Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fitting In, Silver Spoons and Glorious Moons

I read a blog post the other day and commented on that post.  The subject was "fitting in," something we are taught to do even before our parents realize they are teaching us (and then are chastised for when, in our teen years, we are challenged to "think for yourself!   If Sid jumped off a bridge, would you do it too???")  But I digress.  The post I was reading was about the fact the author had never really "fit in," but was OK with that, because she was OK with who she is.  I responded to her post, reminded of my earliest memories of being expected to "fit in."

We had just returned from living abroad in Cyprus.  I was five and had completed two years of school in the British school system there.  My friends were all Greek and spoke Greek.  My teachers and parents spoke English.  We were taught in English.  When we returned to the States, I was to attend public school, the same as my sister, one year older, or so my mother, then expecting her sixth child, had hoped.  I recall going to the school with my mother and sister, and being encouraged to play with the other children who were enjoying recess.  I recall the "adults" being concerned that I spoke Greek to the children and would need to "acclimate" to living in the United States before starting school.  At the time there was no kindergarten, and I think it was just easier to tell my parents I needed to wait to start school.  Still, in MY young memory, it was because I didn't "fit in" that I had to sit out of school for a whole year!

Days in Cyprus...Jeannie and Judy
with landlord's kids Andrea and Vasso (sp)
This morning I read Sharon's post about how she accidentally became a silver spoon collector.  OF COURSE, this triggered another memory, and the two, the silver spoons and the "fitting in" together brought to my mind the image of my step grandmother, Evy.   Now, to understand, you must envision my natural maternal grandparents, Grandad and Granther.  Both were, in my young memory, lovely, caring people, who had raised one daughter, who had borne them six grandchildren.  We were their only grandchilren and they doted on us.  I suppose reality was that they were very comfortable in their own relationship, and lived just far enough away (about an hour's drive) that "special treats" for us included being invited to stay overnight in their Arlington, VA home.  I will never forget the rich green color of the walls of the basement room with the guest bed.  So cozy, comfortable and warm.

But when, at age 56 (I think) my grandmother passed away from cancer, I, then six years old, lost the only "Granther" I would ever know.  Grandad literally went into seclusion for a year, his grief over losing his beloved Ruth fueling his compulsion to write about their years together.  He published his work under the title, "The Golden Years" and printed just enough copies for the family.  I still have mine today.

Family Photo --
Granther at back Right -- Judy -- only one with glasses
With the completion of his tribute to Granther, he was, again, living more of a normal life.  He'd never stopped working or going to church during that year, but otherwise, he'd had his singular focus of writing.  Now he was interacting with people again, and before long met and married my step grandmother...Evelyn.

Evelyn was a lovely lady in her own right, from a large family in Oklahoma, some 12 years younger than Grandad, never married, living with her sister Thelma and working in DC.  She was very different from my Granther, who was the most "natural" person I remember, allowing her age to be witnessed in the natural changing of the color of her hair and the accumulation of wrinkles in her skin, no trinkets or such to draw the eye away from the beauty of her eyes and smile.  "Evy" as only we six grandkids were instructed to call her, carefully and dutifully had her hair colored dark brown, the color of her youthful mane, and pampered her skin with lotions to battle nature's "lines."  She wore carefully applied make-up and dressed in more colorful clothing, with skirts maybe a bit short for a woman her age.

Evy was one of 11 children, but had never had any herself.  I truly believe she LOVED the IDEA of grandchildren, but always felt she didn't exactly "fit in."  As a child, I recall her bursting into tears because she did not get what she wanted for Christmas....I don't even recall the gift, but it was, in her eyes, an indication that she was not cherished the way our Granther had been.  As children, we thought it odd for an adult to act in what we perceived as a "spoiled child" way, but we DID try to make her happy...make her FEEL as if she fit in and was loved.

One day my brothers, digging in the back yard, discovered an old, dirty, bent spoon.  Ray, then maybe seven years old, the only grandchild who had really never known Granther, saw the spoon and immediately thought of Evy.  Evy had one of those spoon collections hanging on the wall.  You know the ones, the little cute spoons from different states and countries, each bearing their emblem testifying to the authenticity of your claim to having traveled to that particular corner of the world.  Still, to Ray, a spoon was a spoon was a spoon... and a spoon discovered in the backyard, under the ground, was clearly a TREASURE spoon.  And so, with great care and love, he washed the spoon and wrapped it for Evy...I don't recall whether it was a birthday or a Christmas gift, but I DO recall her reaction.  She did NOT fall all over herself, thanking the little guy for his gift.  She stared at the spoon, clearly making NO connection between her spoon collection and this bent, "dirty" spoon she had just been gifted, and tried to smile.  But the smile was forced and I could see the tears welling up in the eyes.  In her mind, she had just been gifted "junk" and it served as further testament to her contention she would never "fit in."

Of course, we all grew up and everyone, no matter how old or young, eventually "fits in" somewhere, somehow.  It rarely happens by trying, and sometimes we are trying so hard to fit in where we simply don't fit that we fail to recognize we already DO fit in...where it really matters.

So last night, even before I read Sharon's post this morning, I was thinking about the "fitting in" post as I marveled (again) at the beauty that is the country early evening sky.  The moon, not yet full but showing off for all he was worth, demanded being photographed.  Joe was snapping away while I stood and admired, holding Killian on her leash on our way back into the garage from her day spent down by the "creek."  Joe noted his batteries were running low, so I grabbed my camera and started taking shots as well.  My photography efforts were being thwarted by my ever-busy-fourteen-and-half-year-old dog, who insisted on pulling on the leash to sniff the NEXT mole hole, JUST as I was trying to snap the picture.  Despite her efforts, I DID finally get a decent shot or two.  And I thought, even as the mosquitoes were feasting on my blood and trying their best to run me off, and even as Killian was anxious to explore, never satisfied with the here and now, but determined to see what else is around, even with all of the work we have ahead of us with this old farmhouse and property, I thought, I fit in here...I really do.

Moon Rising
Almost captured Moon (thanks Killian!)

Yes...yes, a beautiful country sky moon!


Sharon said...

Great Post, Judy!
Poor Evy, having never had children, she didn't realize the gift, I hope she did finally understand. I still remember (and have) some of things my children found or made for me.
Love your old pictures!!!
Speaking of pictures... that's a great moon! Wish I could take pics like that! Exceptional!
Can you still speak Greek?

Canyon Girl said...

I never had kids either, but I think I would have understood that the gift came from the little boy's heart. My first 4 years of a boy/girl school, I didn't fit in b/c I was so tall. Some boys would always hassle me and try to beat me up. Now I'm almost 6 ft and my husband is 5,8 and I fit in so well with him. Isn't life interesting? Beautiful post!--Inger

Feral Female said...

I still have things my daughter made in Pre-K and she is now closing in on 15.