Saturday, December 31, 2005

Holiday Gift from my Daddy

Most folks 'round here know that my daddy and I don't always see eye-to-eye, especially about football. He and Mama watch it incessantly, sometimes on two TVs at a time so they don't miss anything when they walk from room to room. Me, I see a television and am overwhelmed with the desire to TURN IT OFF, especially if it's a football game. I mean, music is more pleasant, especially Dixie Broadcasting, my favorite.

But I've learned to look the other way when we're together, because I know they love the game and the medium, TV. Also, Daddy doesn't see so well these days, so reading is limited and he needs something to fill up all the space in his mind so he doesn't get extra grouchy, if you know what I mean. Bless his heart, he's become so grouchy that he reminds me of the main character in On Golden Pond, and that defines the term "grouch".

Well, I was visiting with them the other day and that entertainment machine segued from their favorite, football, to the local news briefs. The news anchor was blathering along as they are prone to do, some crime of great import committed by a person of another ethnicity, when one line she said seemed to jump out louder than all the rest. "...Local _______________ (fill in the ethnicity here) protest that the accusations are racist in nature..."

My daddy shifted in his recliner and looked me straight in the eye and laughed in that sarcastic way he always laughs. "Racist. huh? Don't they realize that ALL races are racist? Every single one?" Then he went back to his TV viewing, his eyes glazing over as I watched. The game was back on again.

I couldn't hardly breathe for the surprise I felt. He understood!

Merry Christmas, Daddy! and thanks for the gift.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Laurel's Lament, or How I Became a Kinist

Under ordinary circumstances, I might never have noticed. But a teacher operates daily under unusual circumstances. Teachers see all the sides of children that parents might want to deny are there, that they might write notes to the teacher to cover up for, and might just plain lie about to anyone else who asks.

No one wants to admit that darling boy is a slacker.

But when the nice-looking young blond guy who hasn't turned in one assignment all semester hands you the note pleading that mama's boy just didn't understand the requirements of the course and could you just give him extra credit work enough to make up for the forgotten work of weeks and weeks, and he smiles at you all sweet and vacant, and it's three days before the end of the semester, that's when you become a Kinist.

Kinists don't let their boys become slackers. A Kinist dad knows that the future of the race depends on boys like these, and he makes sure his boy knows it as well.

I became a Kinist many times, each day facing the slackers, the wiggers, and the gradebook software packed with the earned A's of the organized, disciplined young ladies and the C- and below white boys. The boys those lovely young ladies are supposed to depend on some day.

Get real.

Who can depend on a slacker? On what planet does a spoiled white boy trade in his Xbox 360 and camera phone for a productive job that requires will and discipline?

Spoiled white boys; a good reason to become a Kinist. Kinist folks train their boys at home, and make them earn the toys they want, if they allow them at all.

The Asian kids excel. They are disciplined, and mom and dad talk constantly about the importance of education. Some of their parents or grandparents believed in the future enough to wade through the shallows of a dirty swamp to get out of Communist China. Some handed a baby up to a helicopter leaving an embassy roof. Some rode overloaded, leaky boats through uncertain seas.

I have no problems with the Asian kids. They don't hand you get-out-of-work-free notes, they hand you immaculately formatted documents that touch on every point you wanted covered. And they apologize for asking to go to the restroom during class.

But they don't look like I do or my grandparents did, and the apologies sometimes seem excessive, and sometimes I just don't understand what goes on behind their eyes. Even more, I wouldn't want my grandchildren to look at me through almond eyes, no matter how much I like some individuals of their kind.

I became a Kinist because I think white folks are worth saving, despite all the propaganda to the contrary. That within those slacker boys there still smolders an ember of self-respect that just needs the right fuel and fanning to rise up into the clear flame of accomplishment. I believe that those vacantly smiling, entertainment-besotted boys can still become men worthy of respect, worthy of marrying my daughter off to, worthy of wading through a swamp for.

I handed the note back to the good-looking blond boy and told him, "Didn't you read the syllabus? There is no extra credit in this class."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Grade Check

Well, I can't say that Janette failed for the sake of her politically incorrect project, but that C+ in the sea of A's her other teachers gave her on her progress report does kinda stick out like a sore thumb. Nothing more has been said to her by the teacher, either, who has moved on to actual course content. (hallelujah!)

Ian, on the other hand, has more than one F on his progress report, but that's nothing new. He's a terribly bright boy who hasn't yet learned that you can't put everything off to the last minute. It will be interesting when they bring the returned projects to me.

