friday's food for thought

I am a latecomer to the Game of Cool.

In my earlier years I wore glasses, braces replete with headgear, ponytails (think of the chick from Napolean Dynamite) and I rode horses. Not only that, I played with them far beyond most kids endure make-believe. Plastic ones, I mean, making fences and blankets and bridles and lists of names and geneological histories and stories about where the founders of the lines were tamed...

Yup. Story-teller, way back when.

Back then I read ferociously, a package of crackers on my belly as books dragged me ever inward. I wrote constantly: my first stories at ten, my first novel at thirteen, staying up until all hours until my eyes watered, until my glasses dug into my nose and ears, until I collapsed into a stupor. I still have that novel, and whatever else I did wrong, I used mostly s/he said and very few adverbs.

I drew. Horses, mostly, and religious art. I painted Christ on the Cross at an early age, blood dripping from his wrists onto the heartless rocks below. I swore to Him that I always wanted to KNOW, to face the pain. I'd rather know than be ignorant.

None of this I did particularly well, but I had discipline and drive when it came to the stuff I loved.

Schoolwork, not so much. Makeup and hair, not so much. My feet were too wide for Adidas; I wore Zips. I wore overalls and legwarmers--oh so wrong! I never had Gloria Vanderbilt; I had department store petites section brand jeans. My name is well-suited to horrid, mean nicknames. Don't even get me started on the acne, or the parents who divorced when I was fifteen.

I lived a hidden, escapist life. My geekdom was my armor. My stories and art were my life. But all along, I never felt it was quite me.

There were moments. When the girl who tormented me throughout seventh grade tried it again, the first day of eighth, when we were alone in the hall and I replied, "I'm over it." (She never looked twice at me again.) When my drawing of the most beautiful boy in school ended up in an art show at the capital. When I played flag football in gym with most of the actual football team, was chosen last, and they discovered I couldn't catch, but damn, could I ever take a handoff and outrun them all. When, on the first day of high school, our teacher was late, and I (me!) entertained the class with witty reparte and my now infamous biting tongue. When the popular girls made me join in because I was fun, damn it.

There were always setbacks, though. Always. Plain old mean people around, keeping a good kid down. Failure of confidence. God, yeah, a huge deficit in confidence. Missed opportunities to raise my head and my hand. Many many crossroads in which I chose the safe, quiet passage. It's an expensive passage, that, paid for in heart and soul and dreams.

Last night I walked into the pub. Most of the wait staff greeted me by name. When my daughter insisted on sitting at the "tree table," usually reserved for adults, no problem. Cherries? Both kids marched up to the bar and asked Mr. Ely, please and thank you very much. The bartenders endured some good-natured ribbing about beard season. (No beard for Courtney, though. He's too cute.). When I asked the waitress for Tylenol for my raging headache, she said, "We keep some in the back for the staff. I'll be right back." A cute! boy stared at me most of the time I was there, even though I was hanging with the husband. We laughed with our friends and talked politics and snowmobiles and avalanches and kids and made plans to visit Jamaica together in a year.

I've apparently arrived. I can play the Game.

A crossroads faces me. One road is discipline, a leap of faith, and possible pain. It's a road of dreams and accomplishment and joy and frustration. The other is steady and safe and boring and disappointing.

Every time, not that it's been so many, but every time I've put myself out there, it's paid off. Every time. Got to remember that.

I think it's time I took a leap, eh?

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