Monday, May 13, 2019

Looking Back, 1984

I remember so vividly the transition from living in the city to living in the country. In the city we had Girl Scouts, swim lessons, clean houses, new cars, tidy green lawns, smiling kids, and gymnastics.  In the country we had HUD homes, used cars, mean kids on bikes, cigarette smokers, yelling parents, grass burrs, and gymnastics. At least that was a constant in my life. Gymnastics served as a stronghold for me to develop some grit. I remember getting my monthly USA Gymnastics magazine, and pouring over articles and interviews with Mary Lou Retton. If that short girl with strong legs could do it, so could I. Mom probably spent all of her money on my lessons, leotards, competition fees, and doctor's visits. She never flinched. In fact, if I complained about lessons she was quick to remind me of the hard work I had put in. As much as I loved competing with my team, I still never felt like I fit in. I think it was because most of them still lived in the city...

My new school was a shock. Run down buildings, old school buses...I'd never ridden a bus before, now I rode it twice a day with my little brother. We got up early and waited in the dark for the bus to arrive. On the days we were running late he would honk once a minute for three minutes. He really was a nice guy, considering his job. The kids on the bus were wild animals, scowling at each other at 7:30 am, hurling insults for no reason at all. The girls wore absurd amounts of makeup and seemed angry all the time. One girl had scars on her face, and after being invited to a sleepover at her house and seeing how they lived,  I wasn't a bit surprised. Her parents weren't there the entire time, and we watched Children Of The Corn alone in her living room. When I went to her kitchen to get a piece of cake, roaches scrambled all over the counter top and dishes. We slept on her bedroom floor without blankets, and I woke up with at least 30 spider bites on my legs. The next day we talked in her driveway, and she was cold and secretive about everything. She wasn't friendly to me, but I still felt sad for her and obligated to be her friend. Turns out she didn't want any new friends. 

After school my brother and I would lock the doors and watch HeMan: Master of the Universe, and eat Jello Pudding Pops. Mom bought Little Debbie snacks for us, and we never seemed to run out. I remember her coming home and cooking supper, then falling asleep on the couch while we did math homework. She was exhausted in every way. One day I sat in the passenger seat of her Mazda and held her hand while she cried. That was horrifying. My grandparents were pure love and comfort. Mamaw kept us in the summer, and cooked three meals a day. There was always a homemade pie or cake after supper. We picked peaches in her orchard, and watched Papaw work in the fields. He would take us out to the well house and let us "help" him irrigate the cotton. The cold well water rushed over our feet and the smell of cold water and fresh soil was pure joy. We'd ride in the Jeep from the field back to the house if a thunderstorm blew in. Again, that magical smell of rain coming had a way of cleaning out my soul. 

This was the year I accepted Christ. My best friend in the neighborhood had invited me to a local church, and I kept going on my own after that. I'd ride my skateboard to church on Sundays and slide it under a bush to hide it. My Sunday school teacher was a kind lady, never critical. The preacher had acne scars all over his face, but he was always smiling. The ladies in the church would smile and pat me on the shoulder, and it felt like pity, but maybe it wasn't. I took the prayer of salvation seriously, even at the age of 10. It was a very real psychic  and emotional change in me, and it came at a good time. I genuinely saw people differently after my baptism. Colors seemed different...softer. At that age I understood how simple God's love was, and I accepted it fully. It wasn't complicated at all. It was beautiful. I felt less alone, and no longer lost in the events of my life. 



10 comments:

-FJ said...

1984 - Hmmmmmm. I'm still a Systems Engineer working for the Sparrows Point Shipyard. I've probably finished all my design mods (firefighting systems, fuel and lube oil systems, potable water system, central control console and helicopter deck) for the Hauge, and am now writing proposals for obtaining new work for the shipyard. These are relatively good times... the Reagan defense buildup is underway and there's talk of a 600 ship Navy. I think I've probably submitted and been notified of losing a bid to build six T-AGOS ships, and I'm probably just getting started on my successful bid for building the Tanner and Maury. I won't be notified of the win until '85 though... proof that I'd finally "broken the code" on writing winning US Navy proposals. The System's Management degree that the company (Bethlehem Steel) had paid for had finally paid off for them, three years later. I could tell by the "questions" I had gotten, where I needed to strengthen up the Management Proposal. I came up with a new position of "Mission Systems Manager"... to ensure that the sonar and vessel quieting features were properly implemented... years before companies like Lockheed Martin had ever even heard of a "Mission Success Manager". They will be the last ships that the Sparrows Point Yard builds before declaring bankruptcy and closing.

