Saturday, November 12, 2005

I Saw It On the Way To Walmart

I was driving along yesterday, thinking through my shopping strategy, when I saw this frumpy lady raking leaves in her yard. (By the way, this is an observation, not a criticism—who doesn’t look frumpy doing yard work?) She had a wheelbarrow full of leaves and with great effort, she was pushing the wheelbarrow down her sloping lawn toward the road. The edge of her lawn is about 5 or 6 feet above the road, and railroad ties create the wall that hold up her yard. Once she got to the precipice, she carefully tipped the wheelbarrow full of leaves over the edge of her yard and into the weedy strip bordering the road below. Then she began pushing the wheelbarrow back up her lawn to get a new load.

I laughed out loud as I watched this whole process. Not so much that I thought it was funny as I was astonished at the audacity of this lady. She wasn’t dumping the leaves into a vacant, unused field where a compost pile would be unnoticed. No, she was tossing them over the edge of her yard onto a well-traveled road, next door to some homes and parks that have recently been improved and look quite neat and tidy. This would be like me gathering up my leaves and dumping them into my neighbor’s front yard. How rude. I’ve only done that once, but they weren’t my leaves in the first place, and in the second place, it was a really good joke. Anyway, I shook my head and laughed in amazement at this woman, and found myself feeling sorry for the poor blokes that live next to her and thinking how grateful I am that she isn’t my neighbor. On my way back home an hour and a half later, she was still at it, and I laughed again and thought about how much I like my neighbors.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I Had a Mullet

It’s confession time. I was an ugly kid. I’d like to think I grew out of it, but that wasn’t until at least 9th or 10th grade, and that may be a generous estimation. I look back at old photos and realize this problem began early.

This makes me wonder what my mom was thinking. Shouldn’t a mom try to help her little girl look cute when she’s too young to do it herself? I think she tried. Maybe she was just misguided by the styles of a bad decade. Or maybe she just didn’t have much to work with. When I was a bit older and after a couple of not-quite-successful home permanent waves, she came to all my hair appointments and made decisions about my hairstyles. I distinctly remember my “Annie” cut and perm in fourth grade and how Mom was so thrilled that all I needed was a spray bottle and a pick to do my hair each morning. Why did she allow this? Couldn’t she see that an Annie-do wouldn’t go well with headgear?

Headgear. Twenty-two to 23 hours a day I wore that thing. And it wasn’t the kind that just went around the neck. No, I got the kind that was a helmet. One band down the back of the head, one band around the neck, and one band from in front of one ear, over the top of the head, then down to in front of the other ear. I got it in 4th grade and for a couple of years wore it everywhere I went. I remember I hated it, but I wore it anyway. Remember that I had pom-pom hair to go with it—a nice band down the middle and two fluffs out each side. A lovely picture, isn’t it? So why did I wear it so faithfully? Did I not care how weird I looked? Or did I just not realize how bad it really was?

I had this bike that was a hand-me-down from my aunt (probably from the late 50’s, making it about 20 years old). It was a gold 5-speed. The thing was enormous and weighed more than I did. The front tire was really small—like from a little pre-school sized bike—and the back tire was big—about the size of a pre-teen mountain bike. It had this big banana seat, complete with springs I wasn’t even heavy enough to budge, and the gear-shifter was on the bar in front of the seat. No subtle little gear-shifter, no sir, this thing was huge. And big old fenders and U-shaped handlebars. These days this bike would be awesome—all retro and everything. But in the early eighties, it was nightmarishly ugly. But it was the only bike I had, so, like the headgear, I just went with it. One day I was riding my golden atrocity down the road, sporting, of course, headgear on top of my puffy Annie hair. I passed this lady and she asked me in this sweet, condescending voice, “Oh! Did your mom and dad have that bike made special for you?” I think this was about the time I realized how truly pathetic I was. I didn’t just look a little weird, I looked “special.” That was the last time I rode that bike. And I’m still surprised I didn’t quit wearing the headgear, but maybe I really was “special.” Or I just wanted to have really good teeth.

By about 6th grade I didn’t have to wear the headgear anymore and I started growing out the hair. Gracefully? Not really. And I still had those marvelously silver-banded teeth. Junior High was miserable and is worthy of it’s own blog. I was still working on the hair situation and didn’t have any friends. Once I thought I’d have fun and dress up for Nerd Day. During the Nerd Parade at lunch, somebody asked me if I was dressed up. Apparently my nerdy clothes weren’t significantly different from my regular clothes.

In high school things started getting a little better. I found some friends and I wasn’t quite so self-conscious. I started to figure out who I was and I didn’t care quite so much what some people thought. My eyes went bad and I got glasses. Now I think those specs were horrible, but in the 80s they really were in style as far as glasses went. (Right? They were, weren’t they?)

Luckily, the 80s only lasted about 10 years. The 90s and 00s have been a little more merciful and I think I turned out okay in the end. So perhaps my ugly childhood was character building or something. At any rate, if you have an ugly kid, or if you are an ugly kid, just think…eventually you might pull out of it. You might even be better for it. I don’t know…mullet over.