Sunday, March 28, 2010

"That book is dumb and getting breasts is a pain in the butt!"

The summer between the fifth and sixth grade years at school just stunk to high heaven as far as I was concerned.  Mom decided I was developing my breasts way to much for her comfort, so we had to have "The Talk" and I had to go brassiere shopping for the first time in my life. 

One:  "The Talk" in our neighborhood consisted of a mother handing her daughter a book (well-worn) to read that was a story about a girl who went out on a date with a boy, rode around in the back seat of a car while out on a double date, got to "French kissing" him and ended up with a baby.  Then the mother would say, "If you have a questions about this, just ask me" while silently praying that the daughter would be so confused she'd not ask any questions EVER.  That book went around the neighborhood to every girl that even looked like she might now have breast tissue or was growing hair under her arms or near her "privates".  None of us learned anything about menstruation from it, except that somehow French kissing lead to babies and that riding in the backseat of a car wasn't approved of by our parents.  Otherwise, the book was pretty useless. 

Two:  Bras were brassieres and they were very serious business.  Moms said so.  "You growing up now.  You have to have a brassiere."  Now, for those of you who have never had to go through this part of "womanhood", this can be a real jolt to your sense of who you are.  One summer you can take off your shirt and just play bare chested like everyone else (read that , the boys) because it was 100 degrees in the shade.  The next summer, you cannot, under any circumstances, remove the first stitch of clothing even if you are in danger of heat prostration because your Mom says so.  The boys weren't treating those of us whose mothers had deemed us in need of brassieres any differently.  That was the pervue of our adult female parents. 

My transition to "womanhood" came all in one hellish week early in June.  Mom had a bunch of the neighbor ladies in for cards, snacks, and to bring their daughters over so we could all be introduced to the "wonders of womanhood" together.  One, the girls and their mothers she invited over were as embarassed about the subject as she and I were.  Yeah, this was gonna be a great experience - NOT!  So, while our moms feasted on sandwiches, punch and played cards the 5 of us sat in the backyard in lawn chairs pretending we were getting suntans in our shorts and middie tops and passing around "The Book" and reading chapters of it aloud to one another...  and laughing our butts off from embarassment and from confusion.  At one point, Pam's mom leaned out the patio door and asked us if we had any questions yet.  Huh?  Questions about what?  Not one word in the book about vaginas, ovaries, cervixes, penises, sexual desire, intercourse or any of the other things "The Talk" is generally supposed to cover.  Just a weird and convoluted story about a girl kissing a guy and getting pregnant.  For all we could figure out, once you got breasts riding in the back seat of a car with a boy got you a baby and that French kissing was something our moms didn't want to explain to us.  The kissing part sounded intriguing, but, if there was no description of it, how could we figure out if it was wrong?  Other than that, the book was pretty useless.

The only common link between all of this foolishness that the five of us could determine was the extra fat on our chests that only 2 of us - me and Pam - were getting.  We decided right then and there that "that book is dumb and getting breasts is a pain in the butt!" by unanimous vote.  We even elected Pam to tell our moms the result of our voting.  The result of that vote was our moms taking all of us out for a brassiere fitting enmasse that very day!  Great, shopping for a brassiere, dying of embarassment, having someone else besides your mom measure your chest naked, and then bringing a whole slew of brassieres into the dressing room for you to try on.  Yepper, great experience, especially when all you were in the same huge dressing room together.  Yikes! 

What does all of this pubescent stuff have to do with being psychic as a kid?  And, what did it have to do with making that summer stink to high heaven?  LOTS!  One, I really knew what the Moms were all thinking and feeling even more acutely than I did before.  Constant fretting and worrying everywhere and about everything the girls and I did from dawn till bedtime and even after we went to bed.  The constant worrying and mental jabbering was overwhelming.  Combine that with the beginning of estrogen invading the bloodstream and it is a total chaotic mess.  I so didn't care that Mrs. V next door worried that her only daughter might see a penis before she "was ready"  - whatever that meant.  Nor did I care to know the innermost thoughts of any of the other moms with whom my parents interacted.  Good grief!  Puberty brought out the worst in their thoughts that's for sure.  And, then there were the thoughts and feelings from the girls themselves.  OVERLOAD!!!  And try as I might, it seemed like closing up shop for the night got harder and harder every minute.  I so wanted to go back to the summer before.  It was much easier and so much less confusing mentally and emotionally.  The changes in my body were changing the way my gift was working and I really didn't like it much.  It would have been so nice to be able to turn it off and just walk away and leave it sit there by itself.  There were times I felt almost psychotic from all the "stuff" swirling in everyone else's heads and in mine as well.  And there was no one to talk to about it at home.  Changes weren't fun and I really wanted this one to go away.  Little did I know it was going to get worse for me, much worse, before it began to get better.

