Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The making of me...part 1 of who knows how many.

So, the other day I was pondering some of the comments made to me both in person and via social media regarding some of the things I do for and with my family.  Things like cooking, crafting, moving to the country, chilling and keeping the calendar open all seem to draw mixed reviews from folks.  Some people totally get it, enjoy the same things, and are like "right on sista".  I love you people.  Never, ever go away.

Then, there are some who like to pretend like the things I do are unattainable, and for me to be able to do these things, I must a.) be neglecting more important things, b.) possess superpowers, c.) be striving for perfection, or d.) have unlimited time to do whatever I fancy because I'm a homemaker.  I love you people, too.  But, I wish you wouldn't think those things because they're soooo not true.

It's easy for me to feel the need to defend myself from some of the crappy comments that are thrown my way.  I bristle pretty easily.  But, in my young 30 years of life, I've seen how abrasive and unapproachable a defensive spirit towards others is.  Very rarely is a person's opinion changed by one's attempts to defend herself.

No, I know from experience this is not the way to go when trying to share my soul.  But do you know what is?

Transparency.  Transparency is the way to go when you really want folks to know you.  The why's?  The how's? They're all revealed through an open, transparent spirit...not a defensive one.

So, instead of leading off by going down a list of topics I feel the need to justify, to defend, I'll share my life story with you.  All of it...or at least as much of it as I can recall.  I have one of the worst memories known to man...ask my husband.  I feel there's a need for us to really know each other.  It offers sooooo much perspective as to why we are the way we are and why we do what we do.  It removes judgement and makes room for understanding.  For solidarity in our stories.

I have no idea how long it will take me to relate my story to you.  This is something some of you won't care about at all.  That's fine.  There are some of you who will be able to say "hey, she's more like me than I thought."  That's great.  That's the goal.  Stories and lives shared creates community.  Community fosters love and caring for and about others' needs, hurts, and victories.  It spurs on empathy.  It compels us to act.  All.  Good.  Stuff.

So, here goes nothin'.

In February of 1984 I was born to two young parents who weren't a full year out of high school.  My mom stayed home with me in a small apartment which was comprised mostly of low to mid/low income people in Pearl, MS.  My dad worked hard, manual jobs that first kept him outside in the heat and dirt all day, and later on kept him 100+ degree attics all day.  It would be years later before I found out both of my parents turned down scholarships and opportunities so they could get married and take care of me.  I don't remember much, if anything, about those years.  I know when I look back at the pictures, my dad looks tired, my mom looks sleep deprived, and I look happy.  I was never dressed in the latest fashions in those photos.  There were lots of brightly colored socks and jelly shoe combinations.  It would appear that I liked to dress myself , much like a head-strong little girl I know today.  I had fire engine red hair, and my mom said I was the worst sleeper.  Ever.  Oh, I also know at one point I had a pet rabbit in that apartment which liked to try and drink out of the toilet.  Apparently, it didn't go very well for that rabbit.

When I was 18'ish months (I'm doing the best I can with dates and ages here, people), I had a major infection in my left ear.  After many appointments and antibiotics, it was decided I needed surgery.  The surgery left me with an indention behind my left ear that always makes fitting new glasses tricky, and it left my already broke parents with major medical debt.  I can remember being close to my teens before that bill was paid in full.

According to the photos, it looks like I was pretty much spoiled rotten.  My dad's mom, my granny, lived close-by during this time of my life, and she let me play in make-up, clothes, and curlers to my little heart's content.

Like I said, dates are fuzzy, but somewhere around the age of three or four, we moved out to the country (Pelahatchie) into an old mobile home.  And I do mean old.  All of the walls were thin, knotty pine look-a-like paneling, and the floors were a mis-mash of linoleum tiles.  I had inch long grass green shag carpet in my closet.  I also recall there being a small hole in one of my bedroom windows where one of my uncles shot a bb through it when they lived in the trailer as kids.  I slept in a bed my mom had used growing up.  It even had the same comforter on it.

The trailer was parked on land owned by my dad's side of the family and right down the hill from my Granny Bo Bo.   For a couple of years I went to daycare  25 minutes away in Pearl with my sister, who is four years younger than me.  Again, I'm mostly relying on photos here, but I was apparently a pretty good big sister.  There are pics of me taking my infant sister on picnics in the yard, which clearly I orchestrated all by myself.  Go me.

My mom worked at Wal-Mart in the ladies' wear department.  I can remember when the daycare would call her because I was sick, I'd get to go hang out at the store in the fitting room area and hide in the clothing racks.  This was before I knew anything about a "mall", so in my book, my mom pretty much had the most glamorous job ever.  Heck, I even got to be in "fashion shows" at the store when they used to do things like that.  Yeah, I was pretty much the stuff.  I stayed at that daycare through kindergarten because public kindergarten was just being put into place during that time.  My teacher there was a super sweet Hispanic lady who taught us to count to twenty in Spanish.  Pretty much the only other thing I remember from kindergarten was her telling us one day her house was struck by lightning.  That didn't go over so well for a young girl living in a small, metal trailer.  I do recall playing the roll of a teacher in a Christmas play.  My hair had been curled by my granny, I wore an emerald green dress, and I straight up tripped and fell over some kids sitting on the floor...during the middle of the play.  How embarrassing.  Oh, and I had a major crush on a boy I seem to recall kissing on the playground.  Sorry K...guess it wasn't very memorable.

