Thursday, November 28, 2013

big mike

Big Mike strolled over to the side porch and peeked around the corner real quick. Yep, Aunt Maimie was working Daddy's shirt through the roller, getting the water out. At her feet was a big basket full of other just-washed things. If he stepped out now, the next 20 minutes would be wasted hanging out wash.

He eased backwards through the front door of the summer house and walked as quietly as he could down the shotgun hall to the back of the house. If he cut through the copse of pine trees, he could circle around that way and Aunt Maimie would never even know he'd been there. He had something to do that could not wait. The excitement propelled him forward.

Monday, November 25, 2013


There can be no doubt that I am a quirky individual. In fact, I take great pride on being an individual who lives in an authentic way. When I catch myself "faking" anything, the realization is always accompanied by shame. And, of course, I am human and imperfect, so there will be those moments!

I'm 55. But I can look back over my life and see a pattern of quirkiness. My earliest years (1959-1964) were spent in Japan as the daughter of missionaries. My hair was so blonde that is was almost white. I stood out!!! It was not uncommon for Japanese people to touch my hair and exclaim about how soft it was and what an interesting color. I'm quite sure that I absorbed the message that I did not belong! I was quirky.

My personality was beginning to form during this time. My parents tell me that I had an astonishing level of energy, unlike anything they had seen with their first three children. I would never stop moving all day long and would resist bedtime until finally I would simply collapse from exhaustion wherever I happened to be. I was also an entertainer. A recording of me telling the Goldenlocks story is now lost, but was a hilarious insight into my 4 year old personality. You can hear my oldest sister, 8 years my senior, attempting to guide me through the telling. I keep saying "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" in a very dramatic way, making it very clear that it is ME telling this story!!!

First grade found the family in Massachusetts, where my extremely poor English made me an easy target for the cruelties of children. I spoke Japanese fluently, but avoided saying anything because that only led to misery. There was no winning. I was the outsider and would be for all of our four years there.

But if I thought that was bad, I was totally unprepared for the next move to Georgia. My English was fine by then, but any Southern person can tell you that kids how move there from Massachusetts have a whole different set of challenges to face! The Boston accent! The lack of familial connection to anyone there! The inability to identify a hushpuppy! It was murder.

When you're on the outside looking in, the only people who embrace you are other people who are on the outside looking in. So it's no surprise that both in Massachusetts and in Georgia, my circle of friends included other misfits. We were ALL quirky! And together, we helped each other feel normal.

Georgia was my home from 5th grade through 9th grade. In 1973, we moved again to North Carolina. Again, I found myself on the outside looking in. But it was easier. I was learning to ignore people who didn't like me. Instead, I adopted an "I don't care" attitude and used my energy to identify people who DID like me! I graduated high school with a handful of high school friends and a wider circle of friends who were older.

College was easier. There were lots of quirky people there! We formed "The Family", with pseudo-marital and familial relationships that created a complex family tree. But we all loved each other, quirkiness and all!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

moon pies

My family moved from Georgia to North Carolina just prior to the beginning of my 10th grade year. The move was quite mind-boggling. In Georgia, I had been close enough to the big city of Atlanta to be exposed to cutting edge music, innovations in the distribution of marijuana and even national and international trends and ideas.

Entering the quiet and closed, rural part of North Carolina to which we moved was like going backwards in time. The people with whom I interacted had very little awareness of the wider world. They would often stare at me with widened eyes as I talked about one thing or another. I was a musician and quickly found a band, which then led me to take up with one of the guitar players. I was 15 and he was 19. His friend sold pot out of his house. He would buy kitchen matches by the case, throw the matches away and pack the empty boxes with pot. When I showed him plastic baggies and suggested a scale to weigh the bags, he behaved as if I had just invented sliced bread. Years later, when I read Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, I totally understood how it felt to have people be in awe of you for knowings things that were common knowledge in the place from which you had come.

One thing I didn't know about was Moon Pies. I'm sure they were sold in Georgia. But in North Carolina, they were iconic. "RC Cola and a Moon Pie" was often mentioned as if it was mana of the gods. There were even songs written and recorded about the duo. But as often as I heard of the two as a pair, I do not recall ever seeing someone consume the items together. Within my own family, we were strictly Coca-Cola loyalists. The one taste of RC Cola I ever had just did not measure up. But I did eat plenty of Moon Pies during my years in North Carolina. They were huge, so one would be a sufficient snack that would stay with you for a while. And everybody's mother kept them stashed in the pantry.

My best friend, Linda, who no longer speaks to me because she is ashamed of our wild teenage activities, had a mother who would greet us as we walked in the door by reciting the entire contents of her kitchen. I can still hear her now. "Are ya'll hungry? I can fix you a ham sandwich. I got some Beanie Weanies. Ya'll want a Moon Pie? I can heat you up some soup. We got chicken and stars or chicken noodle. Ya'll want some Ritz crackers." The list would go on as we sidled past her and into Linda's room, politely declining each offering. "No ma'am. We're not really hungry. No thank you. Maybe later. Thank you, no, we're not all that hungry." Once in her room, we would collapse into giggle fits that would not stop. If the giggles started to run out, one of us would say "I got some Beanie Weanies", and we would crack up again.

My high school years were difficult because I felt like a fish out of water. There was really nobody I felt a true kinship with. (Even Linda seemed provincial to me.) I was unable to keep my mouth shut and would challenge teachers and refuse to be dominated. The great teachers attempted to challenge and guide me. The horrible teachers sought to stifle and punish me. And my classmates were mostly locals who had spent their entire lives together. I was strange and new, which in the south often translates to WEIRDO. Anything that is DIFFERENT is observed, but only rarely embraced. It was a strange three years! Thankfully, my college years were amazing, with a great group of friends and plenty of joyous experiences.