Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Month: January, 2016

Odd #17: The Gene Pool, Part 3

artsy photo of the iconic Marlboro Cowbow

Strictly Hollywood, right? Wrong. SO wrong.

If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 of this Odd #17 blog trilogy, best go back and do so, else a good portion of the humor in this Part 3 will be lost on you.

You know how – more often than not – what goes around comes around? Some time after the Kenneth-Genevieve unpleasantness my new husband endured, it was my turn to be blind-sided by blatant, gene-pool oddities. Yes, I neglected to ask the important question I advocated in Part 2. See? I wasn’t kidding when I said simply reading this blog means you’re getting the benefit of painfully learned lessons, minus the pain. My excuse? I was young and too naive to know I needed to ask that main pay-attention-point question in Part 2.

The Pay-Backs Story

In the early months of our marriage, we traveled several hours to my in-laws’ home in Oklahoma. Not long after we arrived, a visitor quietly arrived. Someone answered the door. Hushed greetings were exchanged. The visitor walked up the stairs of my in-laws’ split-level house and turned the corner to enter the living room door.

I, the unsuspecting newest member of the family, was sitting on the hearth, soaking up the fire, when he made his entrance. Unlike Hubby’s plunge into my gene pool, I received NO warning – not even the three-minute warning he received – of who had just entered my new in-laws’ home.

Taking up the entire doorway with his wide stance, stood a tall cowboy-ish drink of somethin’ who looked vaguely familiar, though I was certain I couldn’t possibly know him. (Did I mention my new husband was the buttoned-down-collar, penny-loafer sort?) As I checked off his cowboy-wardrobe, my mouth increasingly dropped open until I’d worked my way to an undignified, trout-mouth expression. 

  • Ten-gallon Stetson hat (removed, so he could fit through the door). White, of course. CHECK.
  • Manly, two-day beard. CHECK.
  • Cigarette (a Marlboro, perhaps?) dangling from his mouth. CHECK.
  • Rolled red bandana handkerchief peeking out from his shirt collar. CHECK.
  • Bolo tie (with what looked to be realsilver tips) around the shirt collar. CHECK.
  • Plaid western shirt, complete with definitely fake pearl snaps. CHECK.
  • Hubcap-sized belt buckle, emblazoned with Texas star. CHECK.
  • Tooled leather belt with all the appropriate insignia. CHECK.
  • Well-worn leather gloves. CHECK. 
  • Levi jeans, worn and faded. Blue, of course. CHECK.
  • Pointy-toed, bull-hide, cowboy boots with the prerequisite decorative stitching. CHECK. 

I’m not talkin’ texan Texan, y’all. I’m talking TEXAN Texan! The Marlboro Cowboy, incarnate!

Now, I knew how Texans looked. I’d seen plenty. I had, after all, watched the cowboy-and-Indian shows and movies that all American kids watched in the ’50s and ’60s. But this was the first time I’d seen one out of its natural habitat. Wow! Apparently, they look larger-than-life when they show up outside of Texas or even outside a Hollywood Texas set.

While I was preoccupied with the cowboy wardrobe checklist, my in-laws were occupied in greeting The Marlboro Cowboy. After checking out his wardrobe authenticity and while they were still meeting and greeting, I slunk over to the window. The Marlboro Cowboy drives an old, mud-encrusted pickup? WHAT??? He’s supposed to ride a horse. Where’s his HORSE??  

Puzzled and disappointed, I sneaked back to join the in-laws and soon realized I couldn’t understand a word The Marlboro Cowboy was saying. I was pretty sure we hadn’t crossed any national boundaries on our way to my new in-laws. However, we had crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. Though it isn’t technically a national boundary, you can never be certain what might happen once you cross that line. Things are different down there. I always pray diligently each time I cross it that I’ll be able to sprint back across should they decide to close it. Don’t laugh; stranger things have happened. As I said, they do things differently down there.

But I digress.

WHAT is The Marlboro Cowboy saying? I wondered. Better yet, Why is he HERE?? And I continued to chew on those questions during his entire visit, sitting in solitude, since the conversation swirling around me was largely unintelligible.

After he left, I learned he’s Great Uncle Jesse, of course – one of my husband’s grandmother’s four brothers. “You could’ve warned me,” I hissed to Hubby, when I could do so discreetly.

Warned you about what?”

See? This pay-backs story just proves what I’ve been saying in this Odd #17 trilogy. We each become comfortably accustomed to the more eccentric bits of our gene pool. In fact, they seem fairly normal to us, and we seldom stop to consider their effects on the uninitiated.

Hubby hadn’t meant to hide his genes, either. He simply never thought to mention, like my clan didn’t, some of the more eccentric members of his extended family. He also didn’t give a thought to the fact that his wife had grown up north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and that she would be very, very, very caught off guard by such a character. Furthermore, it never occurred to him that she wouldn’t know the secret handshake or the dialect.

