Literature is chock full of orphans. There are so many orphans in storyland, you have to wonder whether an epidemic was killing off most couples at any given time in history. To name just a few of the better known ones off the top of my head: Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, Jane Eyre, Tarzan, Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, Heidi, Mary Lennox of The Secret Garden, Pollyanna, Little Orphan Annie, Oliver, David Copperfield, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, Kinsey Milhone, the kick-ass private eye of the alphabet mystery series, and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights.
My mom is haunting me. I used to tell her before she died that if she knew what was good for her, she would never commit homicide. I know that sounds like something the Gambinos might growl at each other, but I didn’t tell her that just to protect her hide from me, or my hide from her. I told her that because she was Kleenex challenged. Now, she is haunting me.
Regrets should not include spitting at someone, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. I heard a young woman say recently that she didn’t want to dance in public because she thought she was bad at it. My goodness, if all of us followed this maxim, YouTube would be half-empty, and America’s Funniest Videos would be scrambling for filler. Certainly, Seinfeld would have one less episode, as Elaine would never dream of dancing at her office party.
This is a poem I found among my old papers. It was written by my father, probably when he was stationed in Japan or Korea, around 1953. In it, I see a dad who can’t stop checking out women, and a dad who was far more sentimental about fatherhood and the joys of domesticity than I had ever suspected. The things you get homesick for are varied and many, and may surprise you. It is a little peek into an America of the Fifties; you will see we haven’t changed all that much.
Just Homesick by Charles Wolf
Did I ever tell you the story of being homesick?
It’s not a sickness of the liver, or the stomach, or like a headache, or anything like that.
Sometimes though, it gets you down and feeling pretty bad.
It even gets you to remembering things like…
Moonlit nights on lakes,
Picnics out and chocolate cakes.
The other day I was listening to a well-known talk show. The subject that day was ‘brats’ and the wishes of many to ban them from public places, namely restaurants. As can be imagined, feelings were running very high in audience members, especially in those who have children and insist that their children need ‘their space’, they harm no one, and who say the people who object to their child’s behavior are kid haters; and in those who don’t have children, but resent the loud, unruly presence of someone’s uncontrolled fruit of the womb. They are part of what is known as the ‘brat ban movement’.
I’ve done a few plays in my time, in civic theater and in school. No matter how good you are, or at least think you are, there’s always that tightening in the gut before curtain, when you wonder if they’ll like you-really, really like you. The only difference between that and being a substitute teacher is that you don’t really care if they like you. You just really, really don’t want them to throw things at you.
Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about how our brains start to age and lose the capacity to keep even the most inane conversations afloat by about the age of 45. It used to be thought, in our fog of denial, that this wouldn’t happen until much later in life. Then, that changed to warnings about hitting sixty, and being prepared to forget where we put our car keys. It seems we are becoming obsolete earlier and earlier, according to the scientists whom we pay to tell us bad news.
My son just told me a story I read to him when he was little, ‘The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins’, by Dr. Seuss. The story was familiar, but I couldn’t remember the point of it, or who had written it. I looked it up on Amazon, and there isn’t an obvious point, as was so often the case with the good doctor.
Last week, on my radio show ‘A Woman’s Guide To Everything’ on Blog Talk Radio, my co-host Deborah Thorne said something interesting about a full plate. She has actually said many interesting things, but this one I wrote down and told her I was stealing it. We were talking about Christmas decorations. She and her husband share a love of the season, and it’s ability to inspire in a person’s heart the wish to express thoughts of the holidays through lights, and figures from fairytales. These are placed on roofs and lawns, and as they are collected over the years, can gradually take an entire week to arrange.
After this holiday, Deborah and her husband have decided to sell all the decorations in an already set-up ‘yard’ sale. Their kids are grown and they’ve decided that decorating on such a grand scale is an unnecessary task. When I added my own reminiscences of decorating endeavors from years past, and how little I feel compelled to do it these past few years, she responded with the phrase, ‘When you take something off your plate, you make room for something else’.
You never know who you are influencing, and teachers in particular influence any number of people. The National Day of Listening is the day after Thanksgiving. I believe a teacher inaugurated this day, which makes sense. A teacher should always be listening, because it is in questioning and explaining that many students find themselves learning. Teachers expect, or should expect, students to question, explain, and get concepts wrong.
While subbing for an absent eighth-grade science teacher, I found myself explaining what ‘the peanut gallery’ means, why welders need special goggles, and why the periodic table is important to the lives of eighth-graders. Has anyone ever told them why it’s important? I never heard any other teacher say why. All they said was that there was an assignment built around the periodic table that needed completing by a certain time, and the guidelines needed to be followed.