Thursday, July 28, 2016

PORCH STORIES: A WALK IN THE WOODS


Two or three times of the year I open my doors to family, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews - if you are related by blood you are fee to come. I started doing this when the children were young so they would know who they were related to. Once upon a time I thought blood line family was important, I am rethinking blood lines (but that is a different conversation).

Anyway, a few months back I called my children and told them to come over for a Saturday dinner. I also called my sister and told her I was opening the house for the day, I knew she would spread the word.  Free food always brings empty stomachs.

My son and his wife came without one of their children, she had to work and promised to come later. Everyone who was within driving distance arrived on time and ready to fellowship.

A good time was had by all! There was plenty of food and things to do, I always make sure that there is enough food for everyone to take home a family meal for the next day. (No, I do not have people bring a dish.) After we had completed the meal the younger children were set free to run around in the yard while the dogs stood guard, and the older children sat in the house catching up with what they had been doing since the last time they saw each other and that was when my granddaughter pulled up in her car.

Her father had purchased her a slightly used car because she had maintained an “A” average throughout middle and high school. It was expected that she would drive responsibly and keep gas in the car thus she had a part time job at a fast food place.  When she stepped out of the car I nearly fell out of my chair. This girl stepped out with three different colors in her hair, one arm full of bracelets, and purple lipstick.

