image courtesy of newsone.com Before there was Michael Jackson, before there was Prince, before Madonna, Mc Hammer, Janet, Usher, Chris Brown, Britney and an influx of late nineties boy bands, there were people who inspired me, a 3-5 year old to … Continue reading
So apparently dancing runs in the family….
My. Kid. Rocks.
No of course you don’t. For one, you didn’t know me back in 7th grade, when I was 13. Second, I’ve never told you. Third, even if I have told you this story, consider yourself privileged because this isn’t a story I go around telling at social or family gatherings to seem interesting or make people laugh. I say that because when I do tell the story, those I’ve told seem to think I’m embellishing details for entertainment’s sake, and or they can’t stop laughing. The laughing, now, years after it’s happened, I can understand. It is a funny story. The notion that I would exaggerate such an ordeal confuses me. I mean seriously, why would anyone make up a story about getting manhandled by a young bull? This is real life people, a real story, a very real event that occurred in my life. I’m taking the time to tell it here because two very wonderful & funny gals I know (@james&jax & @momgosomething) in the Twitterverse asked for a funny, distracting story….so, ladies, & readers…..here it is.
So. When I was 13 I lived in a little town in Texas called Pleasanton, a small blip on the map about 45 mins south of San Antonio. We had moved there a year prior when I was in 6th grade. We lived in a little housing development off a major roadway that split the development into two sections. In this development, everyone lived on 1-2 acre plots of land. We had two, and had kind of a rancher style, one level house near the front of the property. Now. When I say I lived in the country, I mean I LIVED IN THE COUNTRY. I’m talking livestock, dirt & gravel roads, cactus, & wild animals. It was normal to see an armadillo while waiting for my bus to take me into town to school….where I was the only black girl. Yes. Seriously. In fact, out of a population of 792, there was only one other black family in the district or town. They had all boys. I’ll never forget one of them-his name was Timothy Childs. We got into a fight during homeroom once…but that’s another post, where was I?
Ahh yes. Where I lived. Well let’s move on to my neighbors. They were close I guess you can say in terms of being able to see their houses from my property and just taking a 1-2 minute walk on over to where they were. Not super far apart, but not super close. On one side, were my neighbors…the Clarks. Their son’s name was Ricky. Didn’t really like his parents or siblings much, but he was cool. I played football with him & a couple of other boys from the neighborhood. On the other side, and this is where the story will focus on from here on out, were my neighbors Mr. & Mrs. Lopez, an elderly Mexican couple who had long been retired & were busy enjoying their later years.
Mrs. Lopez was always very quiet, but sweet. She was always up front, next to their house tending her garden or laying out laundry on the line, even on hot summer days. Her hands were soft but strong & I remember she would always show me what she was growing or offer me something to eat while my father & her husband talked about….I don’t know, whatever you talk about when you own land in Texas and are trying to tame it. Which brings me to her husband. Mr. Lopez.
He was a skinny man, wiry and bowlegged. His hands were gnarled from years of labor, but by looking at them & how he handled things you knew he was highly skilled at several things. He was always showing me or my dad how to fix something. When he spoke, he spoke with a brevity & softness that reminded me of Mr. Miyagi…I know, weird reference but go with it, that’s what I thought of whenever I spoke to him.
At the back of our property we had nothing…just cactus & probably a snake breeding ground (YUCK!). But Mr. Lopez? On the back of his property he pretty much had a makeshift barn. Chickens, goats, a pig, two donkeys….It was pretty much the backdrop you’d need for Charlotte’s Web….or the Nativity scene.
Sick of the backstory & descriptive storytelling? Good, then let’s fast forward a year. Toward the end of my 6th grade year, Mr. Lopez added a young calf to his livestock concoction. His name was Bandit. He had ginormous eyes, a tongue longer, wider than Gene Simmons-and it was blueish purple. He was white with large black spots and he became my favorite out of all the Lopez animals immediately. I’d stand at the back of our property, with my hand through the fence, and he’d come loping over, eager for a few pets or a treat. Mr. Lopez would invite me over sometimes to teach me how to feed him. It was fun & very 4H-ish. So we became pals Bandit & I.
I don’t know why I missed it, maybe you just don’t realize these things when you’re young, but it never dawned on me that Bandit was a male calf. Meaning he would grow into a bull. See, missing that very minute detail set the stage for what became the demise of our friendship a year later.
