Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And the Lilies of the Field

In my hometown, there is a single high hill that overlooks everything else. From that promontory, you can see the whole town and quite a ways into the county. It's higher than even the cliff on which my parents' house sits, but that's not what makes it unique.

I just heard from someone back home that the March lilies, or what other people call jonquils or daffodils, have bloomed.

Decades ago, long before I was born, someone planted daffodil bulbs all over that ridge. In my childhood, every March, it would erupt into a brilliant sea of bright yellow for a few short weeks. My first grade teacher lived there, and I envied her the fact that the March lilies were in her yard. Mom would organize all the local Girl Scout troops for a hike up the winding streets to the top of Buckner Hill, as it's known to locals. We were allowed to admire the flowers, but never to pick them, because a Girl Scout always leaves nature as she found it.

For a few years, the March lilies' growth became furtive, and nearly ceased. The once-blanketed hillside hosted only a few clumps of volunteers here and there- I'd even wondered if someone should quietly climb the hill and plant new bulbs to revive it...but they've done it on their own. Everyone has told me to come home at once, before it rains, so I can see the flowers this year.

To me they will always be innocence and joy, symbols of life before it was intruded upon by rude and cruel reality. They are true. They are pure. They are a breath of life in a tainted world.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Boys (and Girls) of Summer

Spring has finally sprung, and with it the usual spring athletics and the forthcoming summer sports, which have entered the training phase. A friend's daughter is taking lessons to become both a pitcher and catcher for league softball. I weighed in with my advice about playing catcher, which is my old position- and succeeded in spooking the mother a little bit.

I judiciously left out the gory details about the three times I got clocked with a bat- one of those was a sandlot game and I wasn't wearing any gear. I could see the ball coming in high and outside, registered the batter's swing, but miscalculated her pivot; as I eased up out of the crouch, she caught me across the head with an aluminum bat, which makes a distinct, shrill ping when it contacts something. I heard the ping, then a gong-like sound...and then, nothing. That particular incident rendered me deaf for two days and raised the concern that it might become permanent. Fortunately, it didn't, but I have a residual fear of losing my hearing. After that I also refused to play in any games, anywhere, if I wasn't going to be provided with catching gear.

As a catcher, I was also cleated and the equivalent of full-body tackled on numerous occasions by folks who didn't want to be tagged out. The most aggressive cleating incident left gouges in my leg...and that was a summer fun league! If I'd been any good and tried to play competitive ball, well, that can be a lot worse, depending. I managed my sister's minor and Babe Ruth teams for about three years, and often as not, there were coaches who encouraged a degree of meanness that would make the Marquis de Sade proud. Little Sister played shortstop, which is fairly dangerous when there are pushy base-runners. She got hit numerous times, but was also known for her grit and refusal to get out of the way of much larger, far stronger girls.

Most of this was in aid of our father's former career as an NCAA D-1 baseball player. He was good, and in fact, he was scouted by the Chicago Cubs before he quit the team to focus on his sagging chemistry grades. He was a three-letter athlete and let's just say that I was a huge disappointment in that area...the only things in which I lettered were Academic Team and band. My sister, though, was a naturally gifted athlete who was encouraged through expensive, out-of-town gymnastics lessons, parentally-supported league softball, peer-inspired golf, and the odd round of tennis lessons. She ran cross-country and a leg of the 440 relay for about a year until she lost interest. Meanwhile, Dad was about to blow a gasket because his resident jock wasn't interested in team sports.

I don't think that children's league sports are necessarily that dangerous, and it's statistically proven that girls, especially, who participate in extracurricular activities have a brighter future than their less-involved peers. It's just my hope that the stage mothers and bleacher coaches don't drive their children to participate even if they aren't that good at it or don't really want to do it. That extends not only to sports, but also to forcing your children to conform to other unreasonable or unrealistic expectations related to school or their social lives. If dealing with that were a sport, I'd hold a high-degree black belt in it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm a Southerner, and What of It?