Yepper, that book was really dumb, totally useless when it came to learning the facts of life, and getting breasts was a giant pain in the butt!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Closing up shop

There was one weekend when I stayed with my Cousin D and we both pestered Granma mercilessly all day and most of the evening.  Having left something at her house that D and I wanted to use, I dashed next door to Granma and Granpa's to retrieve it.  She was brushing down her hair with her eyes closed.  It was such a peaceful and beautiful moment to observe.  Granma S would always brush down her hair when I was younger.  She'd wear it pinned back all day for her factory work job and then at night, she'd unpin it and brush it down at night.  It was pretty hair - dark mostly with some salt and pepper gray beginning at the temples and at a curl in her forehead - and mostly down to her shoulders all around - really pretty hair.

"Whatchya doin' Granma?"  "Closing up shop!"  "Huh?"  "Closing up shop ~ telling everyone good night and get some rest ~ closing up shop."  "Why are your eyes closed?"  "So I can close up shop!"  "Huh?"  "Close up shop.  End things for the day.  Let 'them' know I'm done for the day and don't want to hear any more."  "Oh.  Have you seen my drawing pad?  I think I left it here before supper."  "Basement by the wringer."  "Okay, thanks!"  "Tell your Uncle J Granpa and I need him to help us tomorrow with picking all the blackberries that are left."  "Okay, g'night!"  "G'night!"

Doesn't sound like much of a conversation does it?  But, years later, like right now, I remember it so well and so darned clearly.  She was telling me something I really needed to know and had said so on numerous occasions - how to turn off my "gift" when I wanted to.  Doesn't sound like much of an instruction does it?  No, not really.  But, it was HUGE!!!!!   She had a ritual that she went through every day and night that told "them" that she was through listening and being engaged with them.  I just didn't realize it at the time because of my age and inattention to her subtle teaching about being "gifted" and how to manage it.   And, Granma was also telling me, without telling me, that she still had her gift and used it most days, even though it was something Granpa really didn't "cotton to".  Again, youth and inattention let me miss that one for a long, long time.

Granma was and still is a very important woman in my life for tons of reasons.  She was the first adult female to allow me (and my female cousins) to join the female rights of passage in her household:  sitting and snapping beans on the back porch and talking all afternoon; learning to run the wringer washer and hang clothes on the line while holding clothespins in your  mouth and talking about things; plucking, gutting and cutting up chickens for dinner(after they had been caught and had their heads chopped off by Granpa); shelling peas on the back porch and talking about everything; how to retrieve eggs from a hen house without being pecked to death; talking about menstruation without embarassment (something the mothers in my family didn't do well); letting the girls experiment with her make-up under her supervision so we wouldn't look like "trollops"; and best of all, learning from her that it didn't matter who the person was, if they didn't have manners and good behavior, they were 'poor' and needed to be shown good examples of behavior and "comportment".  She was also the person who told our parents to hush and let us be kids while at her house; let the grandkids eat any and all food with their hands, spoons only, or whatever struck their fancy because it would be a learning experience about how people in other times and places ate their meals; and who subscribed to National Geographic and talked to us about the bare breasted women and the oddly disguised penises of tribal men that appeared in its pages just because it was good for us to learn more than what was being taught in school.  In other words, she was one cool gal!  She was a heroine to me.  She taught us a lot about being kind by example, by talking to us about odd situations from her childhood, by deed, and by just living her life every day.  