So I guess the teacher thought once, and then twice, about making life more difficult for these two.

But maybe she was thinking a lawsuit might follow...

Laurel

Growing up Semi-Agrarian: the Plusses, the Minuses, and the Goats

I don't talk about it much, but I grew up in what I'd call an agricultural-supplement-model home. You might could call it a semi-agrarian lifestyle. My daddy drove a half hour into the big town for his day (and night and weekend, oftimes) job. The rest of us lived on a couple of acres in a rural environment with a mama who had a producer mentality, as did Daddy.

Mama had two big gardens. In addition, we had citrus trees, pomegranates, and enough almond trees to ensure pollination and nut production. We had critters who doubled as pets and food (not always a comfortable thing for us kids): wiggle-nosed rabbits, noisy chickens, and a trio of elegant white ducks (my pets, and to this day I can't eat duck without cringing). There were two geese who showed up unexpectedly and lasted about a month, during which time they completely slimed the backyard and attacked every single one of us, especially the weakest and smallest. I am happy to report that I can eat goose without a single qualm, cringe, or soupçon of regret!

The big deal, of course, was my brother's 4-H project, the milk goats. Now, I like goats as well as anyone, but goats like to roam and eat whatever, so they must be corraled. Now Daddy was a smart man in many ways, but the placement of that corral rivals the stupidity of, well, just imagine sitting in the Mayor's office in New Orleans tracking Hurricane Katrina and thinking, "I don't have to evacuate that ol' 9th Ward just yet."

Now, California has been blessed with many mistakes, one of which was the planting by 19th century entrepreneurs of thousands of Eucalyptus trees to provide railroad ties for all that new line. It was just too bad that Eucalyptus tree wood twists and is of absolutely no use in the manufacture of railroad ties, unless you wanted to ensure a particular number of derailments per year.

But we'd been blessed with several giant Eucalyptus trees scattered around our property, one of which occupied prime goat corral space. At least, that's what Daddy thought. We found him out there early one Saturday morning with his saw, nails and hammer, and a pile of 2x4s fit to build a nice cottage or two. "Darling, what ARE you doing?" Mama said.

"Making a corral for the goats. I'm tired of chasing them all over the place." He wiped the sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of the shirt he'd pulled off. Daddy was working shirtless again! (don't mind me, it's the pain of his skin cancer that leads me to gripe about that little course of action, multiplied many times over the years.)

Mama thought, and then thought better of what she had been about to say. Mama was wise like that, sometimes. (We all remember the times she wasn't.) "Well," she said. "Just don't forget to put in a milking station, please." And with that she was gone back into her own domain, where those living room lamps sure needed a heap o'dusting right away.

We all knew to get out of the way, so we left my daddy to sweat in that hot California sun all by himself. He was happier that way, and we certainly knew that from hard past experience. But we checked on him every few hours, just to make sure he hadn't keeled over in the heat and that something resembling a corral was being assembled.

It was right before sunset when Daddy walked into the house, dirty, smelling like Eucalyptus, his skin the exact color of that rosy afterglow that sunset leaves behind for a bit. He was smiling. I took this as a good omen. Mama brought him a beer, the cheap kind he liked primarily because it WAS cheap.

"Did you finish the pen, Daddy?" I asked.

"And then some, little girl. Want to see?" I always glowed when he called me little girl, because it meant he was happy and all was well. We trotted out to the back porch, from which I could see the corral, the milking station Mama had requested, and a little shelter just big enough for both goats.

"Daddy, that looks great!" I didn't have any reason to have a hesitation or reservation at that point.

"Want to go get a close-up look? I need to go put the goats inside."

"Sure, Daddy." So we trotted out to the back-back yard and unhooked the goats' tethers, and led their rather reluctant little selves on back to the pen. It even had a gate, with a lock and hasp! Right then I thought my daddy knew everything! We strongly encouraged the goats to get inside, then locked the gate after them. The Nubian then tried to climb the fence, requiring more strong encouragement to remain inside. The Saanen, the big milker, the one with the udder the size of a large set of bagpipes, walked around the corral once, then peacefully put her front legs up against the tree, and started chewing on some of the lower-lying Eucalyptus leaves.

This didn't bother us at all, at least not then.