Let's just get this out here in the open: rarely, if ever, do I make direct reference to my Alma Mater, but today I'm going to...I hold three degrees, one undergraduate and two graduate, from the University of (by God!) Kentucky. This whole flap about "smart kids" (Cornell) versus "dumb kids" (U.K.) really grated on my last nerve. U.K. was fourteenth in order of preference of the sixteen colleges and universities to which I was accepted...I was not there because I wanted to be there. I was there because they had offered me a full ride- and much to my horror, at the last possible moment, my parents informed me that they hadn't saved enough to cover the difference between my scholarships and the tuitions at the more elite schools to which I was accepted.

Add to this that I had just watched an elite school, The Johns Hopkins University, chew up and summarily spit out the boy I loved over the course of the preceding year and return him to me in tiny little fragments. It made me somewhat leery of heading east for school.

The hillbilly/dumb hick stereotype really puts a crease in my shorts. The week after I graduated from high school, I was quietly eating my hotdog at a cookout in Toledo, Ohio, when one of the other guests, a very gauche woman who'd just spent an inordinate amount of time braying about the exact cost of her new Movado watch to all assembled, said to me, "Oh, you have the cutest little Tobacco Road accent!" I rose from the table, dragging my sister behind me, hissing, "Madam, if you had read Erskine Caldwell, you would know that this is not a compliment." She had the gall to complain to our hostess, who incidentally has a PhD in literature. I won. I also walked out of that room a confirmed, card-carrying Southerner with that chip firmly planted on my shoulder. When this happened, I'd only been home from the senior trip to Florida for a couple of days, where I'd been asked repeatedly if we wore shoes on a regular basis (since we were, y'know, from KENTUCKY.)

When the media started painting U.K. as some kind of post-modern hillbilly black-hat in the NCAA basketball tournament, it got my attention. Just as all who wander are not lost, all who attend a state university are not mouth-breathing morons who couldn't get in anywhere else. As I posted in my Facebook status last night, "Cornell can kiss our collective Big Blue Butts." This is not because I care about U.K. basketball that much- it's because I AM one of The Smart Kids and I am an alumna, by default if not by choice. Education is what you, as the student, make of the opportunity at hand and what you do with it when the formal part of it concludes- not what's stamped on your diploma. In the end, you are a human, not a piece of paper or a college 'brand name'.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Parental Health A-Go-Go

(Ed. note: My mother came through with flying colors and is now waiting to watch the UK-Cornell game.)

This morning I'm in my office, about to run up the wall. My mother is having a cataract removed back home, and I'm not there because she insisted that she and my father could manage this without either my sister or me. Joy. That's the blind driving the blind...Daddy won't take the time off from his practice to get his own vision checked.

I called to check in last night and Mom informed me, with no little exasperation, that not only did they expect her to show up without hairspray, she was to arrive at the surgical suite with no cosmetics. As every Southern girl will attest, and particularly those who know my mother, that's tantamount to saying, "Why don't you just roll in here buck naked?" I have known more than one Southern lady, including my late grandmother, a former Miss Arizona and native of Texas, who expressed nothing short of outrage over this. All three times I've had surgery, I've taken my own pajamas and a full makeup kit to the hospital. I've dragged my tired, drugged-up butt out of the bed to put on my face and clothes while strung out on morphine...just in case I got visitors, you see.

As Mom continued to carp about the hairspray, it dawned on me that I had an ace in the hole: "Uh, Mom, hairspray is flammable. They're going to have a laser up by your hair in the morning. You need to forgo styling products." Of course, no sooner did I say it then I had a vision of Mom's hair catching fire during the procedure with a resounding FWOOSH! Bad thought. Very, very bad thought...Lady Clairol is keeping her a nominal redhead at this juncture, and we don't need to add literal flames to that.

