It’s funny to me how little things start the synapses firing, interesting the trains of thought our brains run on. Recently, I put some Carmex on my lips from a roller tube and remembered when they didn’t have those, but only those little glass tubs, and you had to apply it with your finger, which made me remember when a sweet friend taught me (without words, during church) what to do with what was left on my finger after applying it.
Then I started thinking of a bunch of other things I’ve learned from other women, little silly things I should have already known, big important things, and some in between. And I bet half (or most) of them don’t even remember teaching me the things that they did. Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of them, not in order of importance, just sort of as they occur to me. I would love to hear (read) some of the things you’ve learned from other women and still remember the occasion of learning.
Since I already mentioned the Carmex, I’ll start there.
Janet Aaron taught me what to do with the rest of the Carmex after applying it to my lips with my finger. We were in church and I just held up my Carmexy pointer finger and looked at her with a puzzled expression on my face. She smiled and rubbed her pointer finger in the center of her palm. That works. It doesn’t get on anything or bother you there and eventually absorbs. And that made me remember . . .
Kerri Craig taught me how to keep lipstick from getting on my teeth after putting it on my lips. You put your finger in your mouth like it’s a Popsicle and pull it out. Pop! That removes the bit that would end up on your teeth. And that took me back to the first years I ever wore make up when . . .
Amy House taught me (she said she figured it out from watching her big sister) how to get mascara off your face quickly when you accidentally jab it there while aiming for your lashes. Just push and rub real quick while it’s still wet. If you don’t push, but just wipe, it will smear.
Mary Foland taught me what the phrase “root cause” really means and why it is not just always wrong and redundant as I thought it was.
Hazel Sanders taught me to not ask questions (or make suggestions, or really say anything at all) while men are fixing things or moving things for you. I will never forget hearing her gasp, then shake her head at me lovingly but sternly when I started to say something in such a situation. I trusted her, so I shut up and have done my best to stay shutted up in similar situations ever since. Sometimes it just isn’t possible, but I try. Hazel also taught me about Stitch Witchery, this neat stuff you can mend holes in fabric with.
Jeanette Cox taught me the words counterpane and antimacassar. And she taught me how to do ceramics, and how to make green peas taste really good (salt, pepper, butter and SUGAR.)
Phyllis Cocke taught me some stuff while I lived next door to her for 16 years: several good recipes, the fact that my child is drinking out of the condensation pipe outside instead of bothering to come inside for a drink – oh, and that he’s NAKED out there! She taught me how to get magic marker off a 5 year old, (or, that you CAN’T get magic marker off a 5 year old) and how to be a really good and kind neighbor.
Barbara Sharp, my across the street neighbor for those same 16 years taught me that too, in addition to being another surrogate mother for my niece and nephew and rescuing my youngest child from peril (as did her husband on another occasion, but he’s a man and this is about women, but still – thank you, Don!)
My sister-in-law, Jené Hunter taught me that wearing a sweater will make you warmer (duh, Donna.) When I had not yet figured out that everyone with a public building and a thermostat in Texas is crazy and I should always have a sweater with me, she did have one with her which she loaned me. That is when my current habit began of always having a sweater or hoodie (usually several in my car at any given moment and sometimes a small blanket) with me.
My mother taught me more than I can list probably, but here are a few. She taught me to cook, take care of children, including changing a baby’s diaper – the real kind with pins, and how not to poke the baby with the pin. “Put your hand in there so if you poke anything, it will be your hand.” She taught me how to sew – which I had almost forgotten I knew how to do until I had a little girl and started pumping out little dresses almost as if on autopilot. She taught me a love of reading. She used to fall asleep reading to me at night because I just would not (or could not) fall asleep. She says she remembers me waking her up asking her to keep reading. I asked her to teach me how to go to sleep, and she gave me the steps. “Lie still. Close your eyes. Breathe. Don’t talk. Don’t think.” I never could get the hang of it. She taught me appreciation for music and theater, taking me to Casa Manana to see “Porgy and Bess,” Roger Miller, and others. And she taught me “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” how to “heap coals of fire on their heads” when people were unkind, and that I could “get glad in the same pants I got mad in.” My mother is the greatest.