I know. I know. This harmless swish into my husband’s gene pool can’t compare to his abrupt Kenneth-Genevieve shove into the shallow end of my gene pool. I can’t whine, really, especially since The Marlboro Cowboy’s visit was mercifully short, compared to the endless Kenneth-Genevieve bit of theater that Hubby endured. (Texan cowboys, it turns out, don’t have a lot to say.) I tell this story only to reinforce what I stated in Part 2 of Odd #17.

Again, in case you missed it,
here’s the pay-attention point.
ASK AS MANY QUESTIONS
AS YOU CAN
to uncover any oddballs
in your intended’s family.

Having done that, do remember they all share the same gene pool. Now, ask yourself, Do you want to jump into that pool or not, Little Missy? FYI: “till death do us part” can turn out to be an interminably long time. Think about it. I certainly have, but after the I-do part. More’s the pity. 

Damage-control time: some facts have been changed –no, not to protect the innocent – to embellish the story, silly. For instance, it might have been Skoal snuff, rather than a Marlboro ciggy. Okay, maybe I tweaked a few other minor details, too. But I promise, the embellishments are just that: mere lipstick on an otherwise true-to-life story that’s meant to serve as a clear warning to all young lovers considering matrimony. Ask. Ask. Ask!

©2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called 'walking.'” – George W. Bush

Yep. There’s just somethin’ about those Texans.

Odd #18: The Not-Quite-Right Amongst Us

photo of blackened electrical outlet

I promise it will all be made clear. Trust me.

You know how some kids get labeled early on? They’re either so obviously brilliant, they’re hailed as the next discoverer of something, maybe even something as amazing as penicillin. Or it’s the opposite; family members resign themselves to the unpleasant fact that this one might be an embarrassment to the whole clan, not to mention a drag on all of society.

But, of course, sometimes kids get labeled incorrectly. Einstein comes to mind. In fact, you’ve probably heard of or personally know someone who didn’t walk or talk on schedule who still turned out to be successful. Everything was pretty much okay their first few years and when it wasn’t, they decided to speak out about it: THEN they started talking. Or they were born uber-efficient; If others will bring me things, why should I crawl or walk to get them? They didn’t start walking till they wanted something no one would bring them.

An Unfortunate
Labeling Story

This is a true story, just so you know. And for once, I’m not the one learning the lesson the hard way. It’s about a dear friend, who shall remain nameless (his initials are B.O.B.), who did indeed learn a very jolting lesson in the hardest of ways.

When my friend was all of seven, his grandfather decided his grandson was old enough for his own knife and gave his grandson a penknife. Did I mention Grandpa did this without consulting Grandma or the parents of his grandchild to ensure they all agreed he was old enough to do only marginal damage with a small knife? Furthermore, Grandpa’s only instruction was: “Now don’t go sticking this in an electrical socket.”

The next day, after having had 24 hours to recover from his mysterious propulsion across his grandparents’ living room, my friend studied the blackened outlet he’d created. Paying attention to the rest of the room, he discovered there were four more! Would they all produce the same effect, or was it just THAT one, I wonder? Only one way to find out.

After regaining consciousness from his second propulsion across his grandparents’ living room, he overheard Grandpa say to Grandma, “Ruby, that boy AIN’T RIGHT!”

And he wasn’t. He was SO not-right. He was so far above not-right that he is now an eminent immunotoxicologist – one of handful in our nation. Yep. Definitely not your average kiddo. The makings of a beady-eyed, experimenting scientist were already in place at the ripe age of seven.

You’ve been paying attention; it sounds a bit like I’m bragging, doesn’t it? I am. Having no impressive credits of my own, I like to brag about my impressive friends, and I absolutely love throwing out long words like immunotoxicologist just to watch people’s faces. I especially like knowing his humble beginnings.

Is there a pay-attention point
to this bald-faced bragging?

Of course: it’s hard to predict where sticking a knife into an electrical socket or any number of other, not-right behaviors will propel a child. Could be just an embarrassing toss across a room and a lifetime of similarly self-defeating behaviors – OR a preview of the child’s propulsion into an exciting profession that benefits thousands.

You just never know.

So spend a little more time and effort paying attention to and encouraging the young ones around you, ESPECIALLY the not-quite-right ones. If they end up like my friend you, too, could have some fairly impressive bragging rights. Then you can do what I do: exercise your bragging rights to liven things up a bit at dull parties. (This one is one of my best stories, always getting plenty of laughs. Sometimes I reveal my friend’s identity, and sometimes I practice discretion. It’s a judgment call, you know.) 

©2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: ”As he was a late talker, his [Albert Einstein’s] parents were worried. At last, at the supper table one night, he broke his silence to say, 'The soup is too hot.' Greatly relieved, his parents asked why he had never said a word before. Albert replied, 'Because up to now everything was in order.'" – Otto Neugebauer

(Neugebauer is a mathematics historian.)

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