My pretty friend Linda tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and said, “There are too many options; I can’t make myself commit.” She wasn’t talking about choosing an ideal mate, finding her dream home or planning the perfect vacation. She was buying a vacuum. And I understood her frustration.
I grew up thinking only irritable farm boys — provoked by their daybreak milking of stubborn, manure-dropping, tail-slapping cows — administered hurtful pinches on St. Patrick’s Day. So I yelped when I entered a faculty lounge and a hand with long red nails snaked out and pinched my forearm with clear intent to harm.
On Nov. 17, I walked through the tender light of dawn beneath a misty moon and dusky sky. Leafless trees wearing coats of earth-toned bark marked my passage, cool air stirred around me and leaves crunched to the rhythm of my stride. Watched by cautious deer, I followed a zigzagging trail up a hill west of my home. At the top, I turned to see Craig stretched below, hushed and expectant, as though awaiting an event of import.
In early 2015, an online hubbub erupted over a researcher’s claim that 36 specific questions, answered seriously, could create intimacy and cause two people to fall in love. It’s that easy? I must have wasted my time entertaining butterflies in my stomach, losing my ability to concentrate and feeling insanely happy. Silly me. I could have skipped periods of bliss and moments of uncertainty of by answering 36 questions and listening to a possible partner do the same.
I should quit thumbing through the magazines in doctors’ waiting rooms. The out-of-date publications harbor germs from sneezing, sick people and tempt me to read stuff I’d ignore if I weren’t trying to distract myself from the reason I’m in a doctor’s office.
On Jan. 20, 1953, my fifth-grade class, suffering from frozen noses and wild excitement, climbed from the back of a farm truck after an open-air, arctic ride to Barney Cornaby’s house. Barney had invited us to his home, which held one of the few TVs in Lake Shore, to watch the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Whatever that was.
I exited the meeting for new teachers with the words of the dictatorial principal, Mr. Bailey, ringing in my ears: “Remember no gum, no slacks, no mini-skirts. Never be late for recess or lunch duty. And I will check your lesson plans every Friday for their adherence to your grade-level curriculum.”
The Christmas homes of my childhood and adolescence were never the glossy homes of Christmas advertising: imposing structures lit by evenly-spaced lights filled with artistically decorated rooms inhabited by smiling families with color-coordinated clothing and perfect teeth.
My mother sometimes asked her children to express gratitude for something meaningful before they indulged their Thanksgiving appetites. If I had mentioned my gratitude for the raisins she put in her homemade cinnamon rolls, she would have looked at me with disapproval. But, to me, a cinnamon roll without raisins wasn’t worth chewing. I know many folks disagree, but I’ve never met a raisin I didn’t like, and I’m grateful for them.
Growing up in a rural area in the years following World War II, my friends and I quickly absorbed the behaviors deemed appropriate for boys and girls; behaviors we learned from picture books, movies, parents, peers and siblings.