Daydreaming and Doodling
Updated: Aug 10, 2019
I don’t remember too much about first days of school except that we went and class started. That’s about it. I don’t remember my mom walking me in, or even driving me to school for that matter. She worked in Decatur, so we rode the bus or carpooled with a neighbor.
In high school in the 80’s - at least where I went to school, which was a small Christian school - cool kids didn’t use backpacks (those were only for little kids) or carry our books in any kind bag, except a nerd might use a briefcase type satchel. Instead, we juggled a stack of books loose in our arms with papers sticking out and often times flying out from the edges. We closed our pens and pencils up in the books to keep up with them despite what it did to the spine. We didn’t use lunchboxes past about 4th grade, only brown paper sacks, or we bought our lunch with actual cash that was collected by the teacher each morning. We bought milk to drink and drank water from the fountain not a bottle. If we had homework, it was written on the board and we had to copy it down on our own sheet of paper and make sure that piece of paper made it home. In elementary, we had a couple of pencils, a box of crayons, glue, and a pair of scissors in a box that we kept under our desk. In high school, we just had to make sure we had pencils and some paper in a notebook.
I don't remember “school supply shopping.” My parents owned their own business, so often my school supplies would just be supplies from the office.
We had little square lockers in high school, about 24-inches. I can remember that handouts from teachers or tests were typed in a serif font (I think now it’s called courier) on a typewriter and somehow photocopied with purple ink. Teachers used carbon-copy paper or a faculty member at our school owned a small printing-press company and made copies for the school. There was no copy machine in the building.
If a family didn't want to pay for new textbooks, it partnered with another family that had kids offset in age and just handed the books back and forth over the years. I can almost see the names of the kids written in the front of my books above mine. And, I will never forget the “Count” from Sesame Street in one of my elementary school math books. I got in trouble often for drawing in my books instead of paying attention. The one time I was paying attention and asked a question of my English teacher in 8th grade, she came to my desk to show me in the textbook. As they say, if it wasn’t for bad luck... On the very page she turned to I had drawn an exaggerated caricature of her (to my peril, I was a good little artist back then).
I loved writing or carving with my pen my name anywhere I could get away with it. Of course, I didn’t get away with it often because I had used my name. Sometimes, I would only carve a big fancy “S” for my last name. I spent many school afternoons scraping gum off the undersides of tables and desks as punishment for my defacement habits. I also had a habit of skipping chapel when I was a junior and senior and going to the McDonald’s across from the old high school. I didn't dare skip class, though because of roll. Or, if I happened across fifty cents at home somewhere, a couple of friends and I would I buy a coke from the coke machine in the janitor’s shed and drink it out behind the gym. Only adults were allowed to purchase cokes. Those same friends and I would go up to the cheerleader room and sniff markers sometimes. That’s as wild as it got for me - I sniffed markers and drank coca-cola that I paid for, and not the diet kind either! Yes, I was a rebel.
I was not a good student, infamous among the teachers for daydreaming and doodling. I was assigned to any “special” classes the school might have had - special math class, special reading class. To me, class was the torture I endured for the reward of P.E. and recess and later for sports. I stumbled through school as a mediocre student, doing the minimum of what I had to do to play sports, and continued that level of effort through college and somehow found myself in the end holding a degree from Auburn. Crazy.
I am in the middle of my second rodeo, pursuing another bachelor’s but this time in Professional and Technical Writing. I’m not as satisfied with mediocrity now as much as I was during the first rodeo. I'm hoping this degree will make me a little more marketable for a decent job. My non-fiction professor has been encouraging, gave me a little more confidence to tackle the book project I’m always talking about. So, maybe I’ll pick it back up after Superhero Day in September.
Thank you all for remembering Eli Monday and over the weekend. It marked two years that we’ve been without him. And, honestly, I didn’t think of him any more or less than I already do every day. Every day it seems like there is some reminder that he is not here any longer. Sometimes it’s a look on Caleb’s face that is the same as a face that Eli made or a television commercial or something we find in the center console of the car when we clean it out. Sometimes, it’s just seeing a boy from his class walking around now at 5’10”.
We had a great weekend remembering Eli. Monday, my sister and I took our kids on a little casual day-trip, nothing really planned except to eat biscuits at the Loveless Motel Cafe south of Nashville and come home. We drove on part of the Natchez Trace and stopped a couple of places along the way, including a monument to explorer Merriweather Lewis and a mennonite grocery store.
The Memorial Cruise on Saturday went as well as it could have gone in torrential rain storms. Rain drops so big I thought they would burst through my convertible canvas top. I so much appreciated those that could come out. The weather was so bad that I thought Vic might not even bring Eli’s car. But, despite the rain, it was a really neat and scenic route through west Limestone and east Lauderdale counties. And, the restaurant had a lot of vehicle memorabilia to look at and I think the food was pretty good.
We wrapped up our summer, which comparably was not the best summer. Caleb fought pneumonia and the aftermath of that for most of it. We couldn't go on a vacation and the girls didn't get in as many work hours as they would have liked at their summer jobs. But, we did spend time wisely. Hg systematically and methodically prepared for departure. Abbey made good progress toward her Girl Scout Gold Award. Caleb finished an intense Bible class at church and participated in a couple of day camps. That's pretty much it.
Abbey and Caleb headed back to school and Hg goes to Harding next week to start her freshmen year. Caleb is growing out of the last of Eli’s clothes. I have a feeling that he is about to take a big step up in height. The trend for my kids’ growth has always been to grow “out” then “up,” never a steady, balanced arc. I thought that when Caleb grew into Eli’s clothes that his aura would assimilate the connection and those clothes would then become his clothes. Instead, it’s just been Caleb wearing Eli’s clothes. I think even to Caleb it’s been that way. So, it was tough cleaning out his closet and drawers.
We are also going to again pare down the Lego displays in Caleb’s room which he shared with Eli. I always want to make sure that I do not give attention to a son that is not here at the expense of attention to the kids that are here. Caleb’s interests are much different than Eli’s were, and where Eli’s age and maturity is frozen in time, Caleb continues to grow and change. I’m not traditionally a person that needs “things” anyway. I’m much more about memories and private thoughts. It is difficult to avoid thinking about the distance that is growing between current time and a time when Eli was here. I think there is also a danger in looking too far forward as well, to ignore current time while fixated on a distant time when we will be with him again. The key, I think, is to focus on the moment that you are in. If it’s a moment that I think about Eli, then I think about Eli. If it’s a moment that Hg needs something from me, then I focus on her. I talk to the kids about balance all the time and the rarity of anything being black and white. I can’t think of a single aspect or detail of life where the pursuit of balance is not appropriate.
Have a great weekend, love your little ones, even the little ones that are big ones.