perilousknits (perilousknits) wrote,

Five Words, in one thousand words or less

Young Rene posted this meme in his blog:

Comment to this post and I will give you 5 subjects/things I associate with you. Then post this in your LJ and elaborate on the subjects given.

I commented on his post and so he has given me five topics which I should write about in my blog.  He says:

Your topics: high school, books, gardening, french, your dad

So here goes:

High School:  Young Rene would naturally think of this because he and I went to school together. 

Ah, high school . . . .  When I was in college, I thought to myself, "If I had a nickel for every time one of my professors has said, 'you should have learned this in high school,' I could afford enough C-4 to blow up my high school."  On the plus side, my high school's music department was top-notch.  The AP teachers were also pretty good, if you could manage to eek out enough of an early-education to get into the AP classes in the first place. 

It turns out that Young Rene's Sister's father-in-law (did you follow that?) is our old High School Principal.  He recently reminisced with Rene about the problems he had finding, recruiting, and retaining competent teachers.  And the best teachers never stayed around very long before another, larger, wealthier school in the district would recruit them out from under us.  All the stories I hear about the horrible behavior of professors who have tenure . . . I had teachers in high school who were just as bad.  I also had some really fantastic teachers, and I'm grateful for each of them.  I remember Mr. Brink who was so good at teaching Physics that he almost made me like Science.  Then there was Mrs. Coffman, who told me I was the most Right-Brained person she had ever met in her life, wondered aloud why I had decided to take Trigonometry of all things, and then made it her year's goal to teach it to me.  There was Mrs. Hindman, who introduced me to Barbara Kingsolver, Mr. Miller who put together a choir that intimidated directors around the state, and Mr.Edwards who didn't let his professional rivalry with my mother influence the way he treated me.  And let's not forget Coach Young, who had  me and Young Rene in her class at the same time, and survived to tell the tale.

Books:  Or, How I managed to get an education in spite of the lackluster teaching abilities of my teachers.

In the sixth grade I had this English teacher I hated.  Oh, she was so obnoxious!  She was always smiling and cooing at the kids from the wealthy side of town and then frowning and growling at everyone else.  I disliked her so much I started to tune her out in spite of myself.  I tried hard to pay attention in class but somehow, right after she walked into the room and started talking, I would blink and *bang* an hour had passed and class was over.  I had no idea what the lesson had been.  But when she presented us with our first test, it was one of those "circle the grammatically correct phrase that completes this sentence" kind of tests.  I didn't know what the teacher wanted me to do, but I had recently finished reading "Anne of the Island" so I just pretended I was L.M.Montgomery and I chose the phrases that looked good.  I made a 100 on that test.  I lost all respect for that teacher.  (and, I badgered my mother into having me transered to another class).

I'd had a hard time learning to read in the first place, but once I got past the difference between "got" and "goat," I had no further trouble.  I loved stories, and reading gave me access to millions of stories.  If there was 'nothing good on TV' there was always something good in a book. If there was a lot of stress and drama at home, I could hide away in a book.  If I finished my classroom-work forty-five minutes before the end of class and had absolutely nothing to do, I could read a book.  I read so many books that in junior high, the librarian gave me an award.  My high school librarian would ask me for advice on which books to purchase for the library.  My junior year in high school, I was a library aide and could tell you not only whether a particular title was 'in stock' but where it was located, and what color the spine was.

Yeah, I really like books.      

Gardening:  As a child or teenager, I never expected that I would make Gardening into a career.  In fact, I never expected to even have it as a hobby.  I had terrible allergies and hated to go outdoors, unless there was camping involved.  I liked to go camping . . .   Anyway, two things happened to make me want to be a hobbyist gardener: 1) I moved to an area of the country that was not constantly windy and dusty, and my allergies improved, 2) I discovered herballism and wanted to grow my own herbs.  It took a few years to get to a house with a yard where I could garden, and by that time I had read gardening book after gardening book and was enthusiastic about vegetables, flowers, rose bushes, native plants, fruit trees, you name it.  Then more time passed, and I burned out on my tech-support career and I thought, 'If I could work anywhere at all, I would work at the Garden Center.'  So I did.  And there, I learned so much about gardening that I had to start my own business. 