Laverne Aaron, my other mother when I was growing up, taught me that she knew what she was talking about when she said not to take the dolly’s clothes off after she fixed it for me, because that’s all that was holding it together . . . Oops. Guess she meant that. She taught me that ruined isn’t necessarily ruined when she sewed a bunny applique on to one of favorite little tops and covered up the ink that had gotten spilled on it. I honestly don’t remember how it happened but I probably did it. She taught me there were such a things as caramel apples! I remember watching her make them and then eating them for the very first time at her house. (Sure was not the last time. Yumm!)
My grandmother, Grandmama Donnie, taught me, unconsciously on my part, to french braid hair. She never taught me to do it or even showed me purposely (that I remember) what she was doing, but she used to french braid mine when I was little, and I guess I absorbed it on some level, because one day when I was about 17 years old, I just started fiddling with my hair and came out with a perfect french braid. I didn’t remember learning it, but just knew it. From then on I wore it that way frequently and sometimes did Kami’s to match.
My mother and grandmother both taught me to crochet when I was just a little bit. I don’t remember which one taught me first. But I didn’t learn to knit until about 15 years ago and my mother taught me that.
My daughter, Sarah Cox, teaches me (or tries to; this is hard for me, like going to sleep is) to let things go that hurt me. She is freakishly good at this – forgetting things that were painful – to the point I told her I think she has a special kind of brain damage. But I’d like to have that damage. And she teaches me to go DO things that I want to do. Also hard, but worth the effort when I can manage it.
My cousin Marsha taught me a trick that has a near 100% success rate for quieting a crying baby – even those of complete strangers when they’ve given me a shot at it. I’m sure she didn’t invent it, but that’s where I learned it so I call it the Marsha Rock. You stand up with one leg far in front of the other, holding the baby on one shoulder, of course cradling his/her head, and rock BIG back and forth. It either soothes them or freaks them out, but one way or another they stop crying and often fall asleep.
A hospital nurse with a Jamaican accent taught me a thing or two about nursing in 1983. She had no problem at all just putting her hands right on my boobies and maneuvering them into the position she thought best while instructing me. Another one taught me in 1994 how to convince my baby to take a pacifier when he thought he didn’t want it and wanted to keep screaming instead, or nurse constantly. You put your hand on his cheek while inserting the pacifier. The feeling of skin on their cheek makes the rooting reflex kick in and they turn toward the hand and start sucking that sucker.
My cousin Andi taught me (accidentally I think) not to ride fast downhill on a bike with hand brakes. Ouch. I’m sure if she had it to do over again and knew how ignorant I was, she would have told me BEFORE I started down the hill. I still remember a car load of cousins driving along beside me screaming something out the windows. I didn’t know what they were saying until after I flew ass over tea kettle. (Oh, and Mary Foland taught me that saying. I think her mother taught it to her.)
I have a wonderful and very sweet mentor teacher at work this year, Janis Jayroe, who generously teaches me from her experience anything I need or want to know about my job. This year, my 3rd year of full-time teaching, I am getting what every teacher needs her 1st year – better late than never! That guidance and support is invaluable. She was also one of the people who interviewed me for the job, and I was hired, so I can’t thank her enough for that!
There are more I’m sure. But this is probably more already than most people will read. Thanks, if you did.
You poked my heart.
(Still taken from Tara Willmott’s Youtube video. Link to video below.)
This video, in addition to being adorable, I think contains a lesson (or a few) for many of us “grown-ups.” Here are some parallels I see to adult life and disagreements:
- These children are arguing over something that they feel is a very important distinction, which in reality is of almost no consequence.
- The argument is based on a simple misunderstanding, based on a difference in terminology which none of them yet understands. Since they are all unaware that there is anything they don’t know, it seems the opposing party MUST be wrong, and apparently must be convinced of it.
- They are all basing their stance strictly on loyalty to the source of their information (in this case, Mom.)
- They each continue to repeat the same points while not producing any evidence, only hearsay (Mom again,) and get nowhere.
- One stands by quietly holding on to the clothing of a contender (bigger girl in yellow behind girl in green on the right) as if to keep her in line, but saying nothing and having no real impact on what happens.
- Another tries to make peace, (girl in green on the left) turning from one side to the other, sweetly urging one to apologize, trying to calm the other, and finally, when unable with these tactics to prevent someone from being “poked in the heart,” goes to the aid of the hurt party and offers compassion and protection, standing between him and his offender (even though that offender is dressed identically to her.) “It’s okay. Turn around and I gonna get ahind you, and her can’t do that.” Thank goodness for the people who play this role in life.