Mama and I soon mastered the co-operative art of using the milking station. One of us would strongly encourage the goat to get up on the wooden platform, while the other got ready to snap the tether onto the, well, I don't remember what we called it, but it kept the goat from swiveling her head around and getting all upset because we weren't baby goats and were still taking all her milk. Then one of us would position the stool next to the milking station while the other would grab the goat's legs so it wouldn't stick its fragrant little feet into the milking pail, thereby ruining the milk. Then whoever had milking duty would push-pull the teats until the bucket was full of rich, foaming, creamy milk. The other would be busy strongly encouraging the goat to keep its fool feet out of the rich, foaming, creamy milk.

Well, this arrangement was a little better than trying to milk her on the ground, at least. And for a few days the milk was enjoyed by one and all, including the cats and other critters who got our surplus. (and when your best milker has an udder the size of a large pair of bagpipes, you have excess, believe me!) Daddy walked around looking fit to bust his suspenders with pride, even though he'd never owned a pair. All seemed well in semi-agrarian heaven.

It was my brother, the one whose 4-H project the goats supposedly were (but who did the milking? hmmm???), who first noticed the change.

"Mama, this milk don't taste right." He made a huge face and spit his milk back into the glass.

"What do you mean, Ronnie? We just milked them this morning." Mama was fanatic about food freshness, and when you have a goat with an udder the size of a large pair of bagpipes, the milk is ALWAYS fresh.

"It tastes like...." He fished around for the appropriate description. "It tastes like Vicks Vapo-Rub™!"

I sniffed my glass. Sure didn't smell like Vicks. But I was too much of a coward to take more than a sip. I rolled it around on my tongue and, sure enough, there was the faint flavor of Vicks tainting the creamy sweetness of the milk.

"Mama, he's right." I plunked down my glass and refused to drink further.

Mama grabbed my glass and took a big swig, kind of like Daddy did with his cheap beer.

"Tastes fine to me. Finish it up, Laurel." I looked up at her and knew there would be no compromise. Taking my life into my hands, I bravely swallowed the milk, all of it.

"Tastes funny, Mama."

She was washing dishes by this time, and I figured the taste wasn't all that bad, so I would have to make do.

The next morning while we were feeding the goats, I noticed that both goats were up chewing on the lower leaves of that Eucalyptus tree, but I didn't say anything to mamma, who was busy putting grain in their trough.

But that day's batch of milk tasted even more strongly of the cold remedy. It even smelled like it! I sat at the table at lunch wishing I could just dump my glass of goat's milk down into the dog's bowl, but it was too far away, and besides, Mama had eyes in the back of her head and a few beside each ear as well.

"Mama, don't you smell it? Somebody dumped some Vicks in the milk as a joke!" I glared at my brother. “Who would want to ruin good goat's milk? And it was his 4-H project anyway.”

Ronnie rose to his feet. "I didn't dump Vicks Vapo-Rub in my own goat's milk!" He didn't miss a beat. "Maybe you're just trying to get me in trouble."

Well, once we got let out of our rooms, we set at the table fine and drank every drop of our milk. Yummy milk.

Meanwhile, the goats were in their fine little corral, happily munching Eucalyptus leaves. Yummy Eucalyptus leaves.

That evening, Mama and Daddy puzzled up and down about what could be causing the milk to have a funny taste. Yes, they had noticed, but they weren't going to let us get away with wasting food, no way. But it wasn't until after weeks of consuming really yucky milk that a solution was found.

That was the week my brother, bless him for the vehicle of rescue that he was, got bronchitis combined with a bad cold. Mama went to the drugstore in town, which required, of course, washing the car and wearing a nice dress, hat, and gloves. (We may have been semi-agrarian, but Mama had pride.) At the top of her shopping list was...Vick's Vapo-Rub, just the thing for Ronnie's congestion.

She brought the jar into Ronnie's bedroom, now turned into a sickroom with a pot of water boiling on a hotplate to put some moisture in the air. Taking off her gloves so they wouldn’t get stained, she opened the jar. When she opened it, an all-too-familiar smell almost overwhelmed her. The kids were right, she thought. This does smell like the goat milk. Or the goat milk smells like this.

Then she turned the jar around so she could read the label. Active ingredients: Camphor. Menthol. EUCALYPTUS.

Next thing we knew Daddy was out in the back-back-yard up on the ladder cutting down all the limbs of the Eucalyptus tree up to about 15 feet high, and Mama gave me a new chore, making sure there were no Eucalyptus leaves anywhere near the goats. Twice a day. She called it "sweeping the stable".

