Friday, June 24, 2016

Mrs. Schrager's Excellent Advice


by Vol-E

I had a pretty mixed assortment of friends in my childhood. While I'm delighted to have successfully reconnected with several classmates since the advent of Facebook, there are still some people who, when I think back to the way they treated me, I can't help but ask myself  "What was I thinking??"

Diane was one of those people -- but this story is not about her. She moved clear across the country after 8th grade, and I never heard from her again. Zero loss. No, this story is about Diane's mom.

First thing you need to know about Diane's family is, her parents took child-rearing VERY seriously. I'm sure that if Microsoft had invented Excel back in the 1960s, Nat and Gene would have kept detailed spreadsheets, tracking every move made by Diane and her older sister. They were the sort of people who, if they made a joke, would look at each other worriedly, as if to say "Was that on today's schedule?" They had all sorts of maxims for Diane and her sister, including "Culture is wisdom," and "Be a leader, not a follower."  There were lots and lots of rules. On the few occasions when I visited Diane's home, they were very free with their philosophy. It was as if two kids weren't enough -- they wanted to raise me, too.

My parents, on the other hand, were what you might call loosey-goosey. And when I came home from a visit at Diane's house, I repeated all the pithy sayings I'd heard there, and my parents would turn it into comedy fodder. We took relatively few things seriously in our home, whereas Diane's family took everything very, very seriously.

My parents, of course, had plenty of their own expressions and sayings. They just didn't sound anything like the ones I heard from Diane's folks.

One of my parents' favorite words was "nut." If my parents said "You're a nut," that was a compliment. It meant "You're a free spirit, you're an original, you're a character, you're fun, you're interesting!"

Diane's parents were raising her and her sister to be the polar opposite of nuts.

But I didn't really understand most of this -- I was, after all, 11 years old. And so it happened that one fine summer day, I was visiting Diane; we were running around the house and the yard in the slice of free time before dinner, and at one point, I was feeling so exuberant, I grabbed a pen, drew a cartoon animal of indeterminate species on my left hand, and captioned it "I am a NUT!" I was so proud of this, I ran right up to Diane's mom and showed it to her. I was sure she'd congratulate me on my wit.

Instead, she put her kitchen work aside, regarded me solemnly, and actually knelt on the floor in front of me. She gently took hold of my decorated hand, and said "Honey, don't ever say that you're crazy, or you're a nut. The way you represent yourself determines the way people will treat you. You must respect yourself, or no one else will! Now go wash that off, come back and we'll have dinner."

Well, obviously, this little encounter stayed with me. It's been close to half a century since that evening, and here I am, contemplating it for the umpteenth time. Of course, Diane's mom was absolutely right. And it was advice I really needed to hear. I was much more used to thinking of myself as "a nut," however one might define that word, than as a person of worth and dignity. Childhood wasn't my best time; it took quite awhile to arrive at the sweet spot in my life, where I wasn't constantly expecting to screw up.

It is quite possible that Diane's hopelessly serious mom made a difference for me that day. I never became (god forbid) a "stick-in-the-mud," as my parents would have said, but I gave myself permission to respect myself just a little more after that. I washed some of my self-denigration down the drain with my crude artwork, and fortunately, it never came back.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cinderella, a Fractured Fairy Tale

As told by The Urban Blabbermouth

Act I
One fine sunny day.
A herald tacks a proclamation of the King’s Ball on a tree by the forest road.
The tree was a sweet Honeysuckle named Cinderella
Cinderella was unhappy
Her family tormented her
Her evil step-mother and her wicked step-sisters were stinky Gingko trees
Who spread their branches wide to spitefully block the sun
Cinderella begins to weaken and wither in the shade
And pines for a nicer life.

Act II
A Tree Fairy passing by stops to read the proclamation.
Talks to Cinderella as tree fairies do
Learns of her torments
takes pity and grants a wish
Cinderella wishes to go to the King’s Ball
The Tree Fairy God-Mother transforms Cinderella into a human girl
And her brown rough bark into a glittery golden gown
Warning, be back by midnight or else.

Cinderella goes to the ball.
She happily dances and dances with the Prince
The Prince starts to fall in love
He wants to escort her home
She lets him take her to the forest’s edge
He begs to kiss her good-night
They kiss sweetly and softly
Her evil step-mother and her wicked step-sisters watch in jealousy
The Prince departs happily smiling all the way home
At midnight, Cinderella turns into a tree.

Act IV
The Prince wants to ask Cinderella to marry him.
He goes to the forest’s edge and cannot find her
He finds her glass slipper on a Honeysuckle branch
And searches all the Kingdom for a matching foot
The Prince does not ever find Cinderella
Because trees have roots not feet.

The End.