- Something that does not look like it should hurt anyone (and perhaps was not intended to) really, really does – because of the way that person perceived what had been done to him. Everyone has their tender spots.
- Because of this argument over nothing that really matters, people were upset, and time was spent unpleasantly that could have been spent laughing, swinging, and playing in the dirt (or in the rain.)
Hopefuly, and likely so, as soon as this video stopped, these precious children were taught the meanings of the two words they were arguing over, were directed to hug and make up, and then spent the rest of their time together playing happily as friends, instead of turning their backs and never speaking to each other again.
One of the stories I taught to my 10th graders this week (“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker) prompted a discussion of what makes things valuable, and what one possession they would choose to save if they could only save one thing. So, I told them about when our house burned when I was 19 years old.
When I told them the year it happened, (1982) you would have thought I had said I was alive in the 18th century! “Whaaaat?!” They were shocked and astounded; one of them put his hand on his chest and leaned back like he was having a heart attack. Then — once they finally absorbed the fact that I was actually alive in the 1980s — they were fascinated. And what was the first thing they wanted to know about? In more than one class period mind you, when faced with this mysterious time traveler from the magical 80s – this was the big question: “Did you have those bangs?”
Yeah. They wanted to know if I had those crazy 80s bangs. I told them, “Well, that was a little later in the 80s, but . . . yes, and if I can find the picture I’ll show you later.” They are looking forward to that.
Then . . . the story mentioned Johnny Carson.
Who is that?
What? . . . Raise your hand if you know who Johnny Carson is.
Not one. Approximately 130 students (I asked in each class period) all around age 15, had never heard of the dude.
So, I asked, “Do you know who Conan O’Brien is?” Yes. At least some had heard of him, or Jay Leno or David Letterman. So I explained that Johnny was them before they were them. I showed them a picture of Johnny and the intro to the old Tonight Show – “Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”
Funny the things a good story will lead to.
Funny how old teenagers can make you feel.
Tonight at a restaurant, I saw a young man (30ish) sitting at a table across from an older man. Could have been his dad; I don’t know. They spoke very little. The younger man sat facing my direction, just a few feet away, so I could see him clearly.
Something was wrong. When I glanced up and saw him, I recognized, connected deeply, with what he seemed to be feeling. I have felt it too, or at least something very similar to it. And I think I’ve had that exact same expression and posture while feeling it. He sat, seemingly paralyzed, with a look on his face of pain, shock, despair, confusion, hopelessness, hurt, or some combination of those. He did not move. Not even an eyelash. He appeared lost in some terribly unpleasant place, staring through his physical surroundings into nothing, or into something that only he could see. Maybe someone he loves just died. Maybe someone just broke his heart into a million pieces. Or maybe he is just completely overwhelmed with more responsibilities than he can possibly handle and is afraid to face tomorrow.
As soon as I saw him frozen there, I was frozen with him. I sat motionless, and stared at him, while he stared into space. I could not move or avert my gaze from him until he moved, or at least broke the stare-down he was having with something invisible, and returned to his dinner companion . . . Oh, what’s wrong poor fellow? I know whatever it is, it hurts so badly, and no one can make the hurt go away. I’m so sorry . . . Finally he kind of flinched and as he did he looked up and our eyes met for a split-second. I quickly looked away and tried not to look his way again.
Why did I look away the instant we connected? It was just a reflex? I didn’t want to invade his privacy, make him uncomfortable? Maybe all of that, but where did that reflex come from? What is it guarding against? Tonight as I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that I should have held the eye contact just a little longer – not a long time, just long enough to admit that it wasn’t an accident and to give him a little smile. Maybe he would have felt my caring for him, just as I had felt his pain. What would be so wrong with that? Why must we all be strangers when really we are all part of the same fabric?
Some days I feel it more deeply than other days – the empty, achy feeling caused by the lack of something I’ve always wanted desperately, but cannot have. It doesn’t matter what it is; my point would apply to any heart’s desire denied. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has one of those. We just don’t get everything we want. I’m a grownup. I know this. I accept it. And I try every day to focus on other things and not think about it, because it breaks my heart a little bit when I do. Some days it’s easy, some days a little harder, some days impossible.
