Kindergarten Identity Crisis

Puff and the milkman_2

I attended kindergarten in Mexico City, where I lived  with my mother. She had originally moved to Mexico, she claimed later, because it was easier to live off my father’s army check there. When the checks stopped coming a year later, she had to go to work. She managed to get a job teaching first grade at “Escuela Moderna Americana”, a private, allegedly bilingual grade school. As a teacher’s kid I attended for free.

I loved school. I loved Dick and Jane, and especially Puff, sneaking onto the milk wagon. I loved the pristine large coloring books in which we did our first writing exercises. I loved the smell and feel of crayons; the fat ones.

As part of our “bilingual” education, we had a short lunch-time ritual. The teacher would hand out little triangular, crustless white bread sandwiches, and ask, in heavily accented English: “What are we having for lunch today?” In the same heavy accent, the students would dutifully reply: “We are having sandwiches.”

I was, of course, completely bilingual by this time, having spent my first four years in the U.S. and now a year in Mexico. But I wanted to blend in with the other kids, so I sing-songed the answer along with everyone else in my fake-Mexican accent.

One day I suddenly got inspired. I would still fit in, but I would also show off my extra knowledge and be special. “We are having sandwiches”, I piped along, then added to a silent room: “of cheese”.

The problem, I realized when the class broke out in giggles, is that “cheese” pronounced in Spanish is “chis”, (rhymes with “lease”), and this happens to be a slang word for urine, along the lines of “pee”.

I smile now as I think of it, but, obviously, I haven’t forgotten it. My mortification was complete.

This experience turned out to be a harbinger of many to come. My entire life I have tried, sometimes successfully, to fit in to society, and my entire life I have tried to shine via my intelligence, with mixed results.

If I had known this then, would I have kept myself from blurting out “of cheese!” or proudly showed off my perfect American accent in the first place?

I doubt it. It’s a lifetime’s journey to be who you are, and not try to be “more than” in the process.

Still on the path.

 

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The Squinch that Could Steal Christmas

blue tango shoeI consider myself healthy. I don’t have hypertension or diabetes or heart disease or cancer. My cholesterol is good. I have no autoimmune diseases. I rarely get colds. But these days I feel as though I’m being nibbled to death by ducks.

Starting with a throat condition that made me have to stop singing, progressing through chronic neck pain and headaches that limit reading, driving, computer work, and sitting at any events such as classes, social occasions or concerts, I’ve been making life-style adjustments for years. I feel like an idiot carrying a pillow into a restaurant, but if I don’t prop myself up to sit very straight, I’ll have a headache by the end of the meal.

The older I get the more of this small stuff goes wrong. For tango dancing I now wear bunion-sparing sneakers with dance socks over them rather than gorgeous tango shoes. I started walking more for exercise, only to come down with that no-good-deed-goes-unpunished condition, plantar fasciitis.

And now that unkindest cut; parosmia has stolen the joy from my life’s central theme: food. Coupled with shorter days, this last blow has brought depression knocking at my door.

I was thinking about all this as I was working out in the yard today, wondering how to write about these minor but mounting travails without seeming like too much of a whiner. Frowning over the problem, I suddenly felt the sun on the side of my face, accompanied by a soft warmth.

This made my face relax, which in turn made my whole body loosen. A quiet joy visited me for a few moments. I was able to recall that I was in my wonderful yard, with a dog I love, mulching with leaves I had collected with my husband one fun fall morning, creating rich soil for the spring.

And the sun was shining.

Part of my work in appreciating the joys and minimizing the sorrows of life is to exercise, meditate, eat well, and socialize. I’ve been doing the best I can with each of these efforts. Perhaps, though, I need to add one more item.

The parosmia makes me grimace a lot, because many things (like coffee brewing) smell bad to me. I need to remember to “feel the sun on my face”, and unsquinch.