Thursday, September 4, 2014
At Home In My Heart
It was my intention this afternoon to sit down and begin reading a series written twenty years ago when I was too busy to read hardly anything beyond the scriptures from which I drew strength, needed strength.
Laugh if you will at AHIM, At Home in Mitford, but with the publication of the twentieth anniversary edition at a time in my life where I have more of that than anything else in the world, I was finally going to reside for a season in a sweet little town.
A couple of memories I would have preferred to remain unjogged came tumbling out as I read the first few pages.
At AHIM's first printing, I and my children were out of our element, parent helper and students at a parochial school. As far as the Catholic church views children, no one is to be turned away, an admirable Christian stance, but for some parents, it was a non-public school haven in which to turn their noses up at those thought beneath them.
The Mitford series was recommended to me by one such woman. She often put forth an image of herself as squeaky clean and wholesome, and if one has to sell their own self in that manner, questions should arise, but I took her at face value though her accompanying snottiness wasn't as veiled as she deluded herself.
She waited for her kids in a pick-up line with, on any given day, the cars of the affluent, a Mercedes, a Jaguar, a Range Rover, a convertible the driver might have looked good in twenty years prior, and my old Buick, the one which created a smoke cloud when cranked and once had to be pushed out of the way in the direction of the convent. One of my sons steered while my push yielded not an inch, then an airman from Moody Air Force Base helped me out of my humiliating circumstance.
Maybe I wasn't, but my kids were every bit as good as theirs. It wasn't about me then. I brought two beautiful and precociously intelligent little boys into this world, and I intended they'd have the best I could humanly attain for them.
Uniforms or no uniforms, it wasn't long before it was established who was who, who lived where, and whose father did what. My kids' father drove them to school in an old beat up truck we called BOB, bucket of bolts. From the other side of the county where all the right people in the right neighborhoods lived, from the back of a field where chickens were once raised, two uniform clad little guys were brought to town, dropped among the children of the town's elite, and because they didn't know any better, they had the gall to outshine almost all of them academically.
I don't even remember how I came to be president of the Home and School Association, I do know I didn't volunteer for it, but as such, I was to help host a Christmas party for the teachers. The AHIM recommending mom held the affair at her home, her kitchen and living area easily the size of my entire home. Perhaps she feared a social humiliation along the lines of the Buick in the pick-up line, so she pulled me aside and told me she had plenty of silver and crystal trays on which to put whatever snack food I would bring.
The. Memory. Still. Stings.
Condescension brings out the best in me. As a child, I had so much going against me, and I'm so over it all I'll not recollect it here, but I'd wager almost all I have, except my dignity, that this woman's mother hadn't taken the time to teach her Latin prefixes and suffixes in order to better decipher the English language. She sure as hell didn't have a mother who rattled off the letters of her nursing title to a doctor who used his alphabet to try to play the preferential treatment card in the emergency room, a mother who held a kindly farmer she knew in the same esteem as the administrator of the nursing homes where she spent the most years of her nursing career.
My mother and I weren't remotely the best of friends, but one thing she modeled to me was to hold my head high in every circumstance, especially ones where someone tried to belittle me.
With my head held high, and clothed entirely unlike everyone else wearing black to a Christmas party, I walked in with a crock pot full of Swedish meatballs and a vintage pink LuRay platter loaded with sausage balls made with Bisquick. You should have seen how quickly those dishes were emptied, not by a mortified hostess to proper presentation, but by doctors and lawyers whose taste buds cared not whether the goodies originally rested on silver, crystal or cheap dinnerware from the 1940s.
At my humble home, I had pretty dishes on which I could have made a fancier presentation. I didn't and don't have great wealth as the world regards it, but I had and have a love of beautiful dishes. Those remained at home on the shelves where they are both displayed and taken down and used. I was in the most liberated position of having not married a man on whose titled coattails I'd try to ride socially. If I was cast into the role of idiot bumpkin, I'd play it well.
The look on her face when I walked in was worth it. The doctors and lawyers, like my man, were more interested in the contents of the platter and crock than the platter and crock themselves.
I'll say it again, it was worth it.
Recently I stumbled across an essay by Jose Micard Teixeira entitled "I No Longer." This passage spoke to me: "I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance."
I'd been living it for decades, but someone put it into better words for me. I'd long known I was just as good as and not one bit better than, but his artfully sequenced words resonated in a heart that bears a scar or two from trampling attempts of those who do not understand their worth or mine.
I wish I could say that was the last time I'd encountered such condescension: it was not; it is not. And that's OK. Sometimes it seems my assignment on earth is to try to maintain my dignity while others' much sadder assignment is to try to take it away from me.
To them I say without words again and again, 'You can't do it.'
I won't lie, it may sting, but with my LuRay platter, my old crock pot, and my mother's genuinely confident example, I am well equipped to endure such insults. I would like to say I'm completely impervious, but the sting does come from the heartbreak that one human would attempt such a thing on another.
Or as Mom used to say, "You can't see for lookin'."