I realize that this is routine, but Mom reacts strangely to things that have no effect on most other people. Three years ago, she nearly bled to death from a low dose of the most common bloodthinner on the market- something from which she has just barely recovered. Her hemoglobin count just rose into the low-normal range, which is why they can proceed with the cataract surgery today. I'm not prone to panic and I can't afford to let it get to me, but my nerves are shot. Now I get to sit here and stare at my cell phone until Dad remembers to call.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Last Word in Automotive Accessories

My current place of residence is home to a huge car show every month between April and October. In fact, this little shindig was featured in Hot Rod Magazine last summer, the visitation of which caused no small stir in town. We even surrendered our campus to this event, shutting down to allow the DJ and many of the show cars to set up in our parking lots.

You could say we're a little crazy on the point of things automotive. The college is developing a classic car restoration major within our automotive repair program. Here in town, there are many places at which one may acquire all sorts of doodads to go on one's car...however, tonight I witnessed something a little...eh...primal.

After work, I ran out to the grocery to pick up a few things. As I was driving home across the street where the college is located, I got behind an old Ford F-150 that was loaded down with scrap metal. The guy kept braking every five or ten feet, so I couldn't avoid paying close attention to him. We got to the four way stop below the nursing building- it was then that I noticed something dangling out the window in the passenger's hand. I squinted to see what it was and the horror washed over me:

It was the flattened corpse of a squirrel.

I grew up sixty miles from here in a much smaller farming town, but I had never, EVER in my life seen somebody riding along dangling roadkill out the window of a vehicle. I could almost hear "Duelling Banjos" playing faintly in the background as we inched past the campus. We got past the second entrance to campus and had just started up a small rise when the driver decided to randomly hang a left. I got one more prolonged look at the pancaked squirrel as they swung out in front of some poor guy in a Honda Pilot and disappeared in the general direction of Wal Mart.

So there you have it folks: the fashion icons of Lake Redneckville have thrown down the gauntlet. We dare you to top a flat, dessicated dead squirrel for automotive chic!

Up on the Roof

The weather is turning a little warmer, and with the change in the seasons, I'm reminded of one aspect of my childhood: hiding on the roof. SouthernFriedMomma recently devoted a blog to truths revealed to her by time and maturity, and she included a nod to the sunbathing sessions in which she and my sister engaged as teenagers, on that selfsame roof.

Chez Airedaleparent is a two-story brick Colonial with a single-story family room jutting off the left rear of the house. There's a wooden sundeck extending from my parents' second-story master suite from which the roof of the family room can be reached, if one is willing to throw a leg over. The house is situated on a cliff overlooking a low plain; on a clear day, it's possible to see all of the farms between there and the county line.

Long about the sixth grade, I realized that despite my fear of heights, I could easily get out on that section of the roof. I also discovered that my father was disinclined to come out there to get me, so as long as I was on the roof, I was in No Man's Land. I frequently studied up there during the next six years, using a Walkman to tune out any ambient noise and as justification for ignoring my family in general. As long as it wasn't raining, snowing, or freezing cold, if I wasn't to be found, I was out on the roof.

Around my sophomore year, I also located my father's telescope. Dad's original stint in college was paid for by Naval ROTC, where he learned celestial navigation. When I was a little girl, he would take me out on clear nights to lecture on the constellations, teaching me the names of the stars, the meanings of the shapes, and the properties of stars themselves. Using his stuff, though, was off-limits, so I had to be a little sneaky about swiping the telescope, remembering to wipe it off when I broke it down so that he wouldn't find out.

It's been twenty-one years since I last went up on the roof with the telescope. Sometimes I flirt with the idea of observing the Perseids, and then quickly dismiss it. My last trip was by way of farewell to a lot of things, and I have long since realized that it's within my scope to hide in plain sight.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

You Can't Unsay It

Last night, my sister and I were having a long conversation about various topics. In the course of it, I brought up the most hideous thing I've ever said to someone in my entire life. As much as I'm willing to own it and as it will haunt me into my grave, I will not repeat what I said. However, the person to whom I said it was a boy named Doy Davis, another member of the Quick Recall Team.

