When I can get the Internet to cooperate with me, I’m back writing blogs on a new monitor the size of a small television instead of the very small, ten year old screen I was using. I can’t believe what a difference screen size makes when I’m staring at it for a long period of time. Not that there is that much wrong with my eyesight as long as I wear my glasses. The fact is I’m feeling great, busy and full of purpose. It took a visit with a young neighbor girl to get me thinking about the generational gap between her and me and to bring this gap into prospective.
When I answered the phone one evening recently, I had to ask the caller to repeat her name. I want you to know I’m not hard of hearing. I’d heard right the first time, but I was too surprised to believe I had. It was the fourteen year old neighbor who lives in seeing distance of my home.
It seemed over night I watched her change from baby to toddler to an energetic child to a bashful preteen that didn’t speak when she came with her father to visit. Now a teenager, she was still very quiet this summer with a look on her face that said she would run for home if we spoke to her.
Her father described her as his Tomboy. Her attire was a shirt and jeans. Dresses were for a rare occasion. Most likely an occasion deemed appropriate by her mother. She went with her father to the barn to help with chores until she was old enough to do them on her own. Her love of animals led to her taking care of a flock of sheep and a horse. She worked with a lamb so she could enter the sheep exhibits at the county fair.
Out of the blue, she called me and got right to the point. "I have to write a story about someone for English Lit. I want to interview you for the story."
Not comprehending why she would call me for her assignment, I said, "Okay, but why me?"
"Because I think you’re interesting," she said.
I must admit I was baffled by that statement. We set up a time for her to come late one afternoon after school on a day between cheerleading practice and a football game. In walked a young woman who over the summer had grown a foot taller than me. Her long, dark blonde hair was styled. She had on makeup. Best of all, she was smiling as if she was happy to see me. Her father had told us a few weeks earlier he had lost his Tomboy. He was having trouble adjusting to the fact since the change happened suddenly. Now I saw first hand what he meant.
We sat at the dining room table so she could spread out the contents of the folder she carried. First thing she said in a very direct manner, "I can make the interview short and write three pages. That won’t get me an A." As she shuffled through her papers to get organized, she continued, "If I talk to you longer and write 5 pages, that would get me an A. I would rather get the A. It’s up to you how much you want to tell me. The teacher said not to talk too much if you would rather I didn’t stay long."
I told her she could take all the time she needed. Why would I want to rush her when I finally had her talking to me. I wanted to get to know her. I said I would do my best to answer her questions, but I warned her she might have to spice up her story. I was pretty sure I wasn’t interesting enough to get her that A. I offered to go over the story so we could do just that, spice it up. I could even proof read it for her while I was at it to make sure she got the A. She said she couldn’t let me do that. The teacher told the students to bring the stories to her so she could give them pointers on making the stories better before they turned the final product in.
"So where do we start?" I asked.
"From the moment you were born."
"That is going back a long ways. We may need a lot of time," I warned her.
Reading from a list of questions, birth was the first question the teacher had furnished to help the students with this story telling process. The girl wasn’t sure how some of the questions applied to me, but I encouraged her to ask me anyway. Once I elaborated enough that I unwittingly answered the next question.
I fear I was born in a much earlier generation than the teacher. Maybe she thought the students would pick someone more her age to interview instead of someone who could have been the girl’s grandmother. I came by that impression when I was asked the question, "How did the arts and craft movement play a part in my life or did it?"
Through my mind scrolled my childhood years in the Missouri Ozarks. Nothing about my early life was an arts and craft experience, but I was determined to give her an answer. Once in awhile we went to a western movie on a Saturday night in a vacant lot next to Schell City’s car repair garage. As for crafts, my family was in to crafts, but the main objective for being crafty was to make money. My father built flower baskets, with a log cabin look, from twigs. My mother made crape paper roses she dipped in paraffin. Back in the fifties, we didn’t have plastic or silk flowers. My younger brother and my part of this work was after supper. Mom gave us boxes of Kleenex in different colors. We folded a couple Kleenexes in accordion folds and wrapped a wire around the middle. The ends with the fold had to be cut off, then we carefully pulled each fragile layer of tissue paper to the middle. When we were done, we had a carnation. The flowers were arranged in a bouquet in the log cabin baskets and sold to neighbors for Memorial Day decorations to take to the cemeteries. Any basket left we spent the day delivering to cemeteries for our relatives. This story was noted. Maybe she could figure out a way to work it in.
Two hours and several pages of notes later, the girl gave me the last question. The time had passed fast for her and me as well. Since we never had really had a conversation I doubt she was prepared for how much I can elaborate on a subject when given the chance. However, she left happy with her interview and eager to turn it into a story. I asked her to let me know if she got that A.
According to her father, who came over recently to tell me after a talk with his daughter, she had been nervous about talking to me. By the time we finished, she was excited to relate to her parents all the experiences I had shared with her. Her father says she is very impressed with me. That is a two way street. What were the things she found most interesting about my life? It wasn’t that I write books and have been a CNA. What impressed her was the fact that I can vegetables we raise. She had me show her my pressure cooker and explain the process. The other thing was that I have for years did my own vet work as much as possible for my flock of sheep and goats. Though she takes care of sheep, she had never thought about giving shots or helping during a difficult birthing and all their food comes from the grocery store. Wow! I could do all that. Not what I would call interesting. These are things I have done for years. Just part of life as a person who lives in the country.
It didn’t matter that she wasn’t impressed when I said I was an author. I found this bashful Tomboy had turned into a polite, articulate, caring and lovely young woman. I told her to come back and visit any time she wanted, and I hope she does. Maybe I can get her to help me can green beans.