I called it my brother's job. After all, wasn't it his 4-H project?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Backlash Among the Young

Having taught as long as I have taught, I've come to know that most teachers are liberals and the rest of us duck for cover on a regular basis. I also realize that some liberal-type folks push their personal agendas a wee bit too far with their students. Case in point, a pair of my students came to me, let's just call them Ian and Janette (for accuracy's sake, let's just note that I did NOT call them Antwan and Taniqua). Now, my students understand that I have an open door policy for all students, no matter what their ethnicity, and many feel free to come visit and chat before or after school.

So late one afternoon while I was still reading "developing" students' papers and contemplating joining the Apostrophe Protection Society, in come Ian and Janette with their knickers all in a twist. I was surprised, because I hadn't had these two in class for a year, and our conversations had been limited to occasional chats and mere nods in the hallways. They plunked down on the floor near my desk and started to unload about their day...and their week...and their semester, most especially about this year's English class.

It seems that their English teacher had spent the entire first six weeks of school focusing on racism, genocide, and the Holocaust, all rotating around a 100-page book that anyone could read in one evening. The projects the kids were assigned to do in conjunction with the book, well, they were Holocaust morning, noon, and night.

Ian and Janette howled. Not literally, of course, but Ian spat a lot of angst and information as fast as he could talk. Seems they'd been lobbying for a balance of books from a European cultural model on the world literature list, but the teacher had chosen Asian, African, and Latin American books for the most part, and the European book she'd chosen was this Holocaust-focused one-hundred page epic. "Why not the European classics?" he sputtered. Indeed, they were nowhere to be found. Since Ian and Janette were of European descent, and students of the minority foreign language (German) taught at our school, Europe fascinated and enchanted them.

Janette piped in and added that, while they were required to do a project about the Holocaust, no one had specified the exact parameters, so they'd decided to do the "other side". Ian was going to do a profile of Adolf Hitler pre-WWII, totally factual. And Janette was going to do a profile of neo-Nazi groups today.

Well, y'all know I am a Christian and a Kinist and that is a very different frame of reference from pagan neo-Nazis. But I had to stifle a smile because it had only been a couple of weeks ago when those middle-aged white teachers had spontaneously combusted at that racist art exhibit, and here were a couple of lily-white Eurokids combusting on their own as well.

Nothing like a nice little fire to warm the hearth! I can't wait to go home and tell Big Sam.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Vest-Pocket Rebellion

Every so often the local government school teachers get a mind to better themselves and their instruction by highballing down the freeway to the closest major Art Museum for one of their educator events. The latest excursion looked to be a fine one, all about art and self-image, with the museum offering fancy little cracker snacks and free tours of the latest exhibit. So I signed on the dotted line and hopped into the van with another teacher, looking forward to the event. Big Sam doesn't mind my leaving him at home for these things because he's never been the one for art museums or the snooty people who tend to gather there, and no one ever said a fancy cracker snack was a full meal, at least not to him.

Racing down the freeway and dodging all the semis and overpowered little Hondas with spoilers left me glad to put my feet on solid ground when we got to the museum. Well, I might have thought twice or thrice the minute I stepped up to the museum door and realized that the exhibit advertised as being about self-image in art was really all about race, and not just celebrating our differences. No, sir.! But I smiled and walked right on in, heading for the cracker snacks table. If I was going to be offended, by gum, I was at least not going to be offended on an empty stomach.

At the cracker snack table I looked around and noticed that most of the other teachers there had, like me, skin the color of the driven snow, not counting the silver and gray hairs that spread through their formerly luxuriant tresses, now a little thinning from age and lack of hormones. The only "people of color" there were the museum's education director, who was the color most common in Asian countries and her associate, whose skin and accent echoed the tones of the Hindu Kush. To a person, the teachers were white, and probably for the most part would have classified themselves as liberal...well, at least that's what I believed because I know teachers, having been around them for what seems like way more than a century.

The exhibit was organized along tiresome and predictable lines, and the two lovely little teenagers (both very much white) who lead our tour were completely in earnest. Lynching = bad. (well, no duh, when was the last time you met anyone, even a kinist like me, who said that lynching was a good idea?) White man with weapon = the (d)evolution of mankind. What can you expect of a white guy with a weapon? (I dunno? A protected family?) An image here, an image there, all lined up to prove that white folks were richer than everybody else and dadgummit if everyone else wasn't oppressed as all getout, especially those Chicano laborers in the fields. Wasn't that obvious from the Caesar's Palace billboard over their stooped backs in the picture?

