"You Changed My Life" Part 2

>> Friday, March 7, 2014

Rather than re-explain, if you want to know what this is about, see my last post.

Three more entries:

March 4 - Robin Bernard

When I was a kid, I was part of a large but financially strapped family. Not complaining. Many kids had it worse. But that meant my clothes were made by my mother or hand-me-downs from friends or from Goodwill mostly. I wasn't (and still am not) particularly fashion conscious so it didn't particularly bother me except that, with the combination of being the smart kid from out of town and my personality, an uncool wardrobe just cements that loner kid thing. I couldn't fix the clothes thing and wasn't "savvy" enough to pretend to be stupid, but I did make some effort to make my personality less abrasive. I wanted friends like anyone else.

I'm guessing I wasn't very good at it, but I tried to fit in, to be part of the crowd.

I thought I had a friend on Robin Bernard in second grade (third grade?) and, when I got actual new shoes (red, no less), I bubbled, wanting to share my joy with someone.

"Stephanie, all you do is brag," she told me.

That stopped me short. I hadn't thought of it as bragging, certainly not in the I-have-something-you-don't-have kind of way (though it might have looked that way to her) and I can safely say I wasn't in the habit of crowing about new clothes. It didn't happen that often. I had, in fact, tried very hard not to put myself forward, not to talk about myself, not step on anyone's opinion or whatnot in the interest of being less disliked.

And something snapped inside me or, perhaps, fell into place. Robin had completely (in my mind) misread me, but it didn't matter because she had already decided who or what I was. All my pretending hadn't changed anything. And it never would. And EVEN IF IT DID, it wouldn't be ME she liked.

So, right there, I decided I would never pretend to be what I wasn't ever again, I wouldn't fake an opinion, or be part of a crowd on any topic I didn't believe in, didn't agree with. I would not go with the flow. I would not play stupid. If someone's different opinion did no damage, I might (MIGHT) be quiet; if I thought it was harmful, I would stand up against it, even if it made me more enemies.

My reasoning, even this young was better to have no friends, or just a couple friends, than the wrong sort, better than not being myself. Scoff if you will that I'd think that at the age of 8 if you want, but that epiphany was the rock I held onto dragged hither and yon to different schools all during my youth, always the outsider, always the smart kid from out of town, generally not much liked. But, when I did find a friend, they were the best possible kind of friend and I knew they liked me for me because that's the only me they were exposed to.

To this day I'm in-your-face smart, I don't mince words, I'm sarcastic, I'm forthright, I'm honest, and I'm pushy. I don't have secrets, really, because I'm not ashamed of anything I've done, or rather, if I am, I'm not unwilling to share it so it can be a lesson to others. I've made plenty of mistakes but I'm willing to take responsibility for them. I'll tell anyone about just about any aspect of me without worrying about my stories not meshing: one of the advantages of unfailing honesty (though my time sense sucks and I'm bad at names and acronyms so some of that might be off).

So, Roy, if you think I'm amazing for exposing these many bits of myself to all and sundry, Robin is to thank for it. Because of her, I am ever and always myself to, hey, everyone. And I refuse to be ashamed of it. How's that for inadvertently changing someone's life?

March 5 - Stephanie Loyd

Since Stephanie can't wait, apparently, because she's somehow confused as to what she did to change my life (though you'll notice she's sure she did), I'll do her next.

Stephanie, not surprisingly, fits in that category of people who have an effect on my life almost daily, who console and inspire and amaze me with their presence and brilliance, compassion and intellect, soul and drive.

I could tell you how she taught me to think beyond myself in ways I never thought possible because it's true. She enabled me to prove to myself that I wasn't the selfish brat I'd been told by parent and then husband, that I could care about someone more than myself (though, honestly, I always could - they just hadn't noticed). I could tell you how it was the realization of the example I was to her that let me break out of a horrific miserable marriage where I was completely marginalized because I wanted her to have a healthier relationship than that for herself. I can tell you how blown away I was with her talent and generosity of spirit, her down-to-earth practicality, her whimsicality, her personal drive. All that's true.

But this is about single events that had a profound change in my life. And she has one of those, too. At 7:45am CST on August 30 1994, when she was born.

She changed me to a mother, completely reordered my life and provided what was, for many years, the only reason I had worth living for. Beautiful, brilliant, sweet, bursting with personality, she scared and awed and confounded me and she hasn't stopped since.

I have three gorgeous children that I love very much, that I adore, but she was the first one to make that change in me and, for years, she was the only one. And no one else can ever be first. I love you, Stephanie.

Even if you don't want to read my novels.

March 6 - My first grade teacher (whose name I don't recall)

Sorry about this yesterday. Preparing to go out of town so scrambling to finish work. You'll note I can't recall my teacher's name here. That's not a reflection on her; I'm terrible with names so there will likely be several nameless entries.

When I was young (as I might have mentioned before), my family moved around a great deal. The first four children were all born in different states, for instance. Also, for some reason, my kindergarten didn't jump into reading like most kindergartens do now. I don't recall what we did do (except at least one craft project, a ceramic something I molded but moved before it came back from firing so I never saw the finished product - probably for the best) but it wasn't reading. My guess it was more like structured playing.

So, when I started first grade in yet another school, where most of the other children had done at least some reading in kindergarten, I was convinced I was an idiot and would never learn to read. The logic kind of escapes me now, but I'm sure it made some version of sense to me at the time.

In my new first grade class had three blown up balloons right at the door of various colors, one of which was red and, right on the balloon was written the word R-E-D. My first (of many many) words. I don't remember if she taught it, if I picked it up, how I picked it up, whether that was the only word I learned that day. But I learned that one and my outlook entirely changed.

I was dancing and twirling and shouting out with glee: "Mom, I learned the word RED!" Reading went from "impossible" the mandatory overnight. You couldn't stop me. I read everything from aspirin bottle warnings to novels way too old for me. I couldn't be stopped. (At one point, my mother did try to rein me in a bit [fourth or fifth grade] and limited me to 100 pages a day - and I cried [and cheated - I read when she wasn't looking and at school]).

I learned to do my work and tests faster so I could use the time to read. I wandered into dreamworlds and new worlds and had, vicariously, the adventures and childhood I didn't really have in real life. Books are a huge part of my life, not only creating them but also reading them, studying them, losing myself in them. I couldn't do without them.

And it all started with one word: RED. Thank you, you wonderful teacher, you. I wish I could remember your name.


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