Like I said I was in 7th grade. Had about a month of school left before summer break. Hadn’t seen Bandit much-was busy on the weekends with debate & drama tournaments, so I didn’t really spend a lot of time outside those days. This one particular weekend I had off. Nothing to do but sit outside and watch our dogs, three Rottweilers, while reading a book. Well, I got so engrossed in the book, I didn’t notice that the dogs were no longer playing close by. When I did pull my nose out of said book, what did I see? Three Rottweilers at the back of our property, sliding themselves under the fence and into Mr. Lopez’s barn area-Bandit’s pen to be exact. Letting out a sigh, I got up and ran across our property to our back fence. When I got there (out of breath mind you, ) I beheld three Rotts happily scarfing down cow poop like it was a delicacy & chasing ol’ Bandit around the pen. Not liking where this was going, but having NO IDEA what I was really in store for, I climbed up & over our fence, being careful not to cut myself on the barbed-wire that ran across the top. Landing in the pen, my whole body cringed in dismay: it had rained the night before and had made it nearly impossible to tell what was mud….and what was cow poop. (did you just throw up in your mouth a little? Good, cause I did just typing that, ECK!)
Seeing I had no alternative but to trudge as gingerly as possible through the sludge to get the dogs, I set about to do just that. Only there was nothing gingerly about it. It was a total nightmare for a 13 year old girl who had just started puberty. The more I ran, the more I fell. I ran in one direction, the dogs, thinking it was a game, ran in the other. Meanwhile Bandit is trotting around all of us looking either annoyed or thrilled to have company, I couldn’t tell which-I couldn’t see much out of my mud/cow poo covered eyes. Literally every part of my outer being was covered by this point and I even think I managed to start crying. After about twenty minutes I was finally able to grab the dogs. As I was pushing the last one back under the fence, I heard a snort behind me, felt it hot & moist against my shirt. I turned around: It was Bandit. Only MAN OMG was he WAY bigger than what I had remembered….or even seen lately. He was taller than me at this point, his oversized eyes peering down at me begging for a quick pet from an old friend. I obliged him, scratching him behind his ears, rubbing him along his back, feeling how massive and thicker he felt. When I reached up to pat his head, my hands hit hard, concrete-like matter. Running my hand to one end of it, I realized that this wasn’t just matter, this hard object was the beginnings of HIS HORNS. And by beginning stages I’m talking they weren’t full grown, but they weren’t tiny either. These were horns baby. After this little discovery I decided it was time for me to go. “Well Bandit, ol, buddy, it was nice seeing you, but I have to go take these jokers (pointing to the Rotts) back inside. Sorry for bothering you!”
As soon as I put my hands and one foot on the fence, I felt that long, yucky cow tongue grabbing the back of my shirt and he actually started to CHEW on it! “Okay, look Bandit, playtime is over dude, I have to go. I’ll come back,” I told him, patting him again above his nose between his eyes and gently removing my shirt from his teeth. Seeming to understand, he started to back away….Looking back now, I see another detail that never registered on my radar: while backing away, he was lowering his head. As in, you know, “I’m about to charge somebody” mode? Yea, he was doing that. Only I missed that tell tell detail because I was too focused on trying to get home so I could wash this cow poo off of me. I was halfway up the fence when I felt the STRONGEST and most painful force land squarely on my back, making my spine scream in shock. Before I could even wrap my mind around what was happening, it came again, stronger this time, with more precision & a slight side toss to it, the force of it throwing me off the fence and onto the ground a couple of feet away. Scrambling to my feet, I saw Bandit, pawing the earth, snorting like he was inhaling a line of coke, and lowering his head. I tried to sound soothing and calm as I said his name, but he charged and I ran like hell. Or should I say ran & slipped? There I was slipping & sliding, running like a rodeo clown around a bull pen with a young bull charging after me. Sometimes he caught my legs, giving my shins & calves a good thrashing of the horns, others it was my arms & back.
Oh-in case you were wondering: those dogs? Yea, they were barking & running away while I was getting my patootie kicked. So much for fierce protectors. So there I was getting my 13 year old body beat up & tossed around like a rag doll. In my mind I saw visions of the stampeding bulls in Spain & footage from shows like “When Animals Attack”. Every time I tried to climb the fence, all I got was my legs kicked out from under me and barbed wire slicing into my arms. NOT MY IDEA OF A GOOD TIME.