Well, the little group in my tour was looking pretty glum and uncomfortable at this point. They shuffled from foot to foot as if gauging how many steps to the exit, when one wild-maned woman with deep, wise crinkles around her eyes piped up and said, "Why don't any of the pictures show those Mexicans' children, who speak English and are doing fine in school?" (Now you and I might have some issues about how well those children really are doing in school, but that's another topic!) Well, you might have asked those two girls to swallow a horse, they looked so choked up and confused. At seventeen any deviation from the script is cause for dismay and panic.

The blonde finally got her poise back and said, "Well, every curator has a point of view, and this is the point of view of the curator of this exhibit." She slipped back beneath the frozen surface of her professional lie, back where it was safe and everything was scripted and O.K.

Wild-maned lady piped up again. "Maybe it's time for another view," and stomped off. Our group began murmuring about having "seen this all before and maybe it WAS time for a change," drifting away from the point of conflict to allow the children time to exit the situation without too much loss of face.

The children expressed blank-faced thanks for us having taken the tour, and they hoped that we would schedule fieldtrips for our students to see the current exhibit. White heads topped with grey hair nodded absently and sidled off to look at different pieces in the show.

Well, my eyesight might not be too good, but no one has ever accused me of being hard of hearing. So I wandered through the exhibit with my friend, staying within hearing distance of the others who'd shared the tour with us. And I was astonished at what I heard. There were rumblings of dissatisfaction with being blamed for everything, after having done so much for so many for so long. Not exactly the outspoken frankness of wild-maned lady, but drops and growing rivulets of discontent, of whiteness acknowledging whiteness and the things that had been done that were intended for the good, whatever the outcome. Even my friend spoke, quietly acknowledging the truth swimming beneath the frozen surface of her professional lie.

It wasn't much, really. A vest-pocket rebellion, a tempest in a teapot, a whirlpool in a water bucket.

But it was a start.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Burden of My Ancestors

My side of our lopsided, loving, last-ditch-effort-for-the-Lost-Cause family wasn't even speaking English when the War Between the States took place. No indeed, they sounded like the Swedish Chef on the Muppet Show, but of course, television hadn't been thought of yet so they didn't know any better, they just talked that way. They came by that doo-de-doo-de-doo-de-doo all natural-like, a blessing of their many ancestors up there in the frozen north. Ultima Thule and all that. Thor and Odin and all that.

Now that Odin worship thing! Nasty little business. It sure puts me in a humble mode of thought when I realize my ancestors practiced human sacrifice. Sometimes I get the creepiest mental image of people who look a lot like me dead and hanging off an oak tree, or even worse, live and hanging other people who look like my klnd of folks off that same oak tree.

There but for the grace of God go I!

I sure do bless the memory of those early Christians who weren't afraid to speak truth to my probably smelly and menacing ancestors. I bless even more the thought of the first of my ancestors to listen, I bless the moment when the Holy Spirit said, "You, oh smelly and menacing Nordic type, are one of my chosen, one of my elect. I have loved you since the beginning of time, in spite of the smell, in spite of your tendency to raid first and civilize later, in spite of the oak tree and all that dangles there. The sins you are repenting of right now are forgiven, as well as the ones you don't even know to be sins yet. My Son has taken care of them all for you. Come enjoy the pleasures of my Kingdom."

I bow in gratefulness, remembering the oak tree and the burden He has forgiven, the burden of my ancestors.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Big Sam Needs to be Needed

Well, Big Sam is not what you'd call mechanically inclined even at the best of times. In fact, the mechanical inclination he's most prone to is the inclination of the reclining chair immediately prior to the Remote lifting motion, immediately prior to the deep sigh of relaxation marking the end of a long day. But he works hard at his job and it's not a particularly rewarding job at that, what with the immigration getting to be so bad and so many of them speaking little or no English, which is somewhat more than annoying even if Big Sam does have a working knowledge of Spanglish.

So when he does get inspired to do something around the house it's worth it to let him do it, even if the cans are still rolling off the shelf he put up at an angle steep enough to serve as a skateboard ramp. There's nothing like doing something for his woman that makes a guy feel more like a MAN, if you know what I mean.

So when Big Sam offered to check the air in my car's tires Saturday last, I knew it was time to bow to his superior ability and get out of the way, and certainly not mention that the Arco station down at the corner would let you pump all the air you needed for a quarter. If he wanted to put air in The Heap's tires using only a bicycle pump, it was time to step back and admire his biceps.

Which is exactly what he did, and exactly what I did.

