Saturday, May 26, 2012

Warning Signs

I feel like telling a story today.

My parents were probably more than a little bit confused by me. I mean, you can really take that 'probably' out, since I know with the absolute certainty of death and taxes that my parents were confused by me. I know this because I got really, really used to getting looks of absolute bafflement from them after I would have what seemed like a really funny or clever thought and discovered that they are always funnier in your mind, and you should probably keep them there.

As the youngest of three (five years younger than my sister, seven years younger than my brother) I also had the advantage of surprise. My parents were not used to the bizarre logic of small children any longer. Their children were turning into what we now call 'tweens' when I was just learning what math was and deciding that I hated it.

Of course, we didn't call them 'tweens' then. They were just 'kids' or the age-old favorite, 'children'. The categorizing system seems to just be getting out of hand at this point. There's infants, babies, toddlers, pre-k, kids, tweens, teens, and 'adultolescents'. Which is my favorite not-a-word ever.

However, I keep an array of memories close to me that I like to affectionately call 'warning signs'. These include a series of anecdotes wherein the story can only be ended with '... and somehow I didn't get kidnapped', playing outside in the cold while home sick from school because geez, Mom, it's not like I didn't put my coat on, forgetting to put my shoes on one Halloween (which is totally someone else's fault somehow), the Bee Sting Nightmare Extravaganza (oh, we'll share that one later), every question I've ever asked that just ended with awkward silence in the car, and the following little story:

I am a smart person. I'm confident in this. I know I am smart because I use lots of big words and own many books, some of them even kind of leather-bound.

I don't actually think any of them are leather-bound, but that's not the point of this story.

The point is that I was that most dangerous of character combinations in children - I was both smart and completely lacking in common sense. This is where I think I surprised my parents, since my sister and brother are also exceedingly intelligent (way smarter than me), but my sister got most of the common sense in our family and my brother got what she didn't. There was simply none left for me. There wasn't any math leftover for me either. Or at least that's what I told my teachers.

Which means that my ideas seemed like they were always foolproof. I am usually that unfortunate person who sincerely thinks to herself, "There is no possible way this could go wrong!" before I decide to play with the cat (who has all her claws) by using my own fingers as the toys she needs to hunt. This made perfect sense at the time, because all her toy mice were in another room and I am lazy. So I start scritching on the floor like the sounds a mouse might make if a mouse were made of my fingers, zig-zagging my hand across the carpet, all but hanging a tiny sign that says 'FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL!' on my hand.

I was completely shocked when she dug her claws into my middle finger. Why would she claw me like that?! I love her! What did I do to deserve such abuse?!

I promise I was going to tell a story in here, somewhere. Although I suppose I just told you a story. I don't think it was a story that particularly convinces you that I'm smart, though.

Anyway, one day, when I was maybe eight or nine, I was thinking about cornbread. I was thinking about how I really liked cornbread, and I had read that it was something that pioneer people (whose lifestyle of course we should all aspire to; who doesn't want to wear calico dresses, ride the Oregon Trail, and possibly die of dysentery, am I right?) ate all the time. It is also something people eat all the time in the U.S., too. Or, you know, the Midwest and the South, since those are the only places in the U.S. I've ever actually lived in and I didn't exactly take this moment to research cornbread consumption patterns or anything.

It seemed very simple to me. I should make cornbread by mixing corn and flour and baking bread. I could add seasonings, too! It was all very exciting.

Now, it was summer, so the corn was standing tall and starting to dry out. I'm guessing this happened in later July, since I wasn't in school and the corn was starting to get dry. I was near my friend Rikki's house; her family lived right near a cornfield that literally was the border to one side of our town. Except some years it was a soybean field. Same idea, though.

Note: this was not a field my family worked. This was just some other innocent man's cornfield. My father could tell you who, but I can't remember.

So Rikki and I grabbed an ear of corn off the stalk. We went back to her house, where we found a nice big flat rock, and another, smaller rock. I feel it is important here that we were out in the yard and at no point did we enter her house, because when it comes to me I feel that kind of disclaimer is necessary. We were going to be just like Native Americans, you see - I had read that Native Americans ground their corn into flour with rocks!

So we started doing that.

And I could not figure out why my corn was just mush and not flour.

We decided it probably needed to dry and left our mush laying out in the sun. On a rock we had not washed. Corn we had been grinding with another rock that was not washed. Because the idea of grinding corn was just too exciting for me to think that through.

At which point someone (I don't remember who, except that it was someone older) asked what we were doing, we explained, and they asked us where we got the corn from. And then told us we were thieves and had stolen the nice man's corn and we should be ashamed.

We basically just put our metaphorical tails between our legs and went off to do something else, but the issue with the un-floured corn kept popping into my mind. Why hadn't it turned into flour? What had we done wrong?

I think it was maybe three hours later that it suddenly occurred to me that you had to dry corn before it could be ground! Brilliant! It was all coming together now!

Only now I knew I was a corn thief, and I was more than a little concerned that my parents would ground me for that. I'm not sure how, since there was no good way for them to know about it. Unless I told them. I did have a disconcerting habit of telling my parents everything I ever did, even things I didn't want them to know or they didn't even want to know, and especially things that would make them respond with prolonged, silent staring.

I feel that in this one particular story I have basically given you the condensed version of my entire childhood. It all basically consisted of the following:

1. Brilliant idea!
2. Try to implement brilliant, unresearched idea!
3. Wait. Something's not right here.
4. I know! I'm not hanging upside down/standing on one foot/eating cheese! I should try it that way!
5. Still not working. Hmph. I give up! Pout, throw fit, etc.
6. Someone tells me what I did wrong.
7. Too late, I already failed. I don't even want to do it anymore. It was a stupid idea and I hate it now!
8. Wait, I just had a completely unrelated brilliant idea!
9. Proceed to number 1, repeat list. Break for eating and sleeping.

And that, my friends, is one of my collection of stories I like to call "Warning Signs", or "Things they should have told Jason before he married me". Most of which they did tell him, and he married me anyway.  Now he gets to hear my brilliant, unresearched ideas.

I like to think of myself as free entertainment for my friends and family.

I'm charitable that way.

1 comment:

  1. *sigh*...

    Katie, you can tell a story better than anyone I know! I probably didn't know this one, but it doesn't surprise me one bit...

    You and Rikki made quite the team!


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