On the home front, I've got a demanding 1-2 year old at home who's learning to talk, and I'm the relief shift.

Yep... all work. It went so fast, I can't remember much of the details.

Jen said...


Yep... all work. It went so fast, I can't remember much of the details.

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Fascinating how men and women (traditionally) look back on the events of their lives through different lenses.
Through this exercise, I realized how much my memories involve strong emotional events. I'll keep going, but I'm sure it'll be no different in looking back on my adult life.

-FJ said...

We have different roles, no doubt. Mine was always to provide a base of personal and financial stability for my family. And when you're first starting out, that's not always a sure thing. Many of my friends were sailing for ARCO, Texaco, and the MEBA and making 3-4x what I made working in the shipyard... but they were unmarried and had no responsibilities but themselves.

My career path more closely mirrored my older brothers. He got married after graduation and went to work as a Nuclear Ship Superintendent up at Electric Boat, Groton, CT, installing nuclear reactors in submarines. He's still working as an Marketting/Applications Engineer for what was once the Ingersoll Rand Pump Division in New Jersey. He and his wife raised 4 boys, and at 68, he STILL working/ paying the bills.

Yes we have our emotional moments... but our focus is on maintaining the necessary financial stability to live that suburban 'American Dream'. And yes, THAT is very boring stuff.

-FJ said...

ps - My older sister would completely relate to your "finding Christ" (although she found Him at a much older age). Her life today revolves around her community Russian Orthodox Church in Kodiak, Alaska. I've never been there to see it, but when we do talk, she's always getting ready for some church "event" or another. Her husband graduated from a seminary and almost because a minister. My sister dropped out of UC Santa Cruz in '68 to go follow some cult-guru (we were living in Venezuela at the time). She was a hippie (along with most of my California cousins, the exceptions being those drafted to serve in Vietnam).

As for myself, I never really let myself "Believe", I was always agnostic. I "chose to Believe" in the 90's after getting a full dose of Plato and Emerson. But my G_d isn't one who answers any prayers.

Jen said...

but our focus is on maintaining the necessary financial stability to live that suburban 'American Dream'. And yes, THAT is very boring stuff.

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And I'm ever grateful that my husband has been able to provide that stability for us, but it is certainly comforting to know that I COULD if I HAD TO. I still work, and always have, but for a few years I took off when the kids were babies. I can't imagine the fear my mom dealt with after the divorce, knowing she had to support two kids on basically minimum wage. She became a business owner and later a librarian, but those first few years as a single mom weren't easy. It taught me that women MUST be able to support themselves and their children AT ALL TIMES.

But..on this..."And yes, THAT is very boring stuff."

Are you referring to the suburban American dream itself? Or the father's role as financial provider?

....because the suburban American dream has bored me to TEARS. :p

Thersites said...

Me too. But without that background of boredom and tedium, would all those little successes stand out? The soccer games, recitals, plays, report cards, graduations, birthdays...

Oh, the ennui...

...now all I want are the moments of beauty, of creativity, of inspiration, of discovery.

I suppose I'm getting gready. Coming full circle.

Jen said...

I think that's all I've ever wanted. I'm not very good at appreciating the mundane, but I see how there is so much peace there. I see how living there is really a beautiful discipline. I don't look down on it at all....I just struggle with wanting more.

chop wood, carry water...

Jen said...

You mentioned your sister belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. I have a good friend in Oklahoma who is enamored with the Orthodox church. I can see the attraction, honestly. When I left the Baptist (Southern, to be exact), I craved tradition and ritual. I found it very comforting because it helps establish belonging. My church upbringing seemed to be based on outward expression of emotion at times. That is less and less appealing the older I get.

I've visited a Episcopal church for several years, but even there I don't really "click" into place.

I think there are SO MANY believers in Christ who have basically quit believing in the CHURCH. And there's the problem, because we are taught that without a church, you are incomplete in your faith.

I just disagree with that.

I do wish that I could somehow connect with all those other wanderers out there. I know they're feeling the same way.

My cousin is a missionary, and she once attended a church in Minneapolis that met under a bridge, to accommodate the large homeless population. That really sounded nice to me.

-FJ said...

Yes, I think that everyone seeks a "community" to belong to... but there are always up and down sides to that. Perhaps it's suffice to find a "space" somewhere (like Nicole's in the Sweet Hereafter) between "community" and "Society"... ?

-FJ said...

I suppose it depends upon what "secrets" the "community" is repressing (like pedophile Catholic priests) that get locked in by the community's symbolic structures.