I spend a lot of time here in this new life with my mouth open in speechlessness (MOS). The most innocent of comments will at the very least give me pause. For instance this week I’ve met a test tube baby (fully grown now) – someone who grew up homeless – although quite financially settled now – someone who had 5 step mothers growing up – I mean we’re not talking just single mother stories here. These are scenarios that I thought only happened on TV. Sometimes just realizing someone grew up on the beach is enough to make me wonder (in awe in a good way) what that must have been like.
There are the stories that give me pause and then there are the MOS stories – a friend in a car accident because they hit a bear. A BEAR. (They’re okay – more worried about the bear – but a bear – MOS) – Someone who days after telling me about how her daughter was the only survivor of a car accident (a couple of years ago) where the other two died and one decapitated – MOS then – this week the same woman got a call at lunch that her brother died in a car accident. He was 44 years old, flipped his car on a wet road in Orlando just regular day-time driving. It’s like heart stopping isn’t it? Another story (a different person) who shared how their sister was murdered a few years back. Then there’s Rosalie, my boss from the Caribbean, who loves to scare me with her stories saying people where she’s from don’t carry guns they carry machetes and will butcher you in a heart beat. She’s not kidding. I used to want to go home with her (to Antigua) but I’m changing my mind. Someone else’s brother is a marijuana farmer – quite successful. Some of my MOS’s are fun like “no shit, that’s so cool” but I’m just amazed how sheltered my thoughts are when I hear about other people’s lives. I am not in Kansas anymore. Soooo far from it. Even my first two years in Florida where I lived in a middle class neighborhood sitting by the pool with my pedicures and horseback riding and then at the beach ,, that wasn’t reality. Well, it was my reality at the time but where I live now is so far from that. Every single day I am offered another opportunity to show me how sheltered I really was and how I really did live in a bubble. All these people I meet with such vast different upbringings and horribly sad experiences are great “normal” people. I honestly don’t know what I would have expected otherwise but I’m learning something about myself. Not sure exactly what I’m learning but I’m learning something. I only know this because of all the MOS’s. Even the President of our University gave a welcome at one of our meetings and shared how her own child didn’t graduate from high school. I don’t know that that piece of information would come up in a speech where I come from. Ya know? I mean MOS.
My mom had some years of her life where she lived in a shack (I’ve never seen) without a bathroom. I can’t imagine how she managed. She has never acted like it was a big deal. Just the way they lived while her father was building that beautiful log house. That was while she was in high school when kids can be their cruelest. She did offer that some would-be boyfriend was a bit stunned when he brought her home one day after school and witnessed the shack (her home). Similarly I was thinking about Jimmy, my youngest son, and how he never wanted to be “different” – The fact that his parents weren’t married made him different in those days (A little more common now) but he never “felt” different that I know of. We really were on the forefront of the baby-daddy thing. Anyway, during middle school one of his classmate’s father died. I’ve always remembered how he said he would never want to be that person because all the sudden you’re different than everyone else. In addition to the tragedy over losing your father you are now forever singled out as that kid who lost their parent with kids not knowing how to act around you. The fact that he could articulate those feelings has always astounded me. MOS.
I told Zachary that he would probably like it here in DeLand because it is the least pretentious place I’ve ever lived. I also shared that that is probably why I don’t like it. I don’t know where I fit in. Zachary pointed out that the experience of growing up in Sewickley is one where you are constantly navigating the social and economic constraints and how you fit (or not fit) in. But that said – I would never want my children to live here. Central Florida is crazy and after watching the nightly news it’s no wonder I don’t leave my apartment at night. Even when I was home in the freezing weather over this past Christmas I didn’t give it a second thought walking up to Sewickley to meet Diane at Roma’s or over to Jerry’s or Janice’s in the dark. Not that I’m not still aware of my surroundings…but still, there is no comparison.
The bubble was a great place to grow up but it really is not how the rest of the world lives. Although admittedly there are a lot of people in the world that do live like I did in their own similar bubbles but the bubble around here is very different. Not one person has ever heard of or cares about Sewickley, commented on my weight or asks who I was friends with in high school. I’ve come a long way from “he smokes, she smokes.”