Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Embarrassments of Love and War: Part II

Because I have a really bad memory, I cannot know for sure how accurate these recollections are. So much of my past is just gone from my head that I really only feel like I should be about 14 years old (I only have enough memories for someone about that age, I think). But some events have survived the cognitive blight that is my memory.
In the previous essay I focused on the embarrassments we suffer from our “kids” (our dogs) and don’t have enough yet to write an essay about what our cats do to us. I guess so far I can tell you that from outside it must look like a cat-fraternity house. They are both female, so technically you might think I should call it a cat-sorority. But I think we associate wild abandon, excess partying, and destruction with fraternities. So we live in a Cat-Frat (Kappa Alpha Tau).
If you happened to be walking by our big front window you might see a cat dangling from a curtain rod while another cat peers upside down from the drapes swatting and teasing her sister who has her claw stuck in the gauzy fabric (this is how haunted house décor got started). The curtains and drapes are a mess and we’ve had to replace the rods twice now. To reinforce them, we’ve taped long strips of wood to the metal rods and strung the curtains over that mess. 
See? Not much to say. At night when we are trying to sleep, that’s when it sounds like 10-pound bags of potatoes chasing each other sloppily around the house. This usually gets Socrates howling and barking which, despite his sexy voice, is not conducive to deep or restful sleep.
So this essay will be focusing on me. (Everyone’s favorite subject, right?) I thought it might be nice to give some examples of how I embarrassed my mom when I was little (my father wasn’t really around much, so while my mother’s embarrassments were usually public, I think his embarrassments were limited to the private disappointments he had in me).
Ok, since I was the first-born, no doubt when I was an infant I cried in public, pooped in public, puked in public, etc. New parents are probably always embarrassed by these introductory baby events. Even older than that, I was never the screaming child collapsed on the floor of the department store wailing because I was being denied a toy. By the time my sister came around, I doubt that they would have been fazed by such stuff anyway. So let’s skip that and go with what I actually remember.
The earliest memory of embarrassing my mother I can think of is probably when I was somewhere around five to seven years old (totally a guess – but surely not older than that). This memory is slightly enhanced because my mother would sometimes tell people this story. Parts of it seem like real memories to me, other parts I rely on her story.
Keep in mind that I lived pretty much by myself. No playmates to speak of (at least not on anything like a regular basis). So I never really learned any social skills. I basically lived inside my head. To be honest, I don’t have any idea what I did for play when I was little (like before third grade). There is a vague memory of some Playskool toys (pastel colored nesting cups?) but I wonder what I did to keep myself occupied? Doesn’t matter. The bottom line here is that I lived in my head and had to find my own sources of amusement.
Well, one thing that really fascinated me was when a sunbeam would slice through a window to the floor. It was like a “thing” to me. Sometimes, under the right conditions, there would be multiple columns of light shining through a window. The beams seemed like they should have felt more solid than they were. I would pass my open hand through the beam to try to feel the substance of it. Nothing. I couldn’t tell what was happening. Was it avoiding my touch? How could I not feel any resistance?
The sunbeams also seemed to have texture. This made it all the more amazing that I could not feel it. Although I did not know it at the time, the texture I was seeing was the reflections of light bouncing off of the particles of dust floating in the air. But since I could only see that when the dust floated through the light, I believed that the sunbeams contained or were made up of the particles. So I would pass my hand through the beam and watch the particles dance and swirl in the wake I left behind. I wanted to capture some of these floating “things” so I carefully reached out with both hands and clapped into the light to try and catch some of the little dots of whatever. CLAP! Slowly bring my hands to my face. Open hands and find…?! Nothing. Drat! Try again! Clap! Look. Clap! Look. Clap! Look. I probably tried different clapping speeds, but nothing seemed to work.
Who knows how many times I did this. I was in my own little world and trying to figure it out. Nothing embarrassing about that, right?
As it turns out, a conversation had been going on between my mother and a neighbor during my methodical clapping into the air. Yeah. Well it was a proud opportunity for my mother to brag about her son to the neighbor as they sat in the other room drinking coffee and smoking. Apparently someone had told (lied to?) her that it was already clear that I was college material. I suspect that she had timed her delivery of this information so that it would be the last thing she and our neighbor talked about as we concluded our visit. She wanted to leave impressively. So as she expanded on her brilliant son whilst being escorted through the house to the door so we could go home, they turned the corner to see little-boy-brilliant sitting on the floor. What was Mr. College Material doing? Well, it looked like he was staring vacantly into the air and clapping slowly at nothing, probably with his mouth hanging slack. (At least I was not a drooler.)
We did indeed leave the house impressively.
The neighbors had little to do but talk about each other. So I can only imagine how that turned out for my mom and her standing in the group.