French:  When my mother was a teenager, she had a pen-pal from France.  They kept in touch for the next thirty years or something.  Additionally, my parents hosted a French exchange student for a month when I was just a baby.  When I was a toddler my mother, my father, my brother and I all took a vacation to France and met the pen-pal and his family.  I don't remember much about that trip, but something must have sunk in because I grew up fascinated with France (it doesn't hurt that I am also obsessed with food and French people do Food well).  It was an easy choice to take French classes in school, and to my surprise there were a lot of things about the French language that seemed intuitive.  Maybe I just had the right way of looking at grammar, or maybe I subconciously remembered hearing hte language as a toddler.  In either case, it was easy and fun to learn French. 

After graduation, I went to France with a bunch of classmates, and my mother came along as a Parent-Chaperone.  We did the usual tour-group stuff, but after all the classmates flew back to the States, my mother and I stayed in France for another three weeks.  We toured Paris with the former exchange-student, and then we took a train to Limoges and stayed at the pen-pal's house.  Being a tourist in Paris is very different from being a house-guest in Limoges.  I really enjoyed seeing these two sides of French life, and I learned enough slang phrases to give total strangers the impression that I was fluent. 

I'm not fluent, far from it, but there was a time when I could dream in French, and that was pretty cool.
I have a French Persona in the SCA.  Naturellement.

My Dad:  I've written about my Dad before in my blog, so how about if I just tell you a story about My Dad and Young Rene? 

Once upon a time, Young Rene was underage, and had to get his mother's permission to go to an SCA event . . .  This worked out okay for a while, but eventually she started to mistrust the SCA and it's influence on her son.  I don't know why she got upset; the drunken orgies didn't start until we were eighteen . . .   But anyway, there came a day when she declared that Rene couldn't play SCA anymore, ever.  Or, you know, not as long as he was under-eighteen and/or living in her house and all that.  It looked pretty grim to us; he planned to go to college in town and would continue to live in her house for quite some time.

Meanwhile, my mother had already had a similar issue, and had banned me from the SCA, but I got around it because I had Dad. I knew that Dad had once been involved with a living history group that focused on the 1830s, so I knew he understood the urge to dress up in funny clothes and go camping.  And I knew that my mother couldn't forbid me to spend weekends with my Dad, nor did she have any say about what I did during those weekends.  So, naturally, I made my Dad some SCA clothes and re-arranged my schedule so that all of my 'weekends with Dad' just happened to correspond to SCA events I wanted to go to.  Dad was fine with this plan, and all of my SCA friends thought it was the coolest thing ever that I'd inroduced the SCA to my Dad.  Also, my Dad was very good about bringing and sharing the beer, so we were popular people. 

So anyway, my Dad and me, we have this history of defying authority together.  Dad had gone to enough events that he knew the SCA was mostly harmless, so he didn't think it was fair that Rene couldn't participate even after turning eighteen.  So Dad came up with this idea.  The weekend after Rene's eighteenth birthday was Coronation.  It would be in Oklahoma.  Dad had a cousin in Oklahoma.  Dad's idea was that we would tell Rene's mother that Dad wanted us to visit his cousin in Oklahoma and that I, being a teenager, would be bored at the cousin's house and could Rene come along as a friend to keep me company? 

A few months earlier, I had borrowed Renee's SCA clothes and most of his gear, and I still had it.  I could pack all the stuff he would need for a weekend at an SCA event.   He would be able to walk out the door of his mom's house with only a backpack full of mundane clothes and she would have no reason to believe he was going anywhere other than to my Dad's cousin's house.  Oh, she may have suspected, but she couldn't prove anything.  And my Dad looks so innocent and trustworthy, so after exchanging cell phone numbers in case of an emergency, she gave her permission for him to go "visit our cousin in Oklahoma."

When I was growing up, not many of my friends met or got to know my Dad.  Part of the fun for me, on that trip, was having a friend get to know my Dad, and think he was a pretty cool guy.  And then, having my Dad get to know my friend, and think he was a pretty cool guy.  And I think it's fun that even now, twelve years later, every once and a while my Dad will say, "Remember that time we smuggled Young Rene off to Coronation?" and sometimes Young Rene will ask me, "Hey, remember that time your Dad took us to Coronation?"
I've still never met my Dad's cousin. 
Tags: family, friends, old times

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