Wisdom I planned to ignore
There are famous words that reverberate through homes around the world “You’ll understand when you’re older.” But to me, it always seemed that I would never be that old to understand. So why wait? I just figured that the words that some people told me would literally jump in one ear and fall out the other without ever embedding themselves into my gray matter. But words have a funny way of drifting up from underneath years of forgetfulness to present themselves to help you understand the world around you. So here are a few of the words of wisdom that I planned to forget but never had a chance to…
Wisdom #1: Expand Your Mind
One of my mother’s favorite sayings whenever she felt that my sister and I had made a less than stellar decision was “You have a mind of an acorn.” Really? I didn’t know acorns had minds, but apparently they do. And I had a mind just like one. Eventually I realized she meant that she believed my actions to be short sighted and my decisions were of those more suitable to an inanimate object then a person with common sense and reason. Ah ha! Well with that light bulb moment my mind capacity just had to increase to at least…a pine comb. And a good thing too. There was more wisdom that was thrown at me throughout my years and an acorn just didn’t have enough storage space.
Wisdom #2: Be Proud
My mother didn’t always point out me or my sister’s shortcomings. She has also helped us to be stronger. When I was younger, I had a hand puppet that looked like a sleeping baby. The baby’s head and hands were covered with nylon for whatever reason. But I knew I loved that hand puppet and played with it constantly. In fact, I played with it so much that the nylon had snagged and started to run. My sister, who loved me dearly but still fell prey to sisterly duties, teased me over that doll and its face and hands with nylon runs in them. I remember crying in my bed over the fact that my sister made fun of my beloved doll. My mother heard me crying and came and knelt down beside my bed and told me, “Don’t ever let anybody make you so upset over something. Don’t give them the satisfaction.” So I held my puppet baby even tighter that night and played with her the next morning. And with that knowledge my now pine comb sized mind had to be at least….a coconut. Score one for me!
Lesson #3: Entertain Yourself
Speaking of my sister, she is six years older than me. The big joke in our family is that I’m her first child and she is my second mother. So as surrogate mother, she instilled her own brand of wisdom in me. I can admit now that I did not make her job easy or pleasant. There were plenty of times that my mother’s wisdom of “kids can wait” was reinforced to my sister by my many childhood antics. From the time I got in the shower with all of my clothes on because my sister just wanted me to be clean and I couldn’t think of anything more ridiculous, to the countless times I wanted to sleep in her bed until she moved to the basement to get away from me. But I digress. This is about a lesson she taught me, not the lesson of patience that I taught her.
As I was a rambunctious child, there were times when she watched me when I was bored. Not just normally bored but the type of bored that dissolves an overactive kid into a big pile of crabby, unreasonable madness that finally explodes into a colossal whine of “I’m soooooooo bored!” And my sister would look at me and reply, “I’m not Michael Jackson. I’m not here to entertain you.” Well….she was right. She was not Michael Jackson. I mean, she did have a red jacket like his, but moonwalk she could not. So thanks for the lesson, dear sister, if you want to be entertained, entertain yourself.
Wisdom #4: Scars are badges
And entertain myself I did. I entertained myself in the summer by climbing trees and playing in the creek near our apartment complex and in the winter by sledding or having snow ball fights. Inevitably, there would be some sort of incident where I would end up with less flesh and red stickiness seeping from the aftermath. And off I would go limping, running, and even on occasion, being carried back to my home. My mother would always do the things that mothers do to make you feel better. My father would tell me that I would be fine and send me back outside. Whenever this would happen, there were sometimes “discussions” between my mom and dad that went something like this:
Mom: “You know she is going to regret when she is older that she has so many scars, especially on her legs. She may actually want to wear skirts one day.”
Dad: “Don’t worry about her, let her go out and play.”
But secretly my dad actually did have a lesson for me about my scars. Whenever I had a new injury and he would ask me what happened and then tell me, “Well then maybe you’ll have cool scar. And don’t pick at it.” I probably would not have so many “cool” scars if I actually listened to that second part of the advice. But of course I didn’t. But each one of my scars has a story. They are their own little markers of the roadmap of my life. And I don’t regret them, even the ones on my legs.
Wisdom #5: Be Grateful
I am grateful of my scars because they remind me of a life lived. But being grateful was something I learned from my Uncle Gary. Every year at Christmas my mom would give me money to go to the dollar store and buy gifts for my family. I was so happy to buy my gifts for others and couldn’t wait to wrap them and put them under the tree. One year, I remember giving my uncle a shoeshine kit with shoe polish and a little rag. At the time, I had thought the shoe polish was some sort of car grease as my uncle was always working on refurbishing a corvette that he kept in his garage that was always in a constant state of rework. When he opened the shoeshine kit he said with a smile “Thank you sweetheart. It was just what I wanted.” I know now that shoe polish is not the ideal gift to receive, but my uncle made me believe that it was the perfect present. Thinking of this moment reminds me to be thankful for any good thing that is given from the heart. And although my Uncle Gary is no longer here, I still carry his words, and him, with me.
Wisdom #6: Old people will make you old
As I get older, I do realize that the words people have told me do stay with you even if you planned to not listen. But as I collect years under my belt, I will take with me many wise words, but I will take an especially large collection of wisdom from my grandmother.
When my grandparents first moved to Florida a number of years ago, my grandfather had picked out a lovely ranch style home in a retirement community….and my grandmother hated it. I would talk to her on the phone and she would say, “You know what Kea, all the people here don’t want to do anything. They just want to sit around and be old. But I refuse to have these people make me old.”
My grandmother has always been a get up and go type of person: volunteering, taking line dancing lessons, attending fashions shows and the list goes on. So to put her around a group of people that believe that retirement is a comfy spot on the sofa and the remote in one hand and a snack in the other was just not her speed. I knew what she meant when she said “old people make you old.” It didn’t have anything to do with the age of the people around her. It was the lack of fire to keep living and not to just exist. I want to never just exist, I want to live at any age. My grandparents eventually did move to another community, one my grandmother felt had more lively activities and was not for the old of heart.
Now in my musings about these lessons I have collected over the years, it may seem that I took the advice at exactly the time it was given to me. But that was definitely not the case. It took me becoming older in years for these words to manifest themselves at appropriate times and situations to make me actually listen to them. But I am fortunate that the words of wisdom I planned to ignore never truly were ignored or forgotten. They were just laid in different areas of my mind for later use. So I guess it is a good thing that my mind didn’t stay the size of an acorn’s…perhaps it’s even a watermelon by now.