He'd been needling me all day about something or other, and as much as I can remember, it all started because he was lobbying Hopkins along the lines that I wasn't all that smart. They were friends and I was shaping up as competition, so yes, it was stupid juvenile jealousy. He was at it again by the time I boarded the bus for the tournament, so in a flash of white-hot anger, I turned around and leveled the nastiest coup de grace I've ever delivered.

The enormity of hit hit me immediately; mortified, I pivoted on my heel and instead of taking my usual seat with Hopkins, I retreated to the back of the bus. I didn't talk to or interact with anyone for the rest of the night, except to answer questions during the matches. I resumed my exile for the trip home.

I cautioned my sister to listen carefully, because I would never again repeat what I said to Doy. It's impossible to shock her, but I watched as her eyes flew open and her jaw dropped. She couldn't believe it. "And you delivered it in that cold, flat voice, didn't you- the one that you only use when you're beyond angry." Of course. I had sliced through him as cleanly as if I'd run him through with a sword, and left him to bleed to death all over the aisle of the bus.

To paraphrase Andrew Jackson, may God forgive me, for Doy never shall- and I can't blame him. I can't forgive myself. It was monstrous. I refused Holy Communion for six months afterward because the sheer sin of it weighed me down like a stone.

I have set a timeline to complete this tour de force of my adolescence: it all drops dead in a year and a day from my fortieth birthday. I won't forget, but I think the time is fast approaching when I will no longer want to talk about it anymore.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Barking, the Incessant BARKING

This weekend marks one of the largest dog shows in North America, the Kentuckiana Cluster in Louisville. I was quite pleased to note that there are 49 Smooth Fox Terriers, the breed I used to own and handled as an emergency substitute a couple of times in both Louisville and Lexington. Smooths are far rarer than Wire Foxes, the cuddly little monsters who should be sold with a set of track shoes- Sherman, our one and only Wire, could've probably outrun the Concorde.

Through this show, I've observed some of the top people in the dog show world, including a couple of the foremost terrier people who've ever lived. I'm told that Mrs. Winifred Stout, who is a Fox Terrier legend, will be there this weekend; we have corresponded in the past about Fox Terrier Rescue. When I was a little girl, I met Peter Green, the other terrier legend, and I've never forgotten that he made time to speak to me every year. Bill Cosby and William Shatner have their dogs exhibited in Louisville (both own various terrier breeds, concentrating primarily on Lakelands in the last twenty years or so).

This is not some regional fly-by-night- it occupies an entire wing of the state fairgrounds for five days by main force every March.

There are some things of which you need to be aware if attending your first dog show. I'm not trying to patronize you, but I'm saying this because professional handlers can be a bit stressed out:

  • Do not EVER pet a dog in the grooming areas without express permission from the handler.
  • Watch where you put your feet. Poop happens!
  • Try not to be offended if a handler ignores questions if you're just outside the ring. This is their job and their livelihood depends on remaining totally focused.
  • You might get yelled at by a handler or an assistant for no reason. It's not you. Trust me.
  • Take some allergy pills with you. There's a lot of doggie dander in the air.
  • Wear comfortable, closed shoes. You're gonna be on concrete for hours, and again, poop happens.
  • Take plenty of money. If you're a dog person, it's like landing in shopping mall heaven. Also, the food is expensive at the venue.
  • Keep your children under strict, direct control at all times. There will be thousands of dogs and around ten thousand or so people at any given moment. You don't want your child to get bitten or go missing.

For those of you with a sense of humor, you might want to sit down and watch Best In Show beforehand, too. While it's hysterically funny, it's not too far off the mark. If you've spent any time on the circuit, you'll know how close it hits to home.

A show is a great opportunity to learn about the various breeds as well. If you are considering a purebred dog, locate someone who is showing that breed and try to engage them, if they have a little downtime, about the breed. They live with these dogs 24/7, 365, so they'll be able to answer your questions. You can learn all about temperament, grooming costs, health issues, suitability with children, et cetera, plus you can actually look at live examples of almost every AKC registerable breed.