One of the things that makes it more difficult is to constantly hear (or read) other people who have this precious gift declaring enthusiastically that the REASON they have it is because God personally arranged for it to be that way for them. Yep, HE made the decision. He chose them personally and made it happen for them. They usually use the word “blessed.” It wasn’t luck or just the way life worked out for them. No, it was a deliberate act of God. They are THAT special.
I know they think they are just being grateful, “giving God the glory” as they say, and it has never once occurred to them that what they are saying could be hurtful to anyone. Indeed, most of them are good, kind people who wouldn’t be purposely hurtful to anyone on their worst day. But, if you just stop and think for half a minute, it isn’t really that complicated to see why it is indeed hurtful.
When I am assaulted with one of these “Look what God did for me!” raves, the response that often occurs to me is, “Wow, that’s great for you. I wish God loved me that much.” And no, I don’t really think that’s the reason. But that is the logical conclusion if you combine their statement with my life. If I have to acknowledge that it isn’t God’s CHOICE for me to be lacking and hurting—and I DO have to because how much worse would it hurt to think there was someone claiming to love me and doing this to me on purpose?—then why must I accept that your good fortune IS His choice?
My vote would be that we all admit that life just happens. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t, and we can love and support each other through the ups and downs. Be thankful, yes. If you want to direct that thankfulness to God, consider doing it privately. And I will be happy for you. And I’ll always try to focus on the other good things in my life. Just please stop telling me that God specifically chose you to bless and me to ignore, because that is the essence of what you are saying. Either that, or that you are doing it right and I am doing it wrong.
Maybe you just can’t be talked out of the belief that every single tiny little thing that happens everywhere in the world is God-ordained, that there is no circumstance He lets take its own course. Maybe you honestly believe that God does good things for you and not for some others purposely—for His reasons which are not for us to understand. If I will accept that stance, just for argument’s sake, can you at least see how it is still rude to flaunt His decisions that favor you over others in front of those very others? You wouldn’t say to a starving person, “I am so blessed. God has provided plenty of food for me and my family.” Or to the parent of a seriously ill child, “God is so good. He gave me healthy children.” Right? No, of course not. You would just be quietly thankful that you aren’t hungry and that your kids are ok (and maybe do something to help these less fortunate people if you are able.) So why is it ok to flaunt other “blessings” that not everyone has?
If this initially offends or angers you, or you think I’m just bitter or crazy and completely wrong, please sit with it a while and really think about it before landing solidly on that conclusion. I realize I’m criticizing a habit that most of us were brought up with from the cradle, and taught that it is the right thing to do, so it may be difficult to consider the possibility that it might just be wrong all over the place. But, it just might be.
There is just no substitute for Daddy. There is nothing else that can fill the space meant to be filled by a good, loving, father who is actively involved on a daily basis in his child’s life and on a continuing basis into their adulthood.
If you have one of these rare treasures – a father who from your earliest memory has been a constant presence in your life, whose love for you has never been doubted for a moment, who continues to love you, to be interested in your welfare, and ready to help you with anything at any time, you probably think you adequately appreciate it. And you probably think you understand how important and precious this gift is. But you don’t. Not really. No one COMPLETELY understands the importance of that gift except those who don’t have it. Because it has always been there, you are not even consciously aware of the firm foundation on which you stand and walk that is missing from underneath so many others. But you do your best. Be as grateful as you can, show him appreciation every chance you get.
If you are one of these fathers – these great men who adore their children, show them lots of affection and gently but firmly teach them what they need to know about life, and are always there for them when they need you – you may think that you are just doing your job, and even more it isn’t even work because you just love your kids so what’s the big deal? It IS a big deal. You probably think there is nothing impressive about what you are doing. You probably think that you feel good enough about yourself. But you don’t. Feel even better. You just can’t overestimate the importance of what you are doing. You are changing the future for the better. You are making better and happier adults to be a part of society. And maybe – if you are one of those who missed out on having this gift of Daddy yourself – you are breaking a chain. You are stopping pain in its tracks before it gets to your children. You are changing the course of your family’s future and guiding them to a better place. As long as your children live – even when they are old and you have gone on – they will be better off, whether they know it or not, just because you were their Daddy.