It took me a long time to realize then that she was always teaching me in particular, and the rest of the grandkids in general, about "the gift" of being psychic, of knowing when ghosts were around.  How to tell if something is spirit or ghost.  What's good energy or bad energy.  How the land feels.  How plants feel.  How to listen to the wind and pick things up from it that are unspoken.  The memories still come back and teach me now ~ especially because I am working to retrieve them so I can remember those lessons more clearly.  Granma S was the Granma who told ghost stories sitting around the patio in the dark.  Or, the elder who told stories about her kids growing up and the entities that they drew to the homes in which the family lived, often to the shock and surprise of her husband and grown children.  She was quite the lady and one terrific Granma.

And she's just come to whisper to me, "Go to bed child, you need your sleep!  It's time to 'close up shop' for now.  Get goin'~NOW!"  So, with that I'm off to bed, closing up shop for the night and remembering that sometimes psychic teachings come in the quiet things said and observed and remembered later.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Did you kow that..."

"Did you know that if you sit really still and quiet your mind will too?" said my Granma S.  She was a peach of a woman.  Since I was always such an inquisitive kid and didn't like to sit too still unless there was something neat to do - listening to "them" for instance - Mom and Dad enlisted her help in trying to get me to be a little less "me" and a little more "what you are supposed to be".  Granma knew I would do anything she asked of me, if I could, so, it was a safe bet, or so my folks thought, to have her ask me to be less "me" and more, mmmmm, "not me".  Well, hard as I tried, my intellectual curiosity and my gift kept getting me all stirred up and in trouble with my parents.  Not a good thing this gift of mine.  I kept trying to shut it off, but, not knowing how it got turned on in the first darned place, it was pretty hard to figure out how to turn it off - even a little bit.

So, on the day Granma asked me if I knew about sitting really still and quiet, I decided to go for broke and ask her if she could tell me where to find the off switch for my gift.  "Granma, if I sit really still and quiet, will the dead people stop talking to me?  Will I not hear the critters every now and then? Do you know how to make that happen?"  Bless that dear soul, she didn't treat me like a nut case, nor did she bat an eye at the questions either.  She just said, "Child, if you are meant to hear and see them you will.  If you aren't you won't.  Your folks just want you to calm it down a bit, that's all."  "But, Granma, I don't know how to!  When Sister told me I'd have this stuff, she didn't tell me how to make it work, just that I'd have it and be able to use it to help people one day.  Do you know how to do that?  Or, don't you!"  (Brave kid, dumb kid, Granma hated sass mouths.)  "Well, I do, but, my way only works for me.  You have to find your own way."  Then she went on to explain to me that the women in her family always had this gift and most of them could not only hear and see, but could smell, taste and even feel the dead and their ailments, etc. (Portents of things to come many years later for me.)  Part of her heritage was American Indian (don't ask which tribe, I don't know for sure) and the heritage she had was from "medicine" and not to be taken lightly or abused or disused.  So,she told me that my "job" was to let my folks think I had given up on "the gift thing" and pretend it wasn't there any more.  That really sucked!  I knew it was like living a lie and said so to Granma.  She told me she hated living a lie too, but, to keep peace with Granpa she had to keep her gift under wraps because while he knew it was real and that she had it, he just didn't like her "using" it because of his affiliation with the Christian Church of America as a Deacon.....   something about the "Devil" and it not being "Good" but "Evil" - after hearing my Granpa disapproved of such things,  I was too crushed to listen too closely. 

As much as my folks wanted me too, I didn't stop hearing voices, or seeing people for the longest, longest time.  I didn't learn to turn my gift off either, nor did I try.  I just learned to sit really quiet and listen in my head to the things going on around me.  Didn't share it with much of anyone either - except Granma once in a while.  It got really lonely in my heart because I knew this was a living lie.

Did you know that if you sit really still and quiet you mind will get that way too?  You can also hear "them" a lot better if you aren't yapping away yourself.  I know this for a fact.  I've tried it.  HeHeHe

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"What Are You Doing Now?" " Listening to Critters Talk!"

Have you ever sat and listened to your critters talk to you?  Seriously, have you?  No, they don't have voices that you magically hear in your head - well, at least mine never have had voices, except of course for their purr or bark/growl or what have you.