I will be in the foyer with my rescue, Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption, Inc. , probably on Sunday. If I'm not there, two of our other coordinators, Bob Seis and Sandra Mauk, will be on hand if you're interested in adopting an Airedale from us. Stop by and say hello if you decide to attend the show!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Annual Flying of the Termites

A few minutes ago, I heard our workstudy student, Linda, announce from the service desk area: "They're baaaack!"

I emerged from the office to see her pointing to a small pile of swarming, winged insects. Ah, 'tis springtime and the bloody termites are back for their annual visit! The assistant director placed a call to the maintenance office, and a few minutes later, one of the custodians arrived with a can of termite spray. She asked if we would mind the smell- we told her no, we'd mind the smell a lot less than we minded being flown into by termites.

I already had a headache and some nausea- I think I might be coming down with some kind of bug (no pun intended)- but that lovely chemical odor is not helping. I've got an advisee coming in at 1:00 this afternoon and we may set the speed record for advising appointments so I can go home. I'm getting greener around the gills with every passing second- let's just hope that the only thing this junk kills is the termites. The gentleman who cleans the building every night will probably have to vacuum up the termite corpses during his shift.

Why couldn't we have something other than termites to herald the onset of spring? Something cute...something cuddly....oh, well. Two years ago, a nest of skunks took up residence under my office window, proof that there are definitely worse odors than termite spray!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Farming: A Reality Check

On my travels with the marching band, we belted out many an old TV theme song to alleviate some of the implicit boredom that goes along with long trips on school buses. "Green Acres" was a standard part of the repertoire. The cute and popular 1960s fish-out-of-water television show that went with it embraced every possible stereotype about people living in an agricultural community, albeit in a sweet, charming way. You never got to see the real downside to living in the country or the dangers of working on a farm.

For instance, everybody remembers the pet piglet from the show. What you never got to see is that the pig would eventually grow into a large, mean-tempered beast who could not only kill you but would also certainly consume you (yes, eat you) if it did. The most vicious variety of hog is typically a sow with a litter of new pigs- anyone who's ever been around hogs knows this and gives a new mother a wiiiiiiide berth. Hopkins' family owned and operated the largest hog farm in the county when we were growing up...one morning, he showed up for school exhausted, and volunteered the information that he'd gotten penned in by a new mother sow while feeding the hogs the night before. He'd stood trapped behind her, motionless in the cold and dark, for hours until his father realized he hadn't come in and went looking for him. If he'd so much as flinched, that sow would've killed him. It made me truly thankful that he could be that still for that long and also that my mother's family had gotten out of hogs after my grandfather died.

Most people took it for granted that I was a townie, since my father is a doctor and we lived in a subdivision inside the city limits. Nobody realized that I spent the majority of my summers dividing my time between the family farm a hundred miles away, and my godparents', where there were a dozen or so Tennessee Walking Horses living in a stable behind the house. My older two uncles were horrified when they learned that the farm manager once allowed me to help bring in the herd when the cows got out- Mom's family didn't believe in letting women do anything dangerous like that- but I was there, the hands needed the help, and my uncles were unreachable on the other farms at the time. There was a lot of yelling about how I could've gotten trampled, and then the manager was told not to let me work with the cows anymore...so I was relegated to stuff like catching and killing moles in the garden. I hate moles, which are incidentally creepy and difficult to kill. I would've rather taken my chances with the cows.

Because Dad is a general practitioner in a small farm town, he sees everything from croupy babies to fingers chopped off in the baler. Evening meals during crop season were often interrupted by calls from the hospital notifying Dad that one of his patients had suffered an injury. He'd get up, put on his white coat, and leave immediately, while my mother gathered his plate off the table and put it into the oven to await his return. Sometimes we'd hear the Medevac helicopter (an old Vietnam-era Huey, until the city hospitals purchased newer private air ambulances) fly over the house, its meaning clear: the injury had outstripped Dad's ability to effectively treat it at our local hospital, and the patient was flying out to a trauma unit at one of the city hospitals.

