I have a few vague early memories of things like birthday parties (my parents told me it was my second birthday), Christmases and summer holidays. I think my first clear memory was an ordinary Saturday afternoon. I must have been about three years old, it was warm, but not that warm, probably Spring, maybe Easter time. My parents and I were visiting my grandmother in Milwaukee and we stopped by a grocery store in an older densely developed neighborhood = no parking lot. We parked across the street at a meter, and, as we were crossing to get to the grocery store, I noticed a primly dressed young woman with a pixie (“Tinkerbell”, I thought) haircut, a modest cotton dress with short sleeves, no jacket, sitting on the bench at the bus stop. She was holding a bunch of yellow daisies in one hand and has a small picture (5×7), I think it was a painting, of similar daisies in a vase in the other hand. She was looking from the picture to the real flowers and then back to the picture, with a perfectly serene smile on her face.
When we got to the grocery store it was crowded and my parents had trouble finding a few things (not their neighborhood any more). Between one thing and a tother, time was running out on the meter. Dad had to go back to the car to feed the meter, and, I, of course, in the way of small children was bored out of my mind—I’d found the cookies and the ice cream right away and everything else was Mom and Dad’s job and if they were slow I didn’t understand why I couldn’t wait at the front looking at the coloring books like in Green Bay. So, when Dad had to run across the street, I begged to go with and, of course, they said OK.
When we got outside, we had to wait at the corner for the light. The lady with the flowers and the picture was still at the bus stop, with her serene smile, looking from the picture to the flowers to the picture. I might have been a little kid, but I knew by then that buses came on the regular, even on a Saturday, and that lady was still at the stop. As a tiny little child, I had no idea why someone would sit at a bus stop and miss their bus. Plus, even as a little kid, I found this woman’s serenity disturbing, even from a distance. So, in my proto-Hermoine Granger way, I earnestly inquired of my father, “Daddy, what’s wrong with that lady? She’s just sitting on the bench and she missed her bus.” As we stood on the corner, less than six feet away, my dad responded through his teeth, “I think she’s stoned.” So, I ask, “Daddy, what’s stoned?”
Mr. Smart Guy didn’t know what do at that point. Dad basically kept trying to shut me up. I think I was confused with stoning like they talked about in church and wanted to know who was throwing stones at the lady. Dad was like, “No, not that kind of stoned.” Back in the grocery store, I was all, “Mommy, Daddy said someone was stoned. What’s stoned?” Back at Grandma’s, “Grandma, do you know what stoned is? I don’t know what stoned is. Daddy said someone was stoned.” At some point, someone actually tried to explain stoned to me, mostly I’m guessing to shut me up. Yeah, like that was going to work or something. I was still talking about stoned days later when I got home and ticked off a whole bunch of parents. Heh!
Which is all to say two things: 1. Without question, as a child I lacked curb appeal at times, and 2. I’ve been tired of the Entitlement Contingent since before I can remember. If there ever was a group of people for whom live and let live as a concept simply did not exist, that is them. From Big House Mania to driving across the street (Really?) to my health care has to be free (how’s that working out long about now?), have to swap out the wardrobe twice a year, “If you bring your lunch from home, cook dinner in or clean your own bathroom, you’re a life loser!!! Same thing if you mow your own lawn!” O-K. Mwah.
Hmm. I think I like my walkable neighborhoods, practical spaces, home cooked meals and fresh food. I think I like traveling at 2-10 miles an hour. I think I like fresh air, parks instead of parking lots. I think I like my food from a nearby farm, and I think that is more important to me than my (apparent?) divine right as an American to a 5,000 square foot house with a three car garage.
I think I put a value on people who appreciate the old neighborhood. Who care about the place they came from and want to stay regardless of whether it is the nicest neighborhood with the nicest houses, regardless of whether they can afford more. Maybe they want to put their money into retirement savings, or vacations or giving something back to the neighborhood that helped them grow up.
We all get tired at times, convenience eat, pay someone else to care for the lawn, might be nice or necessary and why not? But the slams on people who don’t? Ooohhh, beyond low blow . . . . You just don’t know, do you? Don’t know why someone makes the choices they do and maybe the addy isn’t cool or the outfit isn’t trendy or the ride isn’t “right.” Hmmmmm . . . .
I suppose this is a good one for Throw Back Thursday, because I think I sound like I’m writing on the day that I saw the Lady at the Bus Stop. Or maybe about a decade or two before that. Midcentury we fought a War in Europe to free a continent and then later we fought a War over here to free our own Peeps. And after that one, well, we did get a Reminder about what that War was about. Not just window dressing, not just some coins on the ground. (Of course, the Midcentury War in Europe was also preceded by the “guess you didn’t get the point” Early Century War in Europe—so maybe some people learn slow? Wow, that’s a pattern for you—the War and the Do-over War? Nice.)
My first memory is the Lady at the Bus Stop. The Wars for the most part came before that, all a World I’ll never know. It’s strange hearing about that World, sometimes. Particularly, as a someone who has been known as an imaginative person who has a tendency to color outside the lines, sometimes it sounds like a very oppressive and threatening place (place in Time, that is). I’m fortunate, as the color outside the lines crowd goes, I am someone successful at “passing”, as it were. Somewhat successful at appearing mainstream, like everybody else nothing different, stand out in a way that doesn’t stand out. In the ways that it is OK to stand out. :S
I guess it is about choices, and a matter of proportion? On and off scale? A matter of choices are choices and whether someone chooses one way or the other, paper or plastic or bring your own bag, it’s all good. Except when your choices preclude someone else’s. Until someone decides that the choices aren’t important because to them there is no choice, only one way. One Way. One Thing We All Have to Have the Same. Where “We All” are only some people, which can be good or bad . . . .
At some point, I wonder if the clique get so small there is no one left. That’s Heathers, right? One Heather dead, one Heather broken, the last one made redundant by her singular coolness. Wynona Ryder hanging out with Martha Dumptruck.
To the Masses, they have a way of coming out on top. 🙂