The summer of my fantastic fourth grade year, we made a trip to my Dad's sister's house in rural Missouri near the mighty Mississippi River.  It was a boring trip, except for having to beg Dad to stop driving long enough to let us out of the car to go pee.  The cool part was visiting my Aunt D and her family, even drunken Uncle J.  We got to sleep on an upstairs summer porch that was all screened in.  You could hear crickets, tree peepers, bullfrogs, owls, even, shudder, bats whirring by.  What a magical week it was. 

Aunt D had a mynah bird named, appropriately, Mi Nuh Byrd.  Byrd liked to whistle.  Dad taught him to whistle Stars & Stripes Forever - off key!  All of us kids - the 3 of us in my family and Aunt D and Uncle J's 4 - loved the heck out of how ticked off at Daddy Aunt D got when Byrd would whistle that tune.  I had even more fun "listening" to Byrd talk to me about the going's on in the house.  He would show me images from his vantage point (base of a two-story staircase) in the main hall that was the central hub of the house.  Byrd's birds eye view of the household were hysterical to "listen" to once I figured out what they were.  Remember, birds have eyes on the sides of their heads, we don't.  So, the translating of the images was interesting for sure.  Gave the surreal household an even more surreal twist when seen through Byrd's eyes.    I sat for several hours one morning just talking with Byrd - silently of course - while everyone else, including the adults, were outside doing other things.  When Aunt D finally figured out I was missing, she came looking for me.  Finding me staring at Byrd, she asked what I was doing.  So, I told her, "I'm talking to Byrd.  He's talking to me too."  Now, parents talk about their kids with one another, this is something that kids know, so, I just sort of clammed up after having answered the question put to me.  What happened next was such a relief to me and made me love my Aunt D deeply till the day she died.  "So, are you using your mouth, or are you two talking in your heads?"  At first I thought she was making fun of me, but, her energies were telling me that she was seriously asking which type of talking I was doing, so, swallowing hard and taking a big chance, I told her, "We are talking in our heads.  But, please don't tell Mom and Dad.  That'll get me in trouble - again."  Bless that dear woman's soul, she laughed the best laugh ever and just hugged me till I thought I would burst into pieces.

"Child, your Daddy could see dead people when he was your age, and he talked to them too.  So did  your Granma.  Heck, even I know when there are ghosts and things around.  And both of your uncles could too.  Your Granma came from a line of folks with Indian blood in them and that's part of your heritage.  We just don't talk about it in front of your Momma because she has a hard time with all kinds of things since Sister died.  And your Granpa knows about it, but, with his upbringing, it's something he's not to keen talking about.  Okay now.  So, you go on outside now and play with the other kids.  It's our secret."  And then she gave me a big old winky eye and swatted my butt gently to urge me outside.   WOW!!!  Not only was I a weirdo, but my Dad, Aunt D, their two brothers and Granma were weirdos too!  I wasn't alone in the world - but, I still couldn't talk about it in front of anyone or to anyone with few exceptions.  Oh well, that was still great news and made the vacation even better.

Uncle J raised fighting banty roosters in addition to the regular chickens that laid eggs.  He and Aunt D also raised a few pigs, a few calves, had a milking cow (a lovely little Jersey named Hilda) and a sway-backed mare named Fern.  It was so interesting to watch those critters interact with one another and the 15 cats and assorted kittens, 4 hunting hounds and an old half-blind collie named Smooch.  Everything ran loose around that place.  The term these days is "free range".  Back then the phrase was "J's too damned lazy and drunk to keep the fences mended and the buildings fixed, so the critters pretty nigh much have run of the place except for the lane to the big roads."  Anyway, the critters all ran loose except down the lane to the big roads which had the one solid fence and gate in the whole place.  It was a glorious cacophany of critter sounds and messes.  "Go fetch the eggs in" meant you wandered over about 5 acres following where the flock of chickens had been to find their eggs.  "Milk Hilda" entailed finding Hilda, milking her wherever she was and gingerly carrying the buckets back to the house.  It was an absolute hoot!!!  Loved every minute of it.  I really did.  I wanted to stay there "forever" because it was okay to sit for hours and watch the critters doing their own critter things.  I was a kid, it was summer, and it was okay to goof off except at chore time. 