Once I started first grade, I started riding the bus and staying with my Granny Bo Bo after school.  She lived in a what I then considered a big, blue house.  Honestly, this was pretty much my first experience with spending much time outside of an apartment or trailer at this point in my life, so a 3/1 house was awesome to me.  It had a concrete porch that spanned the whole front, with a swing and two rocking chairs.  There was no central air or heat.  A single window unit in the dining room and an attic fan in the hallway were the only sources of cool "ish" air in the hot Mississippi summers.  At this point, my Granny Bo Bo (I'm gonna call her GBB from here on out...ok?) was in her 60's, and the woman just about didn't stop.  She was always cooking, canning, sewing, gardening...something.  When I got off the bus, I'd usually get a no-frills snack, and I was expected to head on outside, where she was most of the time anyway.  Some of the time, she'd have something in particular for me to do like taking the dry laundry off the line or helping in the garden.  On the days she was indoors sewing herself a new dress or working on a quilt, I'd get to use her scraps and buttons to make my own little creations.

The first things I ever sewed were Barbie clothes.  They started out super basic, but over time evolved into things I actually used the machine for and not just a needle and thread.  I believe at one point I had 30 or more Barbies, many of them clad (some scantily clad) in my latest couture.  My sister was still too young to do anything other than mess up my Barbies at this point, so I remember spending many hours in my room planning and executing elaborate Barbie weddings and parties.

I enjoyed creating and working solo both in and out of school.  Many of my summers were spent on the swing of that big porch or under her quilt frame reading R.L. Stine books.  I could easily read a book per day if it was raining and I didn't have tasks to tend to outside.  I'd often turn on the clamp light on my headboard and read well into the night, way past my bedtime.  At school, I'd usually opt to work on an activity by myself, or I'd get so frustrated by the others in my group, I'd just end up doing it all myself and letting them pass it off as a group effort.  I started out doing this very young, and not much changed through the high school years.

In school, I always seemed to get the "hard" teachers.  Seriously.  Every.  Single.  Grade.  I also never seemed to be in the same class as my two friends, A and K.  In first and second grade, my teachers were sisters with reputations for being mean.  Annnd they went to my church.  They both used their eyes to get their points across.  There was the bug-eyed "OMG I'm going to strangle you with my bare hands if you don't stop doing whatever you're doing" glare, and there was the slit-eyed "I dare you to do that again" stare.  According to my kids, I'm fluent in eye communication, just like these teachers were.  I also recall my pop, my dad's father, telling me one time I could kill with my eyes.  During the younger years, I usually reserved those eyes for people I didn't really know or didn't really trust.  That would explain why he experienced them.  He was just never around.

For most of my life, the only adults who were regularly in the picture were my parents, my GBB, and my mom's dad and step-mom who lived in Vicksburg.  We would go to their home several times a year, and they would come to visit us every now and then.  I loved their house there.  It was a large house he'd built himself.  The majority of the interior was paneled and floored in wood he'd cut in his saw mill up the driveway.  When it was cold, there was a black wood stove on the lower level, under the stairs, that heated the entire house.  There were acres and acres to explore, and there was always, always good food, and plenty of it.  My paw paw hunted a lot, so there were heads mounted on the wall, and deer or elk meat was included in the menu at every gathering.  Since there were ten kids between the two of them, the house was always full on holidays.  I often heard that they had plenty of money, but could never tell.  Their house was large, but it was in no way elaborate.  Their vehicles were always used, and my paw paw still wears the same threadbare snap up shirts and faded jeans he's worn since I can remember.  I have always trusted the words that come out of that man's mouth as much or more than those from either of my parents or anyone else I hold in high regard.  He's a smart man, but his words are so simple and down to earth.  I remember loving his hugs so much as a child because I could tell from how hard he hugged me and how he always rubbed his stubbly face on mine to annoy me that he really valued me.

Luckily, I had a very important man in my every-day life who valued me, too.  My dad always let his girls know we were loved and provided for.  I thank God for this because it didn't take long for me to see how the girls at school who were missing this in the life were grasping for it wherever they could find it.  He took our family to church on Sundays and we were there most Wednesdays, too.  Even though he worked like a dog as an AC man most of our lives, he'd still coach our softball teams and be there for all of our school activities.  Since I was the first-born, a lot was expected of me.  I was already a pretty independent thinker and motivated learner, so school was fairly easy for me.  This was a good thing because my dad expected only the best grades out of me.  I don't recall which grade I had my first C on a progress report, but I do recall it wasn't pretty.  My dad's presence and concern kept me out of a heck of a lot of trouble I started seeing my friends in, even at the ages of 10 or so.  That's what, fourth grade?  I never considered myself attractive growing up, but I did develop very early.  Seriously, in kindergarten I wore a training bra.  In pretty much every grade until fifth, I was a full head taller than all the boys.  Talk about a swift kick to my confidence.  For years I had permed hair that froed out like crazy because my hair was naturally curly. Yeah, I'm still trying to figure out why my mom paid money to curl my curly hair.


Not a great place to stop, I know, but that's all I've got for tonight.  This momma's 12 weeks pregnant tomorrow, and I've got to get a snack and get in the bed.  Hopefully I'll get around to writing the next installment before I have this baby ; )


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