Life's Lessons of What NOT To Do
Part 1: Introduction + My Loved Ones
It has been unscientifically proven by scores of young children, hormone-driven teens and struggling adults that valuable lessons are most effectively learned at the expense of others. We are surrounded by these lessons of life whether we are aware of it or not. These lessons may be found in the innocent brown treasure hidden neatly in your front yard by your neighbor’s three-legged pooch, to the infamous and unfortunate “Blowtorch Incident of 1985.”
We all have been on either the giving or receiving end of these lessons. It is commonly held that parents, teachers, friends and other adults teach others to “do the right thing.” I call this the “I’ll Show You How It’s Done” method. Honestly, I question this method and its overall effectiveness. We want results, short and long-term.
I believe that most wisdom is provided by indirect instruction. This indirect instruction illustrates the problem and demonstrates negative actions. Rather than “bossing” someone around, it provides them with the “why not”, “where”, “when” and “how” of it. They are lessons worth remembering. They are lessons of What Not To Do.
I understand that I came into this world with a flourish, immediately bringing terror and fear into the lives of my parents and all those around me. I was a six-pound, red skinned, chicken-legged ball of flesh, screaming like I had the lungs of a 350-pound opera singer.
My brother entered ever so gently. Granted, he made our mom as sick as a dog during his stay in her uterine apartment, (which he left in shambles by the time I was there, I must add) but he exited with pure grace while she was drugged and unconscious. Mom was not even aware he had been born.
He was a hairy, blue child, who - after repeated spanking - finally wailed his protests stating, “Yes, I’m alive. Put me down so I can plan my strategy.” He spent the first several years of his life as a model child. He had a luxurious head of dark, silky hair, enviably long eyelashes and fine porcelain skin. He was that little boy in the restaurant dressed like a cowboy singing, “I’m An Old Cow Hand” on command. He spent his first three years performing a variety of show tunes, much to my parents’ delight. He has since outgrown the show tunes and developed into a tall, dark, handsome, loving yet angry man - with an incredibly goofy laugh and an uncontrollable compulsion to purchase motor vehicles.
Even though I entered the world much less gracefully than my brother, I nevertheless provided my parents with hours of hair-ripping fun. I was a temperamental, crabby, screaming creature, with chicken legs and sensitive skin. I screamed endlessly, morning until night. I grew slowly from the baby girl with hair that looked like I had stuck my finger in a light socket, dragging myself around in the combat crawl, into a crazier-haired toddler who followed my brother’s every move and said only one word - “No”. Everyone was thrilled. Their life of show tunes had unexpectedly turned into The Exorcist. I have since grown, (in more ways than one) and blossomed into a confident, mature woman with an incredibly goofy laugh and an uncontrollable compulsion to acquire as many jobs as possible.
My sweet mother is known by many names: Mama Bunny, Moo Ma, Moo Moo, Ma, Mom, Green, Greenie, and ultimately Gaga. She was born in Chicago, Illinois, some years before the beginning of the Vietnam War. I will elaborate no further, for fear of startling repercussions. She was third born into her loving family, happily joining her older siblings. She grew up the youngest child and only daughter to this modest suburban family. If only she had known what to expect from her two older brothers, she might have reconsidered leaving the comfort of her mother’s womb.
I do not intend to besmirch the reputation of any of those I love, but my mom had it hard, to say the least. She spent many hours of many days hoping to gain the respect and love of her two brothers, only to find herself flying, arms akimbo, through an attic wall or feeling the jet wash of a carving knife as it grazed her side. The knife incident was the direct result of her refusing to make her brother a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Enough said.
She grew ever-so gracefully through the years battling the “Curse of the Dark Hairs Everywhere” through her pre-teen and teen years to adulthood, only to discover that the battle would surprisingly continue.
My loving Father was born in Red Wing, Minnesota – or is it Wisconsin? His childhood is a mysterious compilation of “Tales From the Farm”. I’ve not heard these tales, only heard of them. Suffice it to say his childhood was filled with a great deal of action and drama originating from the antics of him, his two brothers, sister and cousin(s). We rarely speak of his childhood. When it is mentioned his hand draws up and begins to stroke his chin, his eyes turn glassy, drool slips gracefully out of the left side of his mouth, as he murmurs, “Yesss….my childhood.” I will leave it at that.
I believe my dad’s life truly began when he caught a glimpse of my mom at the County Courthouse in Tucson, Arizona. She was a lovely court clerk and he a well-educated, intelligent, surprisingly dirty, stinky undercover narcotics agent. He had come to “do justice!” when his eyes beheld the most beautiful vision – a vision unlike any other. She was all legs, with dark lustrous hair, mocha eyes and the skin of smooth cream. She was intelligent, bright-eyed and flirty. She was confident and well spoken, especially in their later years when she was telling him to, “Blow it out your ass!” He was smitten.
I share my Dad’s lust for knowledge, strapping calves and the inability to pre-plan. He has pursued and attained numerous higher degrees and had great success to show for it – namely a reputation of endless and unquestionable knowledge (eventually debunked by my 6 year-old).
My Husband was born in the Bronx to an upper-middle class, undeniably Italian family. He was the youngest of three children, the only male. His childhood is confusing, convoluted and not at all clear. We’re pretty sure it is chock full of amusing trials and tribulations – he just has little or no recollection of them. He has fully repressed these wondrous experiences and chooses to focus on the present. Any inquiries into his past are met with a, “What? Did you say something?” He clearly is selfishly hoarding those delicious memory morsels all for himself. Greedy.
He and I met not long after he ventured into Arizona after honorably serving in the Marines. His father and sister had moved to the area, but I am certain it is my beauty and indescribable magnetism that drew him powerlessly into my loving arms. He had been dating a friend of mine for quite some time when I decided she did not want him anymore and that I had better take over. We married soon after and have lived in marital bliss ever since, well until the “Cheating Debacle”. We’ll cover this later maybe.
My husband is the most handsome, loving, intelligent and angry person I have ever met. He holds our daughter, Lily, within his arms with a gentle strength, quiet love, and amazing character, while he rails mightily against the inequities in life like $4.00 gasoline and our 6 pound cat sneaking onto the counter. He is a gallant Gemini – torn between two worlds: one of love and peace; the other anger, hatred and Gastric Reflux. He laughs when there is humor, smiles when he is pleased, cries through every war story, chuckles through most love stories and scowls all the time.
Needless to say, these adults have influenced my development into the clumsy yet compassionate person I am today. It is important that I introduce them before I proceed sharing the actual lessons they have imparted. Stay tuned and don't click that mouse!