The banty roosters were some of my favorite critters to watch and listen to.  Forgive the pun, but, they were really cocky little birds.  They definitely spoke their minds quite clearly and with great opinion.  They really despised my Uncle J because he was a drunkard and he was rough with them.  They didn't like the fighting thing much either from what I could gather.  Roosters are a bit odd anyway, and listening to their thoughts was kind of tough because their field of vision is so different and so hard to grasp what they were saying. 

The hens were a noisy lot, both actually and mentally.  Jabber, jabber, jabber, jabber.  They really didn't like loosing their eggs to the humans, but, since they got to run around loose, they accepted it as part of the deal, so to speak.  But, they were so incoherent most of the time, that I got tired of them fairly quickly. 

Hilda and Fern were really neat though.  I could just sit near them and they would just wander over and stare back at me, or, if they really wanted to talk, would lay down next to me and just "be".  It was really neat to talk with them.  Hilda would let me lay next to her belly and rest my head between her udder and her ribs and just lay there and rest.  We'd talk about the weather, the other critters, Fern, the family - you name it, we talked about it.  She would follow me anywhere I walked, something she never did with anyone else, before we came to visit or after we left.  Fern was awesome too.  That old sway-backed old mare never let anyone ride on her bareback.  Never, well, except for me.  I'd bribe her with an ear of dried corn and she'd walk over to a place I'd tell her in my mind and up I'd climb and we'd walk all over the place like that.  No bridle, no saddle, just me, Fern and the halter that was always half off her head.  Mom about had kittens over our agreement when I asked Fern to "run" and she did - at full gallop - for about 5 minutes with me holding onto her mane at the withers.  Both Fern and I were having such a good time "running" that we didn't realize that it was scaring the bejeezus out of the adults - even Aunt D.   Mom screamed at Dad to "do something!" Uncle J stood there slackjawed and went, "Well, I'll be damned!"  So, Aunt D took a dish towel from the laundry line and stood in our path and waved it up and down a few times to get our attention.  Fern flashed me a warning to hold on tight with my legs and hands because she was going to slide to a stop in front of Aunt D.  WOW!!!!  We slid 50 feet quite literally.  It was terrific!  Mom was having kittens all over the place.  Dad was laughing so hard he was crying.  Uncle J reached for another cold one.  My siblings and cousins were all asking how I got Fern to move faster than a walk, and Aunt D was just grinning like nobody's business.  "Did you two have fun running?"  "Yes ma'am, we sure did!"  I so much wanted to tell her what Fern was saying, but, I think she already knew that the "old girl" had had the time of her life as well.  "Well, climb on down from there, take Fern over and give her a good bath, feed her and put her up for the night, okay?"  "Yes ma'am!"  The rest of the kids helped with that assignment, prying me all the while for my secret as to how to get Fern to (a) let them ride bareback, and (b) how to get her to run. 

For the rest of our vacation, three days as I recall, I wasn't allowed to ride Fern at all.  But, I got to sit and talk to the critters a lot.  It was great.  The other kids wanted to go swim in the river - the Mississippi River - but, I didn't like to and so I didn't have to go.  When they'd come back from their jaunt to the river they'd ask, "What are you doing now?"  "Listening to critters talk" was always my answer.  They thought that meant just sitting and watching the goings on of the menagerie that inhabited my Aunt and Uncle's place.  It didn't.  It meant I was sitting and listening to critters talk.  It's a trait I can still employ at times but, I am far more comfortable using my ability to sense energies to communicate with the critters around me these days.  It doesn't take as much translation, and, it's still as much fun as listening ever was.

Monday, March 15, 2010

two things you don't want to be when you are growing up, smart and "different" and I was both of them.

Okay, so you've heard about the birthday party, and, given that set of circumstances, why I'm none too keen on ever having a party of my own...   Anyhoo, it was not easy being me at that age, or any other one for that matter, because of my "gift" and my native intelligence.  Yepper, two things you don't want to be when you are growing up, smart and "different" and I was both of them.

