Tuesday, July 04, 2006

baa baa black sheep, have you any pain?

It's hard to be the black sheep.

I've been doing it all my life; I spent my childhood in the throes of familial humiliation because I was "weird." My dad, being a lover of sarcasm, often would not stop teasing me until I cried. Which wasn't hard, I cry as a defense. Some stinking defense; break down at the first sign of hardship and whimper like an abandoned kitten. Thank you gods and goddesses for that one.

While growing up I knew that at some point I had made a conscious decision to be the odd man out; I knew that I could not be okay with the rules of the game called life. I had to blur the role asigned to me as girl-child from an Iowa dairy farm. I wanted to prove that I was valuable, not only as a dishwasher and table setter, but as a thinker. I'm pretty sure the decision came when I was learning to read.

I loved The Three Little Kittens and still am able to recite it from memory. That was the first book that made sense to me as words telling the story of the pictures. I practiced "reading" it to my newborn brother (I had memorized the words and knew when to turn the pages) and often surprised the neighbors who had just popped in when such readings took place. I was 3. By my 4th birthday I could read the Dick and Jane series. I remember the feeling of liberation at doing something completely unexpected. It made me different and in a family of 4 children I needed something, any thing. So in a house full of Luthern Brethern* Republican farmers, I became the environmental liberal who read. I'm not sure, however, that I knew how painful it could and would be to be so different and I can understand why some people think it's better to just go with the flow.

My decision was facilitated by our abrupt relocation to California, I can't help but think that the higher powers that be couldn't let me be another small-town, mid-western statistic. In California it is easy, no, it is encouraged to be an environmental liberal and I fit right in. I wish I was able to say that I fit in amongst my peers, but I had books and lived in the country, and therefore it didn't really affect me.

To escape my family, I studied the hardest, got the best grades, took any extracuricular sport, and even signed up for german at the local Jr. college. I knew that if I stayed in the town, I would forever hate myself and probably them too. I ran away to college where I studied languages and political science to become more international. I often daydreamed about being from someplace else, anywhere else. After my first year, my girlfriends and I went on a backpacking trip across Europe, this only confirmed my beliefs and I resolved to live in as many foreign locales as possible.

It has been 12 years since my first taste of freedom. Freedom being the travelling stranger, able to create an identity at the drop of a hat. Moving whenever and to wherever the urge is. Now we are talking about conventional life. Building a business, buying a house, staying. It's time, what with Sassy about to begin kindergarden, but I can't help mourn a little for the places I have yet to live in.

Luckily, (for whom you ask? me or sassy?) all of the experiences have combined to give me my ultimate goal (this is totally selfish of me, but it has worked out amazingly well.) a child who is not only bilingual but multilingual. Multilingual. My Babygirl. At the age of 4. Oh, how I hope she enjoys this ability and she doesn't see it as a handicap to being the cool kid. You know how children are; they're so conservative.

*If you know about this weird sect of Luther, you know that there is absolutely NO: drinking, dancing, smoking, clapping, or playing cards. It's like Footloose. seriously.

1 comment:

Alisha said...

Amen sister! (It was just too appropriate to not post that in response to your post).
But honestly, I am very glad that you have questioned, travelled and learned from life. You are an amazing person and that is what Jules will learn from you. With that she will find her place in society.
P.S. This whole growing up, becoming domestic thing... It's just a phase, it lasts until the last bird has flown the coop and then you can be on your merry way again!