The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED THIRTY FIVE: That’s The Way I Was Raised…
“That’s the way I was raised.”
Have you ever heard that? Have you ever said that?
I have said that from time to time. It’s usually gets said if I’m talking about something my parents tried to impress in me. Or it was something that was something they were raised on which caused me to be raised on.
There have been some good things that have come from that:
I enjoy baked chocolate chip cookies when it’s cold out.
I learned how to change the oil.
I learned how to fish.
It’s OK to cry after a bike wreck if you get scraped up.
I was taught that sometimes you need to touch dog or cat poop with your hand to pick it up.
It’s fine to eat a tomato straight from the vine in the garden.
Once my dad figured out I wasn’t ‘tearing things up’, it’s OK to take things apart to see how they work as long as you put it back together in working order.
And there were a few more. But you get the point. I took these things and not only accepted these things as truth but I expanded these things into bigger things.
The chocolate chip cookies made me appreciate all things that make me feel comfortable when I felt anxious, things that helped me remember how it felt when I was snuggled in a blanket in the den downstairs watching TV.
I learned to fix things that broke and make it last longer. And when I fixed things for other people, I looked like a hero.
By picking up poop as a kid, I learned that when I have to get my hands filthy in work where other people would scurry away. Again, hero status.
Crying is something that I have realized it is a part of me. I learned that being a sensitive person isn’t a bad thing, no matter what some ‘tough, gruff’ person might think.
Lot’s of things we get from ‘how we were raised’ are wonderful. They’re things we want to pass on to our children and we want them to pass them down to their children and on and on and on…
But with those wonderful things, there are also things that might have been past on to us that weren’t so great.
Living in the south, I have seen how my parent’s generation was and some of that tried to get past down to me. But, once you reach a certain age, you don’t have to let that dictate how you see the world. And to be completely honest, if you are bright and listen to your heart, you can ignore those ‘pass-me-downs’ before that when you’re still little. Sometimes you just know if something is right or wrong.
I’m going to tell you a story about something that happened when I was about five or six. Please understand, I’m not passing any blame on my parents. This is about one of those moments when, at a very young age, I learned about differences. Or what people thought were differences.
There used to be a department store in Murfreesboro, TN, where I grew up, called Roses. I loved going there. It was a smaller version of what Wal-Mart is today. And being a kid, I loved to go to the toy section. This was before the days of Star Wars or G.I. Joe’s that I happily spend my money on. This was the age of Hot Wheels and coloring books. I loved coloring books. I’m not sure what my dad thought about that. Maybe he thought I’d be more of the football, baseball, basketball kind of kid. Later on, I was sort of. But then, I loved to be creative. And coloring was a way I could.
Now, next to the toy section, in the corner of the building, was a cafeteria. From the toy section, you could smell the freshly baked rolls (a weakness of mine then and now) and the fried chicken. They had all kinds of vegetables (some I like, some I HATED) and rows of homemade jelly pudding sundaes (yeah, another weakness). I guess it happened to be around lunch because my stomach was growling and I wanted some chicken and a roll or two. I was a skinny kid, so my parents let me eat when I wanted.
So, we enter the line and I start thinking about how good it’s going to be and the coloring books I was going to get after when I see an older man that I had seen before. My dad either worked with him or I’d seen him out in town and my dad stopped to talk to him. But the point is, I recognized him.
And he just happened to be a black man.
So, I tug on my dad’s hand and say not too quietly, “Hey, daddy, there’s that chocolate man.”
My dad’s face turned a color white that I had never seen before on his face. Thinking back, I’m not sure why I said that. Maybe I heard it in kindergartner or on TV or some friends in the neighborhood (there wasn’t many of those). I may have heard it from relatives. I’m not sure. But I automatically felt like I had said something I shouldn’t have. My face went three shades of red.
This man started to laugh so hard he nearly fell to the ground. Even the ladies behind the counter serving the food got a good laugh out of it since they were mostly African-American themselves. My dad apologized to him and he just waved it away. He said he preferred that to other things he had been called. And I remember what he said to me like it was yesterday.
“You’re alright.” And gave me a nod.
He got his food and sat at one side of the cafeteria and when we got ours, my dad sat us on the other end. He needed to say something and didn’t want to be overheard.
“Son, he’s a man. Just like me.”
I still felt bad. I was a sensitive kid (still am). I hated the idea that anybody was mad at me. My dad gave me a talk about how I should never comment on anyone’s color. I understand now why he did. In the middle to late seventies, things were still getting to the point where it wasn’t so much ‘them’ and ‘us’. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there still was ‘them’ and ‘us’, especially in the south. And there still is for some damn reason.
I’m just happy the man didn’t take offense. I even gave him a smile and a wave as we left. And I was glad he returned both.
My dad grew up in that south. Just like my mom. Both grew up in the separation of whites and blacks when it came to restrooms, restaurant entrances, water fountains, etc. But my dad got out in the world and lost a lot of that ignorance that he grew up around. My mom lived in the country and was bombarded with it most of the time. Those feelings stuck with her longer. She did change, eventually. She had a husband that thought differently and a son who admired people for their works and not anything else. She did see the light, years before she passed.
That’s the way I was raised is honestly a cop out. It’s a term we give people as an excuse. Sure, like I said, there are good things you can say that term. But, when it comes down to it, it’s how you feel in your heart.
I was raised a certain way but I grew up another. I learned to make my own decisions and listened to what my inner voice said. And I would think about that man in line laughing good-natured at what a little, skinny very young kid said.
He knew it. He grew up one way and grew up another, too.
All I can say is…raise them right…
January 4th, 2019
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.