Fourth Grade, weird times and adjustments were there for me throughout the school year.  First one came when I was moved from one class to another because of my "smarts".  Talk about your unpopularity on two fronts.  The kids in the class I left because I was now "a smart kid", and, the kids in the class to which I was moved because I was a "new kid" and was lousing up their close-knit, been together forever clique by being placed, albeit unwillingly, in their class.  Yep, fourth grade was a lot of fun.  Not.  My folks weren't behind my being moved from one class to the other.  That idea came from the teacher's after my assessment scores came out.  Swell, just swell!  Being in the upper percentiles intellectually should have been a blessing, but, it really felt like a curse.

The course work was a bit more difficult.  Not that I couldn't do it, just that I didn't want to do it.  No one asked me what I wanted to do, so, I rebelled in about the only way I could.  I didn't do homework, I did lousy on classwork because I wouldn't pay attention to directions, or do things properly.  Needless to say, there were more than a few parent-teacher conferences over my now abysmal grades and attitude.  Mom took the situation in hand after about the 5th conference in as many weeks by having a private chat with me that went like this:  "I don't know what your problem is, and, right now I really don't care.  You will straighten up and behave yourself in school like you are supposed to.  You will not goof off in class.  You will bring your homework assignments home and do them.  I will sign them and you will take them back to school the next day.  You will do this until I tell you differently.  Your Dad and I are totally through with your attitude and your behavior.  This new class will help you use your mind to its highest level.  Don't you want that?"  Pardon me for laughing my butt off here, but, no one, seriously no one, in their right mind should ever ask a kid that question when that kid has real feelings on the subject.  The outcome of that question is never the response that is expected to be parroted back to the asker.   So, stubborn, willful child that I was, I answered the only way I knew in my heart how to answer - honestly.  "NO!!!  I don't want that.  I want to be with my friends!  I 'm tired of hearing all the things the kids in the new class say about me in their heads and out loud all day long.  I want to go back to my friends and do the things that make me happy."

Well, that was a guaranteed wrong answer in thought, word and deed.  At first Mom just stood there, mouth open, looking horrified at me that I dared to have thoughts on this matter of my own.  After she stopped turning, purple, red, orange, and then fading slowly back to beige, she cranked her neck around a few times and asked me "What in the name of all that's unholy, do you mean all the things the kids are saying in their heads about you?  I thought you were all through telling people you could hear things that they were thinking...  aren't you?!?"  "Well,when the whole crappy class (bad phrase for a 10 year old) is thinking you shouldn't be there and that you are a 'dork' and a 'jerk' and a 'weirdo' it's kinda hard not to hear what they are thinking!  And, they are saying it out loud to me too at recess and in class when the teacher isn't looking.  So, you tell me, how do I turn it off?"   Whether that was a legitimate question or not in Mom's universe, it was in mine.  That, however, didn't count for much when the punishment for being a "sass mouth" was handed down.  Nope, didn't help one iota.  I saw a lot of the inside of my bedroom, which in 1960-1961 was filled with my bed, the bunk beds my sister and brother slept in and our 3 dressers, an alarm clock radio, a small school desk and a small bookcase full of reading books.  No toys, no record player, no dolls, nothing fun whatsoever.  That's where I went every day after school "to think about my 'sass mouth' and the trouble it got me into at home and in school.  Didn't really care.  It was quiet.  No one was talking to me verbally or telepathically.  It was sheer heaven.  And, my siblings had to stay out of the room because I was being punished.  "Shucks!" she exclaims as she snaps her fingers in delight!  If this was punishment, I wanted more of it.

Of course, my parents, being true to their determination to assure their children received every educational advantage available to them, insisted that I be kept in the new class to which I had been assigned.  This was after they shared with the teacher that I didn't want to be in the class and that I didn't want to do the work and that I just wanted to be with my friends.  Swell, just swell!  Now the teacher had my folks behind her.  Just what I really needed to make me the unhappiest kid in the fourth grade.  Until...  music class in the Spring of 1961.  Then, I became a total pariah.

