Saturday, June 30, 2007

who the hell knew?

I had to look it up: meme. It seems there's a lot to being a meme. Not to be confused with being a mime, of course, though I suppose there's a lot to being one of those, too. Freaks.

I digress.

GN tagged me for a meme. I'm grateful; I'm still new to this whole thing, this blog-community... who the hell knew? (I believe I've been very lucky. The bloggers whose work I regularly read have both inspired and touched me on countless occasions these last few months. I can't wait to get home -- perhaps one day I'll meet these beautiful, wonderful people at one of those bloody HHs.)

Here we go.

The rules:
1. Post the rules, then list eight things about yourself.
2. At the end of the post, tag and link to eight other people.
3. Leave a comment at those sites, letting them know they've been tagged, and asking them to come read the post so they know what to do.

1. I shamelessly dog-ear the pages of my books. And the books I've borrowed. But I don't stop there -- the dog-earing at the top is for keeping my place, the dog-earing at the bottom is for marking a passage that I want to have handy for later... I started doing this in college, and it has since become ritual de rigeur. In fact, the quote from Liberated Bride in my last post was brought back from literary obscurity precisely because I had dog-eared it. This practice is my kind of pack-ratting. Who knows? Maybe one day, that interesting quote from Fountainhead will support my argument in a thesis. Or maybe I'll use that couplet from Sufi Masters in a love-letter.

2. Sixth graders back in my district in California are (were?) afforded the opportunity to attend "Outdoor Education." It involved a long bus ride from the Valley to the mountains near Tahoe and being eaten alive by decidedly unsympathetic insects and forced marches through "demonstration forests" and learning that you can drink from the Manzanita tree and insufferable crushes on the girls in Spruce Dorm. It was my first away-from-the-parents experience. A couple days before we were slated to leave, the school sent home a list of necessary items to be packed. Being a big boy, I insisted on helping my mom gather the Implements of My Emancipation. Scanning the list, I came across this: sanitary napkins. Having never seen the two words paired, but being otherwise worldly as only a sixth grader can, I deduced that sanitary napkins was just a fancy way of saying "things into which to blow your nose." I told mom, "I need sanitary napkins for Outdoor Ed. Can you buy some?" I recall her asking me in a straight face, "Why?" "You know I have bad allergies, mom, come on." I replied. Having departed the bus, I joined my classmates in the dorm in which we were told we'd sleep. Time to unpack. Out from my luggage spilled forth an enormous plastic bag, straining at its contents. A bag that bore not a manufacturer's label, or pretty coloring, or a snazzy catch-line. Just big, black sans-serif words stenciled across a nondescript, generic white background: Maxi Pads (Heavy Flow). My mom retains the same sense of off-kilter humor exercised at my expense, and I retain the same sense of smug brilliance despite her lessons.

3. Recently, I have become deeply afraid that my daughter, nearly seven, will grow to resent me as she reaches adolescence. Because though I know I can come home from this nearly seven-month deployment and she will run towards me the instant she spots my car and hug me and scream, "Daddy!" and forgive and forget that I'd ever been gone... I suspect that as she grows old enough to understand a bit more about her world -- that world I irreversibly and dramatically changed when I left her mom -- she will see my here-again/gone-again presence as less a father's loving commitment to do as much as he can and more her "real daddy's" neglect. I am afraid that Mommy's boyfriend will become more of a Dad than I am because he is there.

4. I miss my house in Georgia, because I had two acres and I tended every square foot of it with love and pride. I planted beautiful rows of crepe myrtles, I transplanted Bradford pears, I coaxed to life delicate honeysuckle and morning glory and climbing tea roses, I mowed and edged and spread decorative bark, I laid flagstone walkways and set up a soccer field for my daughter and her friends, I built giant window boxes and trellises and everything just looked and smelled so good, and I did it myself. It wasn't a matter of being Hank Hill and insisting on having the best yard in the neighborhood, it was the case of me wanting my home to be my home, and it was. I've lived itinerantly for nearly three years now.

5. My sister, three years my junior, fell apart when I joined the Navy fourteen years ago. She hasn't really recovered since. Once, she wrote me in a letter filled with angry, illegible scrawl that it was my fault -- that I abandoned her. In recent years, she never lets the chance pass to tell me how proud of me she is, but her life remains a struggle in so many ways. I don't understand how it happened; I don't know how to help.

6. I am affable and social and inviting, but my circle is exclusive. I can count on one hand the number of true friends I have and have ever had, but I consider them such because we've each, on our on part, earned the title. I can recall all of them: in elementary and junior high, it was Clinton. In high school, it was JJ. In the Navy, it is Scott and Doug and Adam. FreckledK wrote about "worrying about the fair-weather friends" all the while "risking the positive connections that (she has) with the true-blue." Her reflections ring true; I encourage her to live them.

7. I will always match my belt to my shoes, and they will have shine, and their edges will be dressed... my ties will always fall at that precise point 1/4 the way down my buckle, and they will neither be skinny nor fat and their knots will be appropriate to the collar... my shirts will always fit just right and never billow... my Navy uniforms will always be impeccable, even the impossibly white ones.

8. I am between houses. And lives. I'm coming back to the States to a storage facility full of dusty furniture and not-so-dusty memories. It's scary and exciting and I'm pretty sure there's been a country song or two written about just such an experience.

There's little sense in tagging anyone -- everyone I read has already been tagged.


Kristin said...

Your mom sounds awesome.

~Justin said...

Kristin: she surreptitiously placed Exlax in some of the chocolate bars' wrappers one Easter, with the warning not to eat all my candy in one setting. I learned better.

gn said...

Hm, all I can say is almost all adolescent girls go through a resentful/dramatic phase. Physical presence is important, but there are other ways to be part of someone's life -- and have them be part of yours, which I have no doubt you'll do -- when physical proximity is impossible.

P.S. I didn't know what a meme was for a while either.

jess said...

That camping story made me giggle. I think all camping stories require at least one humbling moment :)

My parents are together, but my dad worked long, long hours and weekends when I was young. My sister resents him for it; I see it as an act of love. I think your daughter will react to you based on her nature, which you've described as sweet and true. She'll know, sooner or later, that your intentions were and are full of integrity.