Monday, August 13, 2018

Basic Materials

Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.
Willa Cather – Pulitzer Prize for writing ‘One of Ours.’

Here I am at age eleven soaking up a little nature in my front yard. (Doesn't most eleven year old boys wear dressy casual clothes to play in... NOT.  lol)  Oh my, look at that hair... You have to love that flat top hair cut. I was never tall... I guess I come by that naturally as my father was only 5'6" and my grandfather was only about 5'3".  I don't know for sure but I've been told that my great grandfather was only about 5'2". I was anything but gangly... thin but not tall, and I was a handful. I should have been in the sixth grade.  (The account of my life I'm telling here is not something I usually talk about... I just felt like sharing today.) When I was in the third grade I would do unconventional stuff on purpose. I would write a required school assignment, a whole paper and after I finished it I would go back and take out all the punctuation and capitalization. It would look like one long sentence. Doing things like that didn't make me popular with the teacher. Then there were the students too. I was kinda different. I didn't fit in with their crowd. I had a few friends but they were as strange as I was. Most the kids didn't like them much either. My only friend who was what I would call cool was my life long neighbor girl, Karla. We were always best friends (and even though we rarely see each other any more I hope we always will be.) Truthfully, I was too different even for her crowd. Anyway I regress, my teacher thought that I was mentally retarded and told my parents not to expect me to go to college or anything like that (and here I am with an advanced degree and certifications.) I know that "mentally retarded" is not a term used in proper, politically correct, circles, but it was the early 1960s and that was the word used back then. The crux of my story is that my teacher convinced my parents to have me tested and prove her theory to be right. She arranged for an IQ test. Mother and I faithfully showed up for the test and I took it. I remember thinking how dumb of a test it was. When the results came back the teacher was furious. My teacher said that I had cheated or something... My score was 130. She never took responsibility for how bored I was in class, her inadequate teaching , and not challenging me to do better. She told my parents that I wasn't socially prepared to go into the fourth grade (really... like I ever would be). Well, I was held back a year anyway. It didn't help... I didn't fit into the social class of that group any better than I did the previous class, and now I carried the stigma that I had something wrong with me. I believed that there was a reason I didn't fit in... and it was me... All my fault... and I can't be fixed. No one told me until much later (many years in fact) what a score of 130 on that test meant. Then the pieces started falling into place, however, It still meant that I was.... different.  Even now, if the topic of IQ ever comes up in a conversation and someone tells me they have an IQ of say 120... I reply, "Oh... me too." and let it go. Social adjustment is more important than vanity. 
As for High School:
I went through school not caring to make terrific grades. I could make it through every class without taking notes. (My parents were just thankful that I passed... after all the school system had told them that I was maladjusted.)  Over the years I did get asked by several students if I would write their required writing assignments for them... (not that I would ever do that of course) and unlike my classmates I could understand Shakespeare's old (almost biblical) writing. Then there was the art. The cheerleaders were always making signs for one thing or another and it became a common thing for them to ask for my help in drawing letters.  Now, that was cool.  My favorite classes were art and world lit. You may ask how I learned to get along with others... I learned to keep my mouth shut and only give my ideas when they were asked for. Still (even with my new philosophy) for the most part my school years were awkward and unrewarding... or so I thought. Now as I look back I think that all my life's experiences has made me more empathetic. This, I think, translates to into being a better writer.