It started like this. The music teacher wheeled her piano from room to room with the help of student assistants. The day in question the teacher's 2 assistants happened to be twin brothers who were black.  Once they wheeled the piano into the room, the "Hey, who dipped you guys in black paint?" and many other less kind comments were thrown their way.  I could hear their minds as clear as day, "I'm gonna ignore them dumb white kids and not punch their faces in!"  "Momma would whoop my butt if I hit you, jerk!"  These boys were also responsible for helping the teacher set up her musical charts for the class, which they were having an horrendous time doing while shaking with rage...  so, being the kind-hearted kid I was (and still am) I got up, went to the chalkboard and helped them with their task before settling back in my seat.  Their minds were going a mile a minute between themselves about how nice to them I was and how much they appreciated it.  When I told them I'd always be nice to them, by using telepathy, the smiles on their faces were HUGE!  So was the smile on mine.  It felt nice to use my "powers" for good and make someone feel better.  So, at recess, which followed music class, my classmates decided to quite literally back me into a corner and try to beat the crap out of me for being nice to "Negroes" and other imagined crimes.  Only thing is, the twins came to my rescue and beat the crap out of the bullying boys and girls for me and with me.  It was a glorious day - even when I was sent to the Principal's Office for fighting along with the twins and the bullies.  Bloodied lips, bruised cheeks, 2 skinned knees and some bruised knuckles were my badges of honor that day.  The whole time we were all in the Principal's Office, the twins and I talked back and forth mentally.  It was nice to know that I wasn't the only person able to do that and that they didn't think I was crazy or weird for being able to do something that they had been sharing with one another since birth.  Losing recess for the remainder of the semester was no big loss to me.  Nor was having the bullies told in no uncertain terms that their behavior was hideous and reprehensible and would not be tolerated.  My new friends and I had to sit out recess in the Office sitting on hard wooden chairs staring at one another.  Loved every minute of it and that's what made me a pariah.  I refused to disrespect 2 boys whose only crime was being a bit different in skin color and I wouldn't back down when cornered.  It was glorious to have the voices of the bullies in my new class silence.  It was glorious that 2 other kids could do what I did - hear and talk with their minds.  And, if no one in my new class liked me for it, well, that was okay too. 

Yep, two things you don't want to be when you are growing up, smart and "different".  I was both of them, and, I was learning that I'd be "different" for the rest of my life whether I liked it or not.  Social outcast, yes, I was headed there as far as the kids in school were concerned.  Smart, well, my folks saw too it that I learned to use my intellect whether I wanted to or not, and I came to appreciate it.  Who wouldn't love passing tests one barely studied for?  Pariah for sure, but, hey, I was already a shy kid, so I just learned to live with it and went on.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"She's Weird!"

Writing this blog is very cathartic for me.  As one dear friend has said, "a private journal made public."  Over the weekend I gave a great deal of thought about the things I've been writing and how they effected me then, and how revisiting them now effects me.  It was an interesting study in contrasts, that's for sure.  These days when someone tells me I'm weird, I usually agree and laugh or say "yeah, so what!" and go on.  Then, not so much.  It crushed me deeply and dearly to be thought weird and shunted off to the side by peers. 

Back to the story about the family reunions and meeting Cousin's Kids who also heard and saw people and things that no one else admitted to seeing and hearing.  That was a huge blessing to a young girl who was routinely made fun of when she mentioned that she saw and heard ghosts and spirits.  It was like heaven on earth.  If my folks would have let me, I would have stayed right there in the mouth of that cave and lived out the rest of my formative years in a place where other kids understood and knew what I was talking about and where no one thought I was weird - including the adults.