Let me tell you, it's worth letting the boy sweat a little for you. The look of pride on his face as he wiped the sweat off his forehead with the piece of dingy terrycloth rag I'd handed him (the good rags were in the wash) was worth the tongue biting, worth sacrificing the can-do attitude I am prone to in my sinful nature. It was even worth the damp hug and extra laundry.

That got me to thinking once again. It got me to thinking that maybe all the women who told their men, "I can do it myself", and the pretty young things who brushed with a disdainful sniff past the boys holding doors for them had maybe broken something inside our men. Broken something pretty serious and hard to replace, because it don't come factory standard, broken the sense those boys and men had of being needed. When we women don't need our men and the things they offer to do for us, the sturdy leather a man is made from cracks like a pump bellows allowed to dry out from lack of use.

It's pretty obvious to me that a man who's not needed by some sweet woman is a man without purpose or anchor. Is this what we want our boys to face as they become all grown-up and out to build their own homestead? Women who shove them aside and act like they don't care if the boys stay or if they go?

Girls, I guess this post is directed toward you. We've raised you to be strong, to be able to compete.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Maybe the guys don't do it our kind of perfect. Maybe we could do it ourselves better, at least some of the time (usually less often then our inflated self-images believe). Maybe a lot of foolish thinking things.

I can't fix all the maybes in life, not by a far sight. But I do know I thoroughly enjoyed that look in Big Sam's eyes, the straightening of his back, and the sweaty hug that said, "You need me, and I need you".

How true.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Blue Blood, Skin Cancer, and Other Signs You Might be White

My daddy lost his left ear to skin cancer the other year, after the doctors had carefully carved away only the alien, blood-red and pulsating lump off it for two years running, saying he needed the rest of the ear for "cosmetic purposes". Now, Daddy is going to be 88 years old this year and his vanity has dwindled down to the occasional rearranging of the three or four thin strands of white hair still left on his scalp, so you know he ain't going to be sticking no Botox in his wrinkles and getting facials or any fool thing like that. He just didn't want to die of no alien ear-eating cancer. He always preferred the direct route anyway.

I remember him saying this well, because things like that just stick with me. I remember that every single time the doctor told him the lump needed to be removed he'd say, "Cut the whole dang ear off. Just go ahead and do it. I don't care."

And each time that profit-focused, flesh-carving doctor shook his head and told him no. And each time the lump grew back, only closer to his head and nastier looking each time.

But nobody listened, and the cancer finally got so close to his skull that there was no question, the whole ear had to come off.

So now he looks like a lizard on one side, and claims that my mama "don't enunciate any more". She's getting tired of repeating herself, 'specially when no one else notices that her voice has changed.

Now, this could all have been prevented had Daddy understood that he was White, and that smart White Guys wear hats and don't take off their shirts when they go fishing and above all don't bake in the sun until their crust turns brown. But he liked the clean heat of our enemy, the sun, musta been endorphins or something. I don't think the fish were worth all the pain, but that's just me. I never liked the smell of the deisel and fish guts anyway.

This all got me thinking. I do a lot of thinking. Some people say I think too much, but I can't help it, it's just me. So hear me out.

I started wondering how White Folks can tell they're White, and what to do about it once they've finally figured it out. And all the little do-nots that go along with it as well. My daddy was a victim of the do-nots.

So I came up with a little list. Bear with me a minute, and post some comments if y'all want to add to, or take away from, Laurel's Little List of Lilywhiteness!

1. You can tell you're White when the skin on your wrists (and with me, other portions of my anatomy) is so thin you can see the blue of your arteries just sitting right out there. The Spaniards used to call this being "blue-blooded", meaning special and artistocratic and all that. Not being Spanish, I wouldn't know about the aristocratic thing, but I do like to think I'm special, and that being White is a good thing. There's a Do for this one: Celebrate! and smile the next time you look at your wrists.

2. White skin has other interesting qualities and characteristics, among them freckles and that nasty tendency to sunburn the minute you step out the door. A two hour assembly in junior high school plus a sleeveless green linen dress added up to an uncomfortable visit to the school nurse for me and treatment for sunstroke.

I DO understand that those "freckles" I have on my hands these days are not the original issue freckles, but age spots (another lovely feature of white skin), but I like to think of them as freckles all the same. Freckles are like confectioner's sugar dusted across a cake, age spots are, well, age spots.

