I know that wasn’t a mom original. She always had a way of repackaging common sayings, applying them with a teacher’s tact and her own personal flair, though. Maybe she said that one so often to me because I never saw her as my teacher when I was a kid. I do now.
As I’ve previously written, both of my parents are natural teachers. My mom assigned my brother and I book reports to do in the summers between the school years. I’m not kidding. And it wasn’t a form of punishment either; it was simply a part of our regular Plummer-kid enrichment series. She would make us read books, write reports on them, grade them, and review those papers with us. She was a high school English teacher. It didn’t matter to her that we were in elementary or middle school – we read the high school books.
My father was equally instructive. On one morning car ride to school my fifth grade year, I looked out the window and said, “It’s so foggy.” My father, having just returned from another TDY assignment to England, asked me, “Do you know why England is such a foggy place?” Um, ya, I was nine, so, no, I didn’t. He then launched into an unsolicited sermon on the properties of fog, explaining scientific principles I wouldn’t learn in school for another few years.
Between both my parents, every road trip (and there were many) became a mobile history lesson. August of 1992, Mom, Dad, Becci, Matt, and I drove from NC to MN for Matt’s and my AAU Junior Olympics track meet. It took us nearly a week to get there because we stopped in such places as Ashville NC (to see the Biltmore), Lexington Kentucky (to see the KY Horse Park (I’d read every Black Beauty, Black Stallion, and Thoroughbred Series book there ever was, for crying out loud), Pleasant Hill KY (to take an historical tour of a Shaker Village), Galena IL, and other landmarks I can’t recall. As close as my sister, Becci, and I had already become, that particular summer I was in full-fledged monkey-see-monkey-do mode with her, loving her so much that I wanted to mimic everything she did (from pegging her jeans (totally awesome!! :-p) to writing with an old fashioned quill pen (and subsequently spilling the ink all over her desk one night! 🙁 )…She was the history buff of us four kids, so I remember that being the first historical immersion tour I really appreciated. That stands in stark contrast to the horror stories my family still tells about me screaming my head off in Washington DC the first time we lived in Northern VA and went to every museum imaginable….but, c’mon, what five year old, after spending countless hours in the Smithsonian in the middle of summer, wouldn’t throw a temper tantrum?
My parents are intellectually diverse, well-traveled, hilarious, emotional, complicated, lively people, but for all the knowledge they had to impart, their messages sometimes got lost, ignored, and otherwise discarded because they raised their voices – A LOT. It’s a family trait I’ve inherited and which I struggle to purge from my personality to this day. By the time I was fourteen years old, all my siblings were in college or beyond. On nights I was particularly frustrated with my parents, I’d call Becci. “Just wait till you’re out of the house,” she said. “You’ll see that everyone doesn’t talk to each other the way Mom and Dad do. It will be better, I promise.” So, I held tight, because what choice did I have?, and got to college and saw that yes, everyone doesn’t raise their voice all the time about everything.
The John and Rose Ann of the 1980’s and 90’s, and the John and Rose Ann of now…well, they’re different and they’re the same because that’s how people are, right? Because sometimes the kids teach the parents stuff, too, and “old dogs” do learn “new tricks.” Sometimes addicts get help, and sometimes they regress. Children grow up and become adults and have different relationships with their parents. I get that part of it is my perception that’s changed as well as the times, but they, too, have evolved, devolved, crumbled down, and built themselves back up again and still crackle and pop a little each day. But they’re teachers at heart who instilled a student spirit in my soul, and for that, I’m semper thankful.
There’s a crack in everyone. That’s how the light gets in. – Mom/Leonard Cohen
|I thought we all looked attentive, and therefore, studious in this pic 😉
Becci holding Micky, Emily, Renton, Bailey, me, and mom
celebrating my birthday at my apartment in Lorton, VA July 2009