Saturday, September 4, 2010

Alone, almost hidden, an outsider

Wandering in the area where I grew up, I was drawn to some mushrooms growing on a bed of bright green moss. One caught my eye: it was a different species of mushroom than the others, alone, almost hidden, an outsider, the way I felt growing up.

Don’t get me wrong.

My parents loved my brother and I to death, doted on us, and bought us everything kids could want.  But, at least as their first-born, my parents sheltered me and were so protective I didn’t learn to stand on my own. My mother was a fine woman who believed with all her heart in the protestant ethic and setting high goals; she believed in being a good Episcopal and solidly middle class; she was obsessed with respectability.

Because my parents were private people and lived out in the sticks, I hadn’t mastered socializing with others when I started school.  School was so awful I threw up before school for weeks: I was self conscious, shy, and totally inept: kids picked on me because I was clueless, because my mother made my clothes, one ear was bigger than the other…

I had to get away and I did!

I went to a different high school in a different town and changed my personae.  I acted assertive and tough, like I knew what I was doing. Amazing, it worked: I was immediately accepted and found real friends at last.  But as a child of the 1960s, instead of assimilating and becoming part of the American dream, I rebelled.  I rebelled in general against the status quo and, in particular, against anything smacking of the middle class.  The working class became my idol along with raising hell and drinking beer with my peers.

From one extreme to the other: I went from trying too hard to please to total rebellion.

In retrospect I can see now, I ended up like this mushroom. The teeth and thick folds on the outside of the mushroom represent the calloused thick skin I grew to protect myself from the hostile outside world. The smooth delicate inside–vulnerable, sweet, and trusting–I hid so well that I even hid it from myself.

I took the photo of the mushroom today. 
The image of the puppy is a photograph Mark Ledgard took of his puppy, Hazel.
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