The same year as the family reunion, I was invited to the first and only birthday party I would be invited to by a girl named Linda in my fourth grade class.  It was a huge deal to me especially since I had never been invited to anyone else's birthday party ever, except for my cousins.  So, on the appointed day, I walked the 7 blocks to Linda's house with the present I had personally picked out and wrapped.  Wore my best dress - the one usually reserved for Sunday School and Church.  Mom did my hair so that it was pretty and shiny.  I felt like a pretty little girl going to a swell party.  It was the top of the world to be invited to that party.  When I arrived, Linda's mother opened the door and said, "Oh, you came!  Well, come in."  That should have been a clue, but, to an excited fourth grader, clues like that go over their heads.  Party games ensued as they do at birthday parties.  Couldn't help but notice that I was always the last kid to get chosen for teams and the first one to do things that had the potential for getting dirty and/or embarassed.  But, hey, I was at a birthday party and Linda wasn't a cousin.  It was still fun, sorta.  Until Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey.  I got to be the first person to play - not a good sign that even I couldn't ignore.  Blindfolded, spun around so rapidly and so long that I nearly barfed and then told to find the donkey and pin on the tail.  Yep, it was a disaster of epic proportions!  First, was directed toward the punch bowl which I proceeded to knock over and spill on my dress.  Then, guided by the rest of the guests' words, fell over a hassock and busted my lip.  Still foolishly game and wanting so much to fit in, I ventured on to where I was guided to jab that donkey's tail into the target.  It ended up being the backside of Linda's mother!  Not funny to her.  Not funny to me.  And definitely one of the earliest total humiliations of my young life, not to mention the now ruined church dress and my now fat lip that I would have to explain when I got home.

After she yowled in pain from me sticking a straight pin in her butt, Linda's mother took me upstairs to doctor my lip and wash my tear stained face.  I screwed up all my young girl courage and asked her why she had said, "Oh, you came." when she opened the door.  Reluctantly, she told me that she had told Linda she had to invite everyone in our grade to her birthday party - even the unpopular kids, of which I was one.  Linda told her she didn't think any of the unpopular kids would come, so, it surprised her when I showed up.  There weren't then, nor are there now, any words for how crushed, embarassed, humiliated, and just generally despressed I was at that news.  But, I decided to find out why Linda didn't like me, so, I asked her mom that very question.  Not knowing the answer herself, she called Linda upstairs for a quick chat.

I wished afterward that she had stayed downstairs and that I had never, ever, ever shared with Linda a her gaggle of giggling friends that I could see dead people and hear them talk in my head and all the other parts of my "gift" that I knew about.  When asked why she and the other more popular kids didn't like me, Linda replied, "She's weird.  She thinks she can see ghosts.  She talks to them in her head.  Well, we thinks she's crazy and we don't like her because she's just too weird!"  Prompted for a better explanation by her mother, Linda went on to say that the fact I always knew the answers to the teachers'  questions in school, was always trying to be nice to everyone, even the Negro kids that were new to the school (don't get all politically correct on me, it was the 50s and that was the language of the time) and that I thought I could talk to dead people was just too much and that the whole group took a vote and decided which of us should be voted the person who needed to be stayed away from the most - and that I was the person that won that vote.  Lucky me.  (Anyone want to know why I hate politics?)

Monday at school my life became a living hell, even after the teachers and the principal took my tormentors aside and told them to knock it off.   "Hey weirdo, who do you see today?"  "Pinned the tail on any donkeys lately?"  Being pushed and shoved on the playground was nothing new, but, it did reach a new level of intensity and deliberateness.  The other 6 or 7 girls who were also among the unpopular even stayed away from me because they were afraid of what delicious hell would be visited upon them should they be foolish enough to have me as a friend.  Fourth grade recess sucked and it sucked big time until...

"Hey weirdo, who do you see standing behind me today?" screamed Angela.  Taking about 2 seconds to really look, I saw her grandmother standing there frowning and crying.  She was tall, plump, had her hair in a bun on the back of her head and was wearing a calf-length dress with lots of pintuck pleats on the front of it - and I could see through her so I knew she was dead.  So, I screamed back, "I see your dead, tall, fat Grandma and she's crying and frowning."  "Lot you know, my Grandma is alive, you jerk!"  Only thing was, she wasn't.  She had died that morning just about the time we were all at recess.  Angela's mom came to school to get her about half an hour after the end of recess and told her her Grandma was dead.  Angela turned pale as paste, looked at me and asked, "How did you know that you weirdo?"  "I told you I saw her, didn't I! Maybe now you guys will believe me."

Whether the group ever believed me or not, I learned that having my gift could sometimes shut people up when they were tormenting me.  But, most of the time, it was that "weirdo thing" that kept me from having popular friends and I was really starting to not like it at all.