The reason that the dangers of farming are weighing so heavily on my mind today is that one of my father's longtime patients, someone who's been with the practice since Dad first arrived in town over forty years ago, died yesterday in a farming accident. Learning of yesterday's accident from a former bandmate, I called home to ask my parents what had happened- my mother had heard that there was an auger (a large drill-like farm implement) involved. I asked her to stop. That's a level of farm accident about which nobody wants to know the details.

My father delivered this man's children. He treated the whole family all their lives. I went to school with two of the daughters. It's the kind of tragedy that eventually touches any farming family and sends shockwaves through the whole county, because you know how easily someone in your family could be next.

Folks, your food doesn't come from the freezer case at WalMart. It doesn't magically appear on the shelf at Kroger. Some farmer grew it or raised it, and risked his or her safety to do it. Think about that the next time you slap those ears of corn or a package of steak on the conveyer at the grocery.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Smart as Paint and Twice as Colorful

I have a (distant) cousin to whom I refer as Lucifer, because he's as beautiful as they get and bad as homemade sin. I recently discovered, by accident, that he's a guest of the Great State of Tennessee, County of Davidson, City of Nashville, until the end of June for his latest stunt. I'm not sure what this one was, exactly, but it's listed on the Department of Corrections' website as a probation violation. I also don't know for what he's probated, but it's a misdemeanor and I'm willing to bet it's drunk and disorderly, or straight up public intoxication. Anyway, I had a hangup call on my voicemail from the Davidson County lockup, and since he was living down there (last I heard), I decided to do a search on the inmate listings. Bingo.

Usually when he disappears off the face of the Earth for a prolonged period, he's either off to Japan for work (a major automaker that has NOT been in the news of late) or back in jail again. He tends to live in the bottom of a bottle, which is really too bad since he's quite brilliant- just not brilliant enough to avoid getting caught at whatever deviltry into which he's gotten.

We have an odd relationship. He's strangely overprotective of me, while conversely being an ass the rest of the time. He's done some things that I wish he hadn't, including spying on one of my boyfriends, a Brentwood attorney, at a Titans football game. His employer's box wasn't that far from where said boyfriend was sitting that day (or so he said); Lucifer was angry because I'd been invited to Nashville for a jazz concert the previous evening and summarily shuffled off home before the game. He proposed that I attend the game with him for the purpose of proving that I didn't need any stinkin' boyfriend to get me in, an offer which I politely declined. I'm just glad that he got so drunk that he couldn't stagger forth for a confrontation, although I was later treated to a lengthly, scathing diatribe on the subject of men who will not introduce you to their friends.

It's just as well. I don't believe in professional sports, and in my world, football is what brackets the band's performance at halftime. That's the only reason I know squat about that sport- the fifty zillion freezing Friday nights spent hauling a drum around a wet football field in high school. Lucifer played for Tennessee- to my eternal shame-you could say we disagree on the relevance of the actual game, plus I attended a rival university. It makes things interesting around Thanksgiving...

Anyway, I went out and bought him a "Thinking of You" card, noting inside that Target was fresh out of "Sorry You're Back in Jail" cards. Enclosed is a letter that includes my observations regarding his lack of criminal acumen and the notion that he needs to find something else to do with his time. Don't let my cavalier attitude fool you, though; I am worried about the little twit. All that brilliance, and nothing productive to show for it...what a shame.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Not-so Secret Asian Cat

At four a.m. this morning, I was awakened by a steady tap-tap-tapping on my right shoulder. Since I sleep alone, that was a little disconcerting, until I heard the plaintive yowl that accompanied it. I opened one eye and found that yes, my Siamese cat had decided that it was time to inform me of all the injustices in his life at that precise moment.

I did what any sane person would do: I picked him up and heaved him into the floor. He did what any determined feline would do, and immediately leaped back up to resume punching me in the shoulder.