Speaking of time, I remember thinking to myself, “Where is Mr. Lopez? Like he doesn’t see what’s going on out here?!” After what seemed like an eternity, God must have heard my prayers because all of a sudden I heard his voice (Mr. Lopez’s, not God’s) calling Bandit’s name. The problem? He was at the FRONT of his property. We were 2 acres away. And he was 75, I don’t have to tell you he didn’t walk very fast. So Bandit & I kept playing cat & mouse with my life until Mr. Lopez finally reached the pen. Hearing his owners voice and the sound of the feed can, Bandit forgot about me instantly and ran towards his food. Me? I ran & jumped back over the fence before Bandit changed his mind. I ran all the way back to my house, into the bathroom, where I washed myself off while telling my dad what happened. I won’t get into the rest or his reaction cause well…it’s less than ideal & irrelevant to this story.
Me? Aside from serious pain, bruising, & tattered clothing, I survived. Hobbled like an old woman for a few days, but I recovered.
Bandit? Well…Mr. Lopez came over & apologized for what happened, telling my dad it wouldn’t happen again, he could guarantee it. I didn’t really get what he meant until a few weeks later when he invited us over for burgers.
Bandit’s pen was empty.
There’s a lot about my 4 year old, Brennan that I admire. There’s also a lot that annoys me sometimes (like his incessant chatter and compulsive need to ask me the same question 5-6x in a row) but there’s so much more about him that I admire and respect…envy even.
He has this joy to him that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, even from a kid. He just gets in these spaces where he is so in awe of life, so enthralled by his environment, so intrigued by what’s going on around him that he exudes this energy that’s static with little electrodes of joy. Bliss. Wonderment. And this joy makes him inquisitive, bold, fearless even, which catches me off guard sometimes because he’s naturally shy like his mama.
Until he gets to know you that is. Then its game on and he loves to have your full attention-just like his mama. The introverted facet of his personality is just an observational tool he uses to feel out the people and environment around him. While he can be content playing by himself, being the social and playful butterfly is where he’s most comfortable. It’s in this zone where all the rich dimensions of his personality and vivid imagination truly get to be on display-Again, just like his mama. In fact, I think that’s what amazes me the most about him-in him I see myself, which I’m sure is something all parents experience at some point.
I see the child I was-but only at school, with my step moms, or when I went to visit my mother in the summer. I see who I was in my mind, because that’s the only place I was allowed to live and grow, especially creatively-my mind. My father kept me muted. Silenced. He controlled everything from what I ate, to how I wore my hair, to what I wore to school. I wasn’t allowed to ask questions. My learning about life came from interactions at school, observing people quietly at restaurants or in stores, or watching my father go through five marriages. It came from the books I read to escape, from listening to songs on my radio when he wasn’t home. It came from listening to artists like Prince when he was home. It came from spending lots of time sitting alone outside, just staring out at the world around me.
So now that I’m a parent, and I see all these aspects of his personality & thought patterns that remind me of myself, I have to make a conscious choice every day, (sometimes several times a day) to not suppress who he is or what he expresses. Boundaries? Yes. Discipline? Yes. But a silent, muted, expressionless, inanimate child is not what I want him to be….or even the type of parent I want to be. I want his wildly vivid imagination to thrive & be an environment for his creativity & love of music to grow. I want him to be able to talk, tell me how he feels, even if he says it in a way I don’t understand, or it’s a fictional story about how him and a friend from school slayed a yellow dragon & then ate chocolate cake. I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy. Especially because what was modeled for me was garbage.
That may sound harsh, but look. I know that there is no instructional manual for parenting. I get that for the most part, as parents, we’re just doing the best we can with what we have. But as with everything, there are exceptions, and my dad was an exception. Everything he taught me about parenting was garbage. His “children should be seen & not heard” approach to parenting me, forcing me to walk around with my head down, never allowing me to make eye contact with him or anyone else? Garbage. Pure garbage that impacts me now, even at 28.
