A Yankee's Musing

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Heathen Rules

I have never been one to follow rules for very long without at least testing the parameters of what is tolerated and what is not perhaps because I am an only child who had to make her own mistakes and take full responsibility because there wasn’t anyone else around to blame but hey I survived the mountains and the country and even riding our only cow when I was three a magical age for me to be allowed to venture into new territory like fishing hiking moving beyond the immediate circle of adults that populated my world as long as I took my cocker spaniel Cindy with me or else my cousin Bill who by any stretch of the imagination was truly my brother three years older and four years further in school at three I joined his hunt for bugs and crustaceans and even snakes which he often put in my jacket pockets lined with straw and I once I took them back to show the family my trophies and asked Grandma to reach into my right hand pocket to share my prize and she did and ended up out cold on the kitchen linoleum and I ended up unable to sit down for some time and the snakes had lots of help exiting this world permanently which gave me nightmares for months that I was responsible for their demise but my cousin told me it was all part of growing up and I believed him.

I have never been one to follow the rules for very long but if you ask many adults outside the family they will tell you they never suspected I could be anything but a dutiful student and a dutiful daughter and perhaps it was because I was reluctant to take risks without first assessing the possible consequences since my father believed children should be seen and not heard perhaps because the dreaded my questions might embarrass him while my mother cherished each question as a moment for learning so the art of questioning became the epicenter of controversy in my family but my dad believed in fast fists followed by leaving the room shrouded with deafening silence for the next few days and my mother tried to hide her tears and told me someday I’d understand my questions always lurked behind my smile until I lost that smile at ten while on a rabbit hunt in the lower marshes by the blue spotted trail when my cuz and I lured by the sound of an relative’s gunshots went to her cabin to beg to join she and a married-man-friend in the target shooting but somehow our naivety led to us to lifelong shredded nightmares of a strange man’s hands and an adult relative’s unnatural demands and we made a pact never to tell and for our discretion each of us received a loaded target pistol for our silence shrouded with the threat that our parents would be told an alternative version of what occurred if we both did not comply like good Indians.

I grew up with my history erased my grandfather died before he could pass it on to me my grandmother swallowed it whole and spit it out in anger anytime I did something wrong or showed a temper my heathen blood dark secret dangerous my mother whispered secrets when my dad wasn’t looking my aunts and uncles never mentioned it but my cuz knew this we shared together like a silken bond that led straight to our hearts
as we learned that whatever happened did so for a reason like a right of passage into the world of adulthood a trip leukemia cut short for him before his 21st year but one I still travel even after my 60th year searching for an ultimate adulthood that never comes
a myth served up by a society I barely recognize and a family who has passed
and my feet are sore my heart calloused but mostly I am filled with amazement that I
now hesitate before I consider whether or not to question the rules that fill the world where I venture to sustain my determination and hope that there are always alternatives in life if you peer deep enough and dig and scratch out the possibilities yet I am that weathered heathen who still believes behind a questioning smile.