This kind of thing makes me strongly reconsider cat ownership. I am fundamentally a dog person anyway, so the fact that I have not one but three, count 'em, three cats is incredible. Of the three, Frosty is the friendliest and also the most annoyingly clingy. I'd wanted a Siamese cat ever since I was a little girl, due in no small part to That Darn Cat! and Bell, Book, and Candle. There's also the small matter that the breed's eyes are the same color as mine. All of the wrong reasons, of course, and as a dog rescuer I can tell you how truly egregious they are. Nevertheless, Frosty came to me from a rescue a couple of counties away. He's a great cat, except for...

...tap, tap, tap..."MWOW! Meeeeeeeeeeewow!" at 4 a.m. .

He's a smart cat who regularly converses with my mother over the telephone. She came to stay with me a few years ago when I had my tonsils removed, and the cat fell in love with her. They haven't seen each other since, but the minute he realizes she's on the phone, he perches on the bannister and begins his loud lament. I have to put Mom on speakerphone. She says the people she's told about this think she's nuts. I, on the other hand, have witnesses.

The running joke around my house is that his stealth mode is seriously broken. He believes he's invisible, so he'll start across the living room floor toward the stairs, slinking carefully (it's wide open space, so he has zero cover) along the center of the room until one or more Airedales notice. The dogs run behind him as he lopes, like those nature films of cheetahs on the desert plains, to the baby gate separating him from certain doom.

I was just thinking the other night that I am blessed to have a Siamese with a great personality. They have a terrible reputation, although I haven't really met one whose attitude is half as bad as that of my tortoise cat. I'll probably always have at least one Siamese around, but I hope that the next one doesn't decide that the wee small hours of the morning are an appropriate time at which to air grievances.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I didn't go to any DAR meeting...

The title is a line from Glass Menagerie. Most Southerners know it's a big deal for women of a certain age to join specific things once they're out of college, particularly the Junior League, the Womens' Club (when they age out of Junior League), and various hereditary societies.

Failing a Junior League chapter where I live (and an interest in that kind of thing, someday I'll share with you how I quit my debutante ball before it happened), my godmother, who is a "joiner" of the first water, made sure that I was quickly inducted into the Daughters of the American Colonists ("Darlin', it's more exclusive than the DAR...") just after I turned eighteen. I can count on one hand the number of meetings I have attended in the interim- one of those as the presenter, when I was finishing my M.A. in history- and most memorably, the one where I informed the assembled membership that I found the bylaws of the organization inherently racist. You can imagine how that went over.

I am also eligible for the Mayflower Society, First Families of Virginia, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Huguenot Society. Huguenots and FFV are the most difficult to get in, but I have clear documentation for all of the aforementioned.

What this boils down to is that my family (rather, my mother's family) has been in the Americas a very, very long time. My interest in this could fill half a thimble, yet my godmother insisted, and therefore, I'm in the DAC. Someday she may actually expect me to be an officer. That's gonna be a wild ride, because the answer will be a qualified, "No." I'm waiting.

She means well, and I do love her. Her other project, heaven forfend, is getting me married off before she dies. She is a 'big girl' herself and never, for that reason, expected to get married; having accomplished that hat trick, she is determined to do the same for me. Ergo, she is unaware that I'm dating somebody at the moment and we need to keep that and the whereabouts of any unattached heterosexual males of approximately my age and social background a state secret from her. One of the things we are definitely keeping from her is that Hopkins lives in the same city as she- as he will never get a nanosecond's peace if she figures it out. Her memory is like a steel trap, and she asks about him from time to time, to wit: "What ever happened to that little friend of yours who went off to school in Baltimore? The one that you were so crazy about..."

Ugh. That was about two and a half decades ago, but thanks for asking.

The Southern Matronly Marriage Mafia is on the scene, y'all. This is why I never tell her when I am seeing someone. She gets all wound up and it's twenty questions every five minutes about him until it just seems easier to dump the guy than answer the interrogation. Bless her heart.

