Friday, September 18, 2009

It's not all bad

I saw a toy recently that is meant to help kids learn to tie shoes. I was searching for baby stuff because CC and his lovely wife recently had a baby girl. I have purchased this and this and this for the little one, but you know I can't resist poking around for more. I have resisted Baby Gap (this time), but there are a few baptisms coming up in our family.

Anyway, the toy took me back. I was not very good with fine motor skills when I was a child. I read quickly, but writing and learning how to maneuver a pencil was a challenge. Let's not discuss the scissors thing. (Incidentally, I just dropped one of our plates on the floor and as it crashed into a gazillion pieces, my husband could only shake his head and comment on my lack of hand/eye coordination. It hasn't gotten any better.) ANYWAY, I couldn't pass kindergarten until I learned how to tie my shoes. Since I knew everything else - my name, my parents' names, my phone number, my address, my ABCs, my numbers up through 30 - this was a source of great consternation to my parents.

They never said anything to me, but I knew that they were a bit disappointed in me. I could repeat the steps aloud. I could watch them do it a million times. But my fingers just wouldn't make the loops and push those slippery laces through those loops. I was their child, a child they knew was bright, a child they knew could and should move on to first grade. How dare this one thing trip me up? How could I let it trip me up?

There were hours and hours of me and my dad on the couch with a doll (kind of like this, but not really). Mine was a rag doll with yarn for hair. The yarn was yellow and I would attempt a ponytail or braid all by myself. My doll had on blue overalls; one of the straps attached by a regular button and the other by a snap. One shoe had a shoelace and the other had a buckle.

In later years, my father's patience would be tested beyond its limits. There would be countless days I would tiptoe around him, knowing that even the sight of my teenage face would drive him into irrational anger, knowing that I had failed in my daughter duties yet again. But the picture I have in my mind, me at five years old, cuddled with my daddy and my doll on that scratchy brown couch makes me realize that there was a time when that volatile man was not my father. My father was young, energetic, and full of love.

The world defeated him. His health problems, his tattered family, his innate stubbornness, his bad luck with employment, and my own mother's emotional distance all pooled together to turn that tender man into the same man who makes me nervous and anxious and scared.

I am a lot like this man. I am stubborn, my relationships with my immediate family are not great, and my employment situation is normally sketchy at best. But I don't want to be like him in so many ways.

I like to hope that I am a person people generally think of nice. Honest, perhaps to a fault, sensitive, again perhaps to a fault, and genuine. Smart, maybe. Funny, maybe. I like to hope that I will always be the kind of person that my nieces and nephews will remember climbed under the table to play fort with them. Who sat for hours on a couch teaching them to tie a shoe. Who always had time to listen to them. Who was not stubborn, grouchy, or mean.

Let us hope that I never forget that.


  1. So... I love your dad. You know that. And I think I love your dad because I can see YOU in him... I can see those same traits that I love about you still in there. And you two have conflicts, in part, because you're so alike. And yet, at the same time, you are so much MORE than he is. You are the person who sends countless cards and birthday presents. You are the person who remembers that I said once that I liked some random thing and goes and buys it for me at Christmas. You are the cynical and yet kind friend who can stand up for her friend and yet knows when to hold back. And you are the goofy Aunt who will always play with my son like you, too, are 2 years old. And I'm REALLY awesome, as you know, so if you're my favorite person, you must be pretty cool.
    But your dad DID teach me about Bob Dylan. And he took us to see the "bars" AND he's in the Mafia. I'm just sayin'...

  2. Beautiful, sad, eloquent post.


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