I've started writing this topic at least six times in the past month or so. . . but always wound up laughing at how little I have to say.
Watch, now-- this will be a 6000 word post.
Yep-- it's time for me to do the landmark post schtick, too.
The me that I am today was once a little boy in Marquez, Texas. I began becoming me when I was seven and I wrote my first story-- 'Raiders of the Lost Star.' It was about a star that crashed into earth and when my friends and I touched it, we all got magic powers. And the elementary school bully's dad was the bad guy-- I have no idea why, I'd met the man once at a party, and he didn't do anything to make me see him as anything other than a normal adult. (I remember that I couldn't decide on whether to call him Mr. Blakeslee, or make up a first name-- I wound up using Mr. Blakeslee, because that was more respectful. Funny how kids' minds work.) Anyway, that story was the first thing I'd done that was independent of my father and mother's influence. It was the first way that I'd invented to be different from my family.
My family. You know, I had a great family. My parents loved each other, and they loved us. My older brother and I were completely different, but we rarely fought, and we even had our own business together. We picked blackberries together and sold them, cut lawns together. . . All in all, a pretty idyllic childhood. We were very old-school-boyish-- tromping around the east Texas forests and gullies, building forts in trees, spending the hot, stuffy, unbearable summer afternoons reading adventure stories. . . My little brother was 4 years younger than me, so he was never included in our play. This might be why he turned into such an arrogant little. . .
I say this in the wisdom of hindsight-- at the time, I remember feeling like my dad was disappointed in me because I wasn't as sports-oriented as my brothers. I was a teenager at age 10 and full of angst, fury, and anguish. I stayed home while the rest of my family went to my brother's ball games. Oh, woe, was I.
I grew up. We moved from Texas to Lake Mills Wisconsin the summer before my freshman year of high school. By then, I was determined to be a writer. We moved from Wisconsin to Fredericksburg, Virginia, and I made my debut as a writer in the high school Literary Magazine-- whereupon, I promptly accosted the teacher in charge of the magazine for screwing up my poetry. (She did all these weird indentation things with it-- NOT ACCEPTABLE!)
She took a liking to me, and I became co-editor.
I was also active in theater, both in the community and in high school. My one really big regret from that period is that, because of my arrogance and perceived slights from the drama coach, I refused to audition for the first musical production my high school had ever done-- which, one cast member later relayed to me, the coach had chosen because he knew I'd be good in the part. Teenagers, BE HUMBLE! Instead of starring as Jason in 'Medea, the Musical,' I was Ko-Ko in 'The Mikado.' Man, I wish I had gone with Medea. . . Our drama coach was one of the most brilliant teachers I've ever met. He was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and utterly vain. I was such an idiot.
There was another teacher in high school that really impressed me-- Mrs. Mullins. She was the AP English teacher, and she was just as brilliant, enthusiastic and vain as the drama coach. I liked Mrs. Mullins, though. She demanded excellence of us, and inspired it in every class. No one gave Mrs. Mullins any grief-- how could you? She was beyond all that. Her classes were interesting, she told the truth. She was the first person who liked my poetry and who I thought had an actual critical eye.
I look back on what I was taught, and I shudder. For all her brilliance, she was an intellectual elitist. When I told her that I planned to go on a two year mission for the Mormon church, she looked me right in the face and told me what a waste that would be.
I said she impressed me-- I didn't say that it was always in a good way.
My mission was not a waste. I can't describe how powerfully those two years in Italy changed me. They didn't just make me a man-- they made me human. I learned about brotherhood on my mission. I learned what I thought I had known all along-- that we are all children of a common Father. I learned that God is not always nice, but that He is always, and sometimes terribly so, GOOD. I fell in love with mankind out there in Northern Italy, walking those cobblestone streets, those narrow alleyways. For the first time in my life, I felt like I truly, truly belonged.
Italy is always with me. Sometimes it is so strong, I feel that if I turn a corner, I will find myself on a narrow country lane. And I can hear the bells of the duomo.
I was never lonely again, after that. I fell in love with a wonderful woman, and we got married. That is a simple thing to say, but not so simple in practice. It is a beautiful, disturbing thing to find yourself being drawn into another person. It is beautiful because, seeing her love for you broadens your idea that maybe you're an okay lump of flesh. It is disturbing because you know that you will be absolutely devastated should the faith you've cultivated in her and with her ever be betrayed.
I have always wanted to be a dad. Being a writer, and being a family man-- those were my two goals in life. The rest is fluff. As I've grown up, being a writer has definitely become less important than being a good husband and father. What can I say? I have written my poetry on the face of eternity, and called it Junebug, Super-K, and LiteBrite. A man's place is at home. In the kitchen, baking cookies with his chidren and wife. Valor and honor are found at the changing table, at bathtime, and bedtime. Happiness is found there too-- and hey, look! So am I.
[ May 02, 2003, 08:41 AM: Message edited by: Scott R ]
Posts: 14554 | Registered: Dec 1999
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Fantastic. Speaking about your English teacher, it's an interesting lesson figuring out that not all adults agree and that some adults are very, very wrong, and then standing up to those adults, as compared to just plain arrogance.
Posts: 3495 | Registered: Feb 2000
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You know, it's interesting, my daughter climbed up next to me on the sofa and asked me if we could back some M&M cookies tonight.
I told her yes. I agree, I think you're an amazing dad. You have a beautiful family, and I'm sure they are blessed by having a husband and father like you.
Posts: 14428 | Registered: Aug 2001
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Great post--I enjoyed reading it. I share your sentiments about fatherhood. There is nothing better than a happy evening at home with the wife and kids. Especially when it's warm and sunny and you can all go outside.
Posts: 5957 | Registered: Oct 2001
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