Monday, March 1, 2010

We Do it Class-y in the Country...

My sister got married a few years ago to an unsuspecting young man who is originally from...the Midwest. As in the cornfed, flat, calm middle of this Great Land of Ours. He was ill-prepared for the enormous, loud, and *ahem* colorful sprawl that includes our family and friends.

First of all, it is a family tradition, if one can, to get married on Halloween or close to it. It was my maternal grandmother's birthday, and it's also my parents' anniversary. The year that Little Sister got married, Halloween fell on Friday and the wedding was set for Saturday, November 1st.

Shy little flower that I am (and soul of probity), my sister, upon informing us that it would be a theme rehearsal in costume, turned to me and deadpanned, "No cleavage in church." This forced me into an immediate mental revision of my costume, since she'd just decreed that my favorite leather corset was out of the question. (Hey, I would've worn something under it in church. My parents and godparents are elderly. I didn't want them to die from shock less than 24 hours before the wedding.) The thing is, you have to be specific. If you don't say I can't, then it follows that I can. We'll get back to what I did wear in just a second.

The groomsmen, all from the Midwest like my brother-in-law, arrived with various costumes. One guy, in particular, had rented and transported an entire Captain America costume to Smalltownland for this event, complete with shield. He ran around the church yelling, "I'm Cap-tain A-mer-i-ca!" And then there was one of the Three American Tenors, who came rolling in with a tiara and a sash emblazoned with "Miss America". The best man, the groom's brother, is a Presbyterian minister near Walt Disney World in Florida. His family came as the major characters in Peter Pan: he was Captain Hook, his wife was Wendy Darling, and their children (ringbearer and flower girl) were Peter and Tinkerbell.

On the bride's side, my best friend, who along with me had been decorating first the reception hall and then the church all day, did not have time to put on her costume. One of my sister's sorority sisters rolled out as the little girl from "The Ring", and her best friend came as a 'cartoon witch' (since she does not celebrate Halloween for religious reasons, it is a testament to her love for my sister that she complied at all).

And then there was yours truly.

The "no cleavage in church" directive had annoyed me to no end, so I decided to make the most of NOT falling out of my costume: black lipstick, freaky spiked up hair extensions, fishnets, shiny patent platform boots, and a black skirt held together up the front by giant safety pins- completed with a black PVC top- however, per the bride's command, NO CLEAVAGE showed in this getup. I'm pretty sure by the time I rolled out of the church basement that night, she'd realized that cleavage was the least of her concerns. My godmother cringed when she saw me; that alone was worth the price of admission.

My sister started to complain as I held up a warning finger to silence her. I hadn't slept in three days and I was zero-tolerant: "You said no cleavage. I want to point out to you that there IS no cleavage, but other than that...well, at least I didn't have time to put in my fangs." I pivoted on one chunky four-inch heel and marched off, leaving her standing there in the aisle with her mouth agape.

The whole shebang was rounded out with my sister in a thrift-store wedding gown over a hot pink turtleneck and my brother-in-law in an orange polyester tuxedo...as he is almost six and a half feet tall, I'm still trying to reconcile where in the world he laid hands on that.

At the conclusion of the festivities, the pastor said he'd never been through a rehearsal quite like that in his rather long career. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a compliment, although to his credit he has a great sense of humor. A lesser man might've heaved the whole lot of us out into the street.

On the day of the wedding, though, a charity motorcycle road-rally came through town about an hour before the ceremony. Just after it was over, a lone biker returning through town got caught at the light in front of the church. My best friend, all four-foot-eleven of her, marched out into the street and asked, "Would you mind letting the bride have her picture made on your Harley?" Being a really nice man, and as it turned out, the son of Smalltownland's longtime Bookmobile librarian, he obliged. He even loaned her his Gargoyle sunglasses. It was the perfect end to a wacky wedding...if you don't count the keg in the back of the truck at the reception.

We're all about class and dignity back home. Truly.