Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Voices from the Past...SHUT UP!


We are formed in great part by the messages we receive growing up from the people we regard as all-knowing, wise even.  Elders we admire or admired.  I had a great uncle that through my adolescent eyes was bigger than life and everything I ever knew about him seemed "right".  He was not only a big personality, but he was a very large man physically.  He was easily 6' 5" and he  was never an ounce under 300 lbs as long as he was alive. He had big opinions too - conservative ones.

He was my maternal grandmother's brother.  He married a woman that was a good match for him in every way.  She was even tall, but never an ounce overweight. Never!  She was a nurse and he worked hard in some sort of steel mill I recall.  They never had children which for the time was unusual.  One side effect of the no children thing was that they never had to spend their hard earned money on the costly little beasts that they are so their money just accumulated and compounded and by the time they reached retirement they were very very set.

They owned a big old Victorian house that was divided up into 3 apartments and they lived in the largest, poshest main floor of the home, collected rent from the other 2 units and made money that way too.  By the time they reached retirement age, they owned a cottage in Muskoka and a winter place in Florida AND a very cool Airstream travel trailer that they used when they felt the urge.  When my parents first married and I came along, we actually lived in one of the rental units  in the small wing of the house on the ground floor - a one bedroom apartment with a small kitchen, living room and one bathroom.  The wing had it's own porch which I spent hours playing make-believe on and under - my own little wing in a way. the house was on a very large lot, easily 3-4 acres and so the sprawling yard was also a boon to my curious toddler wanderings.

There was a sandbox near a gully and a ravine with woods and a back field that was good for rabbit and pheasant siting...or shooting apparently.  It went on but I never witnessed any of that.  I did dine on pheasant at an early age though. We moved when I was 3 but I will always remember those early years and the opinions I formed of our "landlords".  They kept the house and property in impeccable condition and there were rules regarding not making messes or pinching the peonies or being too noisy on Sunday afternoons when my uncle might be enjoying an afternoon catnap.

By three, I had pretty much figured that "perfectionism" was the goal, untidy yards were bad and there was no other real path in life but to save and accumulate money and possessions.  When I took off to go backpacking in Europe at 19, my great uncle came to the backyard BBQ my parents threw for me to bid me farewell and he handed me some money.  I can't remember how much but likely it was a fifty dollar bill (always more than anyone else would have given me) and he looked me square in the eye and said, "Just remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss."  I recall taking offense to his remark and the rebel in me sloughed it off as something old people say to let you know they kind of disapprove of your choices.  It sure did not stop me from getting on that plane the next day and proceeding to have one of the greatest adventures of my life.  What did he know about rolling stones?  He had never been outside of North America. Pfffttt!

That was when I decided maybe I was not going to follow the expected path or at least not the gospel according to Uncle Ken.  He is likely rolling around in his grave right about now wishing he could try and stop me from heading off on my next great adventure.  I can almost feel his grasp, his huge over-sized hand shaking mine, turning my palm upward, examining it closely and shaking his head in disapproval, unable to find even a trace of moss.

Sorry Uncle.  Not everyone is fond of sitting in one dank damp dark place long enough for fuzzy green shit to grow all over them.

I prefer breathing...and LIVING!


1 comment:

Carla Sandrin said...

I suppose he meant well. He was obviously from the depression era and could not conceive of another way to live. The nice thing about the wisdom of others is that we can take it or leave it.