There's bunches of Do's and Do-not's for this one. Do enjoy the fragile beauty of your ivory skin when you're young, and don't mind the age spots (freckles!) or wrinkles when you start to age. Remember, every wrinkle, especially those smile lines by your eyes, is a sign of wisdom and endurance. Don't go sitting out shirtless in your bass boat, or on that very nice beach in South Carolina. Get familiar with SPF ratings and slather yourself with sunscreen before heading out the door. And don't miss the crease on your scalp when putting on that 'screen. Beautiful things (that's you!) are worth taking care of.

3. Another sign you might be White is when people who don't even know you try to blame you for everything wrong with people who don't even look, and certainly don't act, like you.

I remember sitting in a class in teacher school where the oh-so-enlightened lady professors lambasted the poor white guys in the class (liberals, all of those poor suckers!) until they squirmed with shame for all the injustice they had somehow produced even though they were yankees and none of their ancestors had even met a slave and most had arrived here after the Civil War anyway. Each of them inwardly vowed to himself that he would make it right for those poor minorities, somehow, in his classroom once he got one. I don't think I saw even a spark of resistance in that room, 'cept in me.

Yup, it's great to be White sometimes.

There's a Do and a DARE in this one.! DO stand up for the people who look and act like you. DARE to call the professors' bluff, because you know the reason there's so many lilywhites in that college classroom is because the minorities didn't pass the test to get in, even though you know the school was holding places for them and kept you from entering until the admissions committee finally figured out that it might be a year or two before the students they really wanted to be there made it past the test.

Off on a bird walk here...but keep reading...

It's things like this that make me think mamas need to be educating their own, loving them with God's Word and homemade brownies in between the phonics and handwriting practice. Mamas! Those boys in that class had the best intentions, but would you really want them telling your little darlin's what to think?

Back from the bird walk...

4. You can tell you're a White Woman when you understand how it must have felt to be one of those British tourist girls embedded in the ring of White British boys who organized to keep them safe. The Superdome in New Orleans was not what I'd call an island of racial harmony in the aftermath of that hurricane. God bless those little White boys, may they have many sons and be a blessing to White Folks everywhere.

I know there are more signs of being White, but I am running out of steam and need to go lay my head down on my (white) pillow and get some sleep.

I'm figuring some of y'all might want to add a little bit here, feel free!

Laurel

Friday, September 02, 2005

Of Funerals and Families

Well, Big Sam's mama was safely laid to rest in the cemetery back in Cleburne today. The family dynamics went smoothly, which was not expected, estranged sisters being hard to predict and all. But getting that tent over the gravesite proved mighty smart, the temperature being hot enough to fry a thought before it leaves your mind. The ceremony was solemn but hopeful, 'cause mama was a believer and the Lord knows who his sheep are.

Later that evening some previously unknown cousins and all-too-well-known siblings swapped stories and genealogies over a chicken-fried steak dinner, chewing over the family history all the way back to Tennessee. Copies of land deeds made back in the 1700s traded hands. Big Sam got his Texas accent back in a Jiminy Cricket. All in all it was a fine way to honor mama, I mean, bringing the kids together on good terms once again. I'm sure she's smiling up there.

Family. Those folks who look like you, who carry the genes that define and surprise you. The family eyes, the family chortle, the family diseases. Finding out that one of those unknown cousins has a wad of belly fat just like Big Sam's, just like his grandpa who died at 55 surprised and defined by his lard-lined heart. Hoping that Big Sam won't die that way, because it would be just too hard on those of us left to grieve. Family. The people who remember not just the name of the ancestor who fought in the 13th North Carolina, but the details of the carpetbagger's death that made P.H. a refugee to Texas after the War. People who can talk about it like it was yesterday. Family.

Family.

A good thing.

May there be more of them.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Commercial Comments

Well, folks, this was a new one on me. Turns out there are automated blog commenting programs that spew out commerical messages into the comments section of your blog...feels a little bit like a home invasion somehow, or a night on the border near Yuma, Arizona.

So I've had to turn on the word verification feature to hopefully allay the problem. Hope y'all don't mind one extra little step in letting me know what you think of my pondering!

God's blessing to all you (real) people!
Laurel

Friday, August 26, 2005

Big Sam's Mama Died

Well, you know wherever there's a little Sammie there's a Big Sam, and wherever there's a Big Sam there's a man who was his own mama's little Sammie one fine day long, long ago. But it didn't seem that long ago when Big Sam's mama passed to her reward the other day.

She died in her own apartment in the old folks home, asleep on the beige flowered couch in front of the TV, her ever-present, nattering, beloved TV. Big Sam's brother went to the home to check on her like he always did on Tuesdays and Thursdays and found her in her comfortable, but deceased, state.

