Sunday, April 29, 2007

Straight Time

Every once in a while when I’m feeling particularly misanthropic and trying to figure out what it is about me that might appear strange to other people, I think back to a comment a friend made to me once.

I can’t even remember how it came up, but at one point this friend (who had known me for quite a while at this point) said to me, “What’s the deal with your family? I mean, you’re all so…straight!”

And I sort of knew what they meant.

After all, we were not from the big city originally. We’d come here from coal country where my grandfathers worked most of their lives.

We didn’t place great stock in sophistication, but were plain-spoken, generous (I hope), and had a good sense of humor.

I don’t think any of us ever had any interest in being joiners, though, and we judged individuals and wished to be judged on their/our own merits. Take us as we are or don’t take us at all.

I remember once telling my mother, after a period of great contention between us, that I believed that most of the good qualities I possessed were things I’d learned from her and my father, which I think puzzled both of them as I was a test for my parents.

Compared to the rest of my siblings, I seemed to have arrived from another planet.

Every week brought with it another bizarre scheme designed to throw a monkey wrench into one of The Seven Lively Arts.

How they must have wondered.

And yet, here was someone looking in from the outside and accusing me of being too straight.

Which meant that, even with all of my bohemian behavior, there was still some strange intangible thing attached to me that marked me as “straight.”

Well, I didn't do drugs, or smoke. I tended to watch my language and never say anything to anyone that I’d be embarrassed to have anyone of any age hear me say. And I never tried to use a word for its own sake when a simpler one would do.

It was a wonderfully ironic thing to me that, although to my family’s eyes I seemed like I’d moved in from across the street, there were still some folks who regarded me as Beaver Cleaver.

It also meant that as dysfunctional as we were (and I hesitate to use the word as it makes us sound more organized than we actually were), I belonged in my family in ways that I hadn’t really begun to think about yet.

The arty thing paid off for my parents occasionally. Some visiting relatives happened to show up on a weekend when I was winning an award for drawing from the local school system, as well as appearing in a local theatre production, so they got to show me off.

It must have helped them to recall those moments when I was busy doing things like painting the opening titles for my new movie musical in giant letters on the street in front of the house.

Have I never mentioned that?

Next: Lullabye Of Oddway


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