Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lessons Taken Home

I left for my grandmother's house in Native State with Thomas on Monday, July 6th; and returned home on Thursday, July 9th.

Our trip there was filled with the usual delicious food, fun excursions, and pampering, but in addition to roast beef and soda, I returned to Southern State with some important truths.

Before I get to that, though, let me show you some pictures from the fun times we had:

Our First Dinner

Several hours after our arrival, our grandmother served my brother and I a delicious dinner of crab cakes and haddock.

My grandmother and Thomas, by now used to my strange habit of urging them to look away when I take pictures, accommodated me.

Grand Ma and Thomas Make Their Purchases

After we gulped down this meal, the three of us headed for dessert to a snowball stand several minutes away from my grandmother's home. Snowballs are a delectable Native State tradition that to this day I have yet to find in any other state, confections of shaved ice shaped into a ball, thoroughly doused in thick flavored syrup, and sometimes filled with marshmallow.

Describing this to any non-Native Stater invariably leads them to ask, "So, it's a snow cone?" or "So, it's Italian ice?"

Snow cones are flavorless brick-like things covered in little more than colored water, and Italian ice is of softer texture. Anyone who's actually tasted a snowball would instantly know the difference, but until you do it's a bit hard to understand.

Thomas Takes a Bite Out of a Chocolate Snowball

My Egg-Custard

Thomas got a chocolate while I enjoyed an egg custard (another major difference between snowballs and other frozen treats is that snowballs come in literally dozens of flavors, only a fraction of which I, a child of Native State, have ever tried).

Eating a Snowball

Grand Ma

We ate our snowballs sitting on a bench outside of the stand, and my grandmother even posed for a barely-faceless photo.

The next day we went to the movies and then, when we got home, engaged in another celebrated Native State tradition.

A Feast

Now, just for the sake of principle I'm not going to say where Native State is, nor will I admit whether any guesses are right, but I think by this point it's pretty obvious where I'm from. If you're an American and you haven't figured it out yet, you might want to rethink your citizenship.

Thomas Poses

It wasn't all crabs and cookies, though.

During our three-day stay, I had an important conversation with my grandmother and figured some things out. The following is a diary entry that I wrote one night of the visit:

July 7, 2009

Thomas and I are in the middle of a visit to Grand Ma Normal Family's house that so far has gone swimmingly. We arrived yesterday, on Monday the 6th of July, and that evening went to the skate park, where Grand Ma and I spent an hour in the car while Thomas skateboarded with enough exertion to drench himself in sweat.

Later in the night we watched Revolutionary Road, which we rented on the way home. It was a depressing film about a suburban couple from New York City, who, as the promise of their youth fades, come to the realization that they are just like everyone else.

The movie disturbed me, because it embodied my worst fear: that the greatness of my destiny was just something I could pretend at as a child, before I'd ever been subjected to the trials of the real world, and that once minority ended the hopes would collapse, falling away as the mere fantasies of someone destined to live a mediocre existence.

I am talented; I can say without reserve that I'm a magnificent writer, and if I do fail to make an imprint, or fail to get published, it will be my own fault.

A terror of mine is falling into the Weird Family tradition, all wasted ability and false superiority.

The key to avoiding these pitfalls consists, as I see it, of two things: choosing a career to go into after college, and finishing the book upon which I have been laboring inconsistently for years. I must make significant progress by the end of the summer, lest I squander my own potential.

I am twenty-one years old now, verging on true manhood. I must make something of myself, not hide behind the excuse of time and youth, and if I am to make something of myself it will almost certainly be through the written word.

Owning to this has been a relief; at least now I admit my problems. I came out to my grandmother this morning.

I was more nervous with her than with anyone else, but she just said she'd known in her heart for years and that she'd always love me. By the end of our sunny walk, she'd hugged me several times as tears filled my eyes, and as I told her about the bitter regret I felt for missing out on high school. There's no point in reflecting on that colossal mistake, though, as nothing can be done about it.

It's just so hard not to think about what might have been had I been braver, had I stood up for the truth, for my truth. I wish I had been more courageous. I'd like to think now, as I sit on my grandmother's porch and stare out into the dark summer night, that something great is waiting for me. I realize now, though, in all seriousness, that I have to pursue it.


unokhan said...

and srs congrats on coming out to your grandmother. step by step life in the bunker becomes history.

secret agent woman said...

I'd say Maryland, although I certainly ate plenty of steamed crabs growing up inboth Georgia and Mississippi.

hardlyhearshimself said...

I honestly can't guess where you're from, but I'm a terrible American as it is, so it's no wonder.

I definitely understand where you're coming from, as I too am an aspiring writer with fears of going no farther than mediocrity.

Here's hoping we at least get somewhere with what we do best.

Terra Shield said...

Knowing what you want to do and working towards it is half the battle won. That said, I do think you write very well.

David Tellez said...

OMG, dude...I so wanna try a snow ball! In Tucson, we have something similar, because the texture does feel and taste like snow and we do douse it in heavy syrup, but nothing exotic like chocolate or egg cream. We call them, raspados, which is a Spanish word for...I don't know, frozen ball of snow? Sometimes we add evaporated milk on top's just an awesome summer treat. And, well, since Tucson has nine months of summer, it's more like a year-around treat.

I haven't seen Revolutionary Road yet, but I did read the book, way before the movie came out. And you're right. It did make me think about my fading youth and how life would no longer be served to me on a platinum platter (I know the expression is "silver platter," but if I'm gonna eat off an expensive platter, I prefer it to be platinum) and I had to go out and fight for what I wanted. That's how I got my writing stint at the magazine I worked for last year. It's how I moved to and from Milwaukee this year. Because I wanted to. If you want something bad enough and are willing to do all you can to make it work, you should be fine. The only one that can stop you, is you.

So, best of luck! As Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, "Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."

otherworldlyone said...

Glad you had a great time...and talked to your grandma. =)