Big Sam's brother called him and said, "You'd better come on over here, Mama's gone". Running out the door, Big Sam told his boss he wouldn't be back for a week or so, Mama was gone and there weren't no way he was coming in to work till what had to be done was done.

He wasn't but halfway there when the tears began to flow.

He'd been complaining about her constant demands just yesterday. What did she expect? He had a family to raise and no time to spend hopping after her little desires. Besides, the senior citizen's place had everything a lady of elder years could need. Even a chaplain! What more could Big Sam do than he already did?

Big Sam never knew exactly when he turned into little Sammie again, but it must have been somewhere between the Coca-Cola billboard and the concrete stairs of the old folks home, because the big red lettering was the last thing he remembered before he tottered up the stairs in full little Sam mode, wanting his mama and wanting her bad. Snuffling and wiping off tears and snot on his sleeve, he rang the bell.

The TV was off when his brother let him in the apartment. It was too quiet, and little Sam was scared. He walked over to the weightless, tossed-aside shell that was all that remained of his mama, his mama who'd always had the answers for everything, for every hurt and sniffle, and dropped on his knees next to her.

"Mama! Wake up! Please, Mama, please..."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Walking Your Children to Moloch

I read a scary article in our local newspaper the other day. Was it about child molesters, rape and pillage by foreigners invading our land, or even the criminal mismanagement of our tax dollars? No, it was much worse than that. It encouraged daddies to walk their children to the government school on opening day.

Mmmm, mmm, mmm. What an idea! It's promoted as a way for daddies to show they care for those young'uns. Yessir, I guarantee it was written just that way.

Now I know a bit about government schools, having had the misfortune to teach in one. And while that little elementary school down the block might not look like the mouth of Moloch's furnace, darlin', I promise you it is. It just takes 12 long years to consume all the sweet little Sammies you leave at the door. I guarantee you won't recognize the ashes blown out at the other end.

Salt and Light, I've been told. That's what our little Christian darlin's are to be through that fire. But you know and I know that Sammie is easy to fool, kinda like his daddy was before he found the Lord. He'd trust the devil himself if he showed up with a video game in his hand.

So, daddy! You with the clean overalls on as you head out the door with little Sammie's damp hand clutched in yours, TURN AROUND! And mama! Tug on your husband's arm and beg him for the privilege of teaching that tyke at home.

Don't go leading that trusting little guy up the hill, or don't be surprised when his sweet blond curls start to roll up and crisp when the first heat hits him once he walks through that door.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Natural Consequences

Some of you, my dear readers, may be wondering why the title "Natural Consequences" for my blog. Well, when pondering all the mistakes I've made in my natural, sinful self, the common denominators are the consequences I've endured. Every lousy little mistake comes with its natural sting. So the title "Natural Consequences" seems very appropriate to me.

Thanks to the grace of God and His forgiveness I'll avoid the ultimate "natural consequence" (and you can as well, if you repent and trust in Jesus), but I'm hoping my pain can be your gain.

Like a mother who tries to keep her child from the mistakes she herself made, I'm here to offer the only thing I can, hard-learned lessons.

And no, it's not smart to run with scissors. Here, sweetie, look at this scar!

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Breeders Win!

OK, folks, it should be obvious by now. Feed your wife birth control pills and enjoy the bass boat (enter your favorite recreational idol here) you got because she didn't have another kid to suck the money out of your pocket. Then watch the numbers of people who look like you and believe like you dwindle. Then you'll sit in your bass boat shaking your head, saying, "Dadgummit, there ain't no kids around here that I'd let little Sammie play with".

What WERE you thinking? A bass boat won't hold your hand on your deathbed, won't change your diapers when you can't go to the john no more. A bass boat won't love you beyond death and memory. It won't share your grandmammy's eyes, or your papa's quirky smile. Not even the biggest bass you ever pull flopping over the rail can ever do that, or be that, to you.

But no, you have to go out and play. Fishin' is fun, but it doesn't have much of a future without a son to share it with.

Meanwhile Juan or Ahmed is home raising up sons to defend him, sons to take what you have now, even that beloved bass boat of yours.

You gotta give 'em that, the Juans and Ahmeds, they love their kids, and plenty of them. Think about that the next time you kiss your wife on the cheek instead of her lips, then head out the door to that pretty red truck towing that nice little bass boat of yours. Leave her to her cold, empty house...and remember...

The Breeders win!