaking and heartwarming movie. Maria and I were enthralled. Wendy was instantly in love with E.T. Bill was too young to enjoy it, but eventually he was inspired, too.

Maria and I especially enjoyed the funny parts. When Elliott tells E.T. to shut up when he keeps saying, "E.T. phone home." when he's in that white coffin-looking thing. When all the boys are flying through the air and Greg says, "Tell me when it's over!"

But we simply adored the following lines:

Greg: "Can't he just beam up?"
Elliott: "This is reality, Greg."

We died laughing. I mean -- that is hilarious.

It is also the scourge of mankind. Sarcasm.

I use it. Maria, Wendy, and Lela can wield it like magicians.

However, Elliott might as well have called Greg an idiot. Let's imagine, for one moment, what Greg felt after Elliott said that. It was Greg's first real glimpse of E.T. How did he know what the alien was capable of? Elliott had several days with E.T. He had the advantage of knowing a lot more about the little guy. And yet, instead of considering all this, the writers choose to treat Greg like he's an idiot. It's not a stupid question. I mean, for crying out loud, E.T. could heal Elliott's wounds with just a touch. He could make plants grow by just being around them. Why can't he beam up?

But sarcasm is funny. We all know Elliott doesn't think Greg is stupid. We all know it doesn't mean that Elliott doesn't like Greg. But....does Greg know that? Was he able to accurately assume Elliott's intent? Was he able to factor in the possibility that Elliott was anxious, nervous, and scared, so he spoke quickly? Was Greg able to forgive Elliott for treating him so callously?

These are things we cope with today. Interpreting sarcasm. It can be seen as bullying.

If someone is usually sarcastic, we can imagine this person might be seen as a bully. For example, it is your second week of school. You and your peers are starting to relax. You walk into math class wearing your favorite shirt. Peer A says to you, "Where'd you get that shirt? Queers 'R Us?"

Everyone laughs.

It's mean isn't it? But just because Peer A said such a thing, doesn't mean he doesn't like you. It means he has a sarcastic mouth.

This is the dilemma, for we can't rid our society of sarcasm. We must cope with it.

And that is the MOST important thing school teaches us -- how to cope. Some of us develop very good coping skills, some not so much.

And before you tell me that the school and the world was better in the 1950s, watch a routine from Bob Hope. He uses sarcasm. I promise.