So my point, is that when I look at my son, I see him for the individual he is, but I also see the little girl who wasn’t allowed to live, to express, to be herself, make her own choices. So I refuse to recycle the garbage that was modeled for me, that was dumped into my life. I will work on tossing it out, untangling myself from it, and turning it into powerful lessons to help myself & others, but I. WILL. NOT. RECYCLE or dump it on my children.
It’s not easy. When he wants to wear things that don’t match, I have to reign in the urge to force him to wear something else. He’s only 4 and for crying out loud he has better fashion sense than I do. Oh-and did I mention I never wear socks that match?
When he is talking 500 mph and asking me a slew of questions I don’t feel like answering, I suppress the words that want to shut him up and have been trying instead to just listen to him.
Yea, I’ll say it. I admire the hell outta my son. His view of life motivates me to keep going.
Is there something about your kids that you admire? Something from your childhood you refuse to recycle? Feel free to share!
See this woman right here? She made me fall in love with books. Before reading her writing I was infatuated with them, but reading her novels took my mind on an escapist journey like none other. After reading her first, I was hooked…her third, I became obsessed, & by the time I reached the last in her series, my addiction was full blown, my soul aching & itching for more once my eyes devoured the last page. I wasn’t the first to fall prey to the awesomeness of her stories, I wasn’t the only girl to have gotten lost in her 19th century world of covered wagons & petticoats. Her stories are loved by millions all over the world. Her name? Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her books? The infamous Little House on the Prairie series that detailed her childhood, family’s journey out west, & would later go on to inspire a television series of the same name, starring Michael Landon as her Pa. There was alot my dad didn’t allow me to do as a kid, but reading books was the one thing he did let me do that freed my mind from the crap I lived through daily. As a student who loved english & history in school, reading her adventures was a buffet of both, and fed my active imagination with vivid images of what life was like as a pioneer girl & woman in her day. When we lived in New Mexico & even later back in Texas, my favorite thing to do growing up was lay out in the grass on a spring day, or sit on the corner of the porch in the summertime & just get lost in her world. As I got into junior high & high school I moved on to read books written by her daughter Rose Wilder & finally moved on to classics like Gone With the Wind, Swiss Family Robinson, & The Great Gatsby, but that series of books always maintained a place in my heart & still do to this day. Look, I know Harry Potter is cool and all, but do kids even read classic & iconic books like this anymore? (sigh)
And since my wistfulness brought up favorite summertime to-do’s, no summer is ever complete with out an anthem. This, in my book, is easily in the top 3 Greatest:
(sigh) And since we’re going to mention Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff, we might as well throw this in the mix
AAAAAAHHHHHHHH remember those days? (And those FASHIONS?!) Even though this eighties baby was only in first grade when it was released in ’88, I remember hearing this on the radio in the car & later loving the references to it in the the intro to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air….which would also become one of my favorite shows ever. Say what you want about Will being corny, but I connected with the goofball he portrayed on the show & even when it came to his music, call it “soft” all you want, it made me do two things: Think I could rap & get my body moving. Period. Even when I got older, his music still stuck with me, becoming a guilty pleasure I’d be dying to indulge in.When he became a blockbuster actor, & others were dogging his style & flow,saying he should stick to acting, I was busy flipping the radio dial hoping to catch some Big Willie Style on any station:
And yes, to this day, at 28 years old, I still know every.single.word. Whether he was rapping, dancing, or chasing aliens in Men in Black, Will made the goofball in me geek out & feel good about it. He’s taken on more serious roles in the past years, but I miss the early days when did things like this
But, I understand he’s this big action, blockbuster actor, so….I can live with him shedding his goofball geek as long as he keeps making movies like The Pursuit of Happyness & doing incredible chase the bad guys scenes like this
So to Mrs. Ingalls Wilder-thank you for giving my mind a place to escape to & inspiring the writer in me. And Mr. Smith, thank you teaching me how to be myself no matter what the critics say, & helping me tap into my inner goofball-it’s given me the ability to laugh my way through whatever life hands me.
And THANK YOU for reading-if there’s something from your childhood/teen/young adult years in the pop culture realm that makes you wistful for eras past or wax nostalgic, and you’d like to share it in a guest post, email it to me! bconfessions at gmail dot com. I’ll be posting something relevant to this theme every Wednesday, so submissions/guest posting is definitely welcomed!