“Hi grandma!” she was sincerely happy to see me. Speaking as she ran up the steps to kiss me, I noticed underneath the bracelets were tattoos and she had pierced her tongue. I couldn’t speak, I must have looked dumbfounded.
“Grandma, can you hear me?” She adjusted her tone. “Hi grandpa.” She walked over to my husband who was laughing uncontrollably.
“Girl,”  Chip started “I hope you have a job at Chuck-E-Cheese or the circus looking like that.”
“What is wrong with y'all?” she asked
Before Chip could go ballistic on my granddaughter I stood up. “Dianah, let’s go for a walk.”
“Can I get something to eat first, grandma? I am so hungry.” My look answered the question and she followed me down the steps, around the house to a path which lead to a wooded path we had on our property.
“Why is your hair three different colors?” I asked once we were out of earshot of everyone.
“I like it.”
“It looks silly. You like looking silly?”
“This is the style.”
“You do whatever is in style?
“Grandma, things are different now; you and grandpa wouldn’t understand.”
“Why do you have so many bracelets on?”
“It is a fashion statement.”
“Pretend like I am deaf. What are you saying?”
“I am not saying anything.”
“But you said wearing an arm full of bracelets is a fashion statement.”
“It’s a style.”
“What kind of style?”
“You wouldn’t understand grandma. You are too old fashioned.”
“That means that you are new fashion?”
“Yea.”
“Yes.”
“Yes, that’s what I mean! What difference does it make if I say yea or yes? They mean the same thing.”
“It doesn’t mean anything to people who don’t care how you talk. Just like it does not mean anything to people who don’t care how you look.”
“I don’t want to be around people who care about how I look.”
“Why did you pierce your tongue?”
“I wanted to know what it would be like.”
“So you put yourself in pain because you wanted to know what it would be like? You risked disease because you wanted to know what putting a stick in your mouth would be like?”
“It’s a look grandma. Something we do.”
“Who is this we that has influenced you so much?”
“Huh” Looking at my face she corrected herself. “Excuse me?”
“How do you determine what is in style, what is a fashion statement what you should do with your body? Who is telling you that: having three different colors in your hair, piercing your tongue, tattoos on your body and wearing more jewelry than a metal detector will allow, is what you should do?”
“No one!”
“So you came up with all of this” I emphasized her body with my hands “all by yourself?”
“Yes, my look is my look. You have been talking to daddy haven’t you. He keeps threatening to take the car if I don’t take the color out of my hair.”
“No, I haven’t been talking to your father. But, I told both of your parents not to buy the car in the first place so if he takes it then I think it is fine, especially if you are listening to other people and not your parents.”
“My parents do things like you do they don’t understand what it is like today.”
“You can believe that if you want. If you think other people know better then you need to give the car to your parents and ask those people to give you a car.”
We were quiet for a long while I was appreciating the beauty of nature, Dianah who knows what she was thinking. It had been a long time since I had to take a child out into the woods. I don’t like publicly chastising children, I think it does more harm than good. I do believe in spanking but at some point that is ineffective and at her age inappropriate.
With teenagers you have to know how they are thinking before you can address what they are doing. There are so many outside influences that undermine the teachings that come from home and parents are so busy making money that they often miss those influences.
“Dianah, what do you think about how you look?”
“My friends like it.”
“I didn’t ask about your friends. I asked about Dianah.”
“It’s OK.”
“OK?”
“Yea; Yes this is what is in style.”
“Do me a favor. I want you to research how fashion models, business men, athletes and any other famous person you can think of dress in their everyday life. I want you to look at famous people who dressed outlandishly years ago dress today.”
“Grandma I already know people don’t look like this everyday.”
“So why do you? If you know that people make money creating looks but don’t do it themselves- why do you do it?”
“Because it is the style.”
“Styles change Dianah and you have done things to your body, like getting tattoos, that are permanent.”
“Well, I was going to change my hairstyle when I got paid anyway.”
“Why?”
“Huh?”
“Why were you going to change your hairstyle?
“I thought you didn’t like it? I thought you would be glad to hear that I was changing it.”
“It is not about me Dianah, it is about you and your life. Personally, I think you look silly. I can’t take you or anyone else serious looking like that. But, if you want to look like that you have to accept the responsibility for it and that is more than you having your car taken from you.”
There are a lot of trails on my property. Dianah had no clue which one we were on or how to get back to the house. We came to a bench that was not far from the house but hidden by trees, we sat there.
“It is something to do. Mom and Dad are always telling me to do this or do that and there rules are different from my friends. I can’t go where they go and they will even cut off my internet if they think I am surfacing someplace they don’t want me to go. Did you know they are my Facebook friends? That is so embarrassing!”
She paused thinking I would say something, I did not.
“I got a cell phone with my first paycheck and when mom found it she threw it away! I have a contract so I have to pay for a phone I don’t have! The only good thing is, I still have the phone they bought me but they use it like a GPS to find out where I am all the time. I was drunk when I got my tongue pierced.” She paused again and I still did not respond.
“Grandma, I am tired of being different. People accuse me of being religious, and say I am not black! Even the teachers at school say my parents are wrong when they say abortion is wrong or homosexuality is wrong. They say I am free to express myself and that the Bible is just a guideline but God is whoever I want him to be.”
I stood up and began walking.
“I am sorry grandma, did I say something that made you mad.”
I smiled. “Dianah, I am not mad at you. You are at a point in your life in which you have to figure things out for yourself. There is nothing I can say to you that has not been already said.” It did not take long for us to see the children playing in the back of the house. “Do you see your cousins playing having fun? They are being themselves, oblivious to what teachers, friends or other people say. They have been fed, they are safe and they know who they are; they are happy. Are you happy? Are you listening to happy people?
“I suspect Dianah that the people who are influencing your decisions are angry, unhappy and blame others for the problems they see. I don’t think you are happy, because you are trying to fit where you don’t belong. You have to decide if you want to be like those people or if you want to be like your young cousins.”
As we approached the house Chip was walking towards us.
“I am sorry.” He said hugging Dianah “If you want to have twenty colors in your hair I will still love you.” Dianah started crying.

As her grandfather hugged her I went into the house to prepare a plate for Dianah. Her father came and gave me a hug.

“Two or three times a year mom you have to take somebody into the woods. I think its’ time we started taking up the slack.” He said.

No son, I like my walks. It is the best dishwasher I have! We laughed as I looked around at a clean kitchen.

And that is the world according to NETTIE xxx Short Stories and essays and other ramblings by Marsha L F Randolph; All rights reserved do not use without the permission of the author Marsha L F Randolph