Tuesday, March 23, 2010

She Walked Through the Corn Leading Down to The River

When I saw the movie Strictly Ballroom for the first time, I was pinned down in my seat by one line. This line, the key line of the movie, was so familiar to me and yet no one had ever actually uttered those words.

I realized this weekend why those words held such meaning for me.

But let me back up. The trip to my hometown was fun. Nate decided to join Sophie and me. He reminded me that we had to listen to XM Bluegrass Junction as we drove through Tennessee and Kentucky. And so we did. Did I ever tell you that my maternal great grandad was a fiddler? That music is part of my heritage so it was not only geographically appropriate, it was also a great segue for talking about my family to Nate while Sophia slept in the backseat. And if we hadn't tuned in, I might never have known that there's a bluegrass version of Fox on the Run.

It was great to see family and friends of my parents who I'd not seen since 1997 or before. I saw my first grade teacher Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Curry who used to babysit me and let me play with her fireplace tools in her pristine living room as long as I promised to leave the poker alone. I saw cousins I hadn't seen in ages and gave unsolicited advice about how to get labor started to the girlfriend of one of them. Come to think of it, I spent a week in Cincinnati in 1982 babysitting that father to be.....

Anyway, the anniversary party was very nice, just as I expected. Quiet, dignified, and a little self-conscious. I come from people who like to have a little fun. Not a whooping loud lot of fun. A little fun. They're skittish about letting people see them cut loose. And by cut loose, I mean drink soda pop, eat a good country buffet meal and sit around a pole shed catching up, telling stories, and laughing. These are not nor have they ever been cocktail partiers or chandelier swingers. They're just regular folks with no pretensions and don't accuse them otherwise. And as per usual, there was no alcohol served. And that's okay. They have their reasons.

My mother is the daughter of an alcoholic who died young. My father claims to have never liked alcohol, but the bigger reason, I suspect, is that he saw drinking and smoking as complete wastes of money and impediments to climbing the socio-economic ladder to the safe middle class.

So I had a root beer with my barbecue, cole slaw and delicious potato casserole. It didn't kill me.

On the way home, Nate and I chatted about what a nice weekend it had been. Now, Nathan was always an observant kid. Even when he was young, he'd pick up on my moods and ask "What's wrong?" So it was no surprise when he noticed the frequent use of a certain phrase during our short stay with my parents.

"Mom, have you noticed that they say 'I would have, but I was afraid' alot?"

I had noticed.

"What are they afraid of?"

It's a good question. I know that I'm more a risk taker than my parents are. Sometimes it works out well, sometimes it's a disaster. Most times it's just another moment in my life to be cataloged, categorized, dissected and done with. I can't say for sure what they were afraid of, but I could guess...Fear of failure? Fear of being judged?

It got me to thinking about how we kind of cover our mouths when we laugh. How we worry so damn much what people might think, or worse what people might say about us. That's part of life in a small town, of course, so I don't blame them. They sought and achieved security. They met their goal and they've had a pretty pleasant life. They probably look at MathMan and me and wonder how we manage with the constant uncertainty that underscores our lives. Knowing that family is far away from any potential embarrassment is a large factor in how I manage living in a small town these days. No one really knows us enough to care or gossip about us. And I like it that way.

I thought about that while I drove. Finally I said, "I hate to think about how much of their lives they didn't live because they were afraid."

Nate nodded. "I guess they're happy enough."

It's something I am learning to appreciate, but I wonder....was it best to always hold back? What might life have been like if they laughed out loud more, if they didn't worry so much about what people might think, if they stopped comparing themselves and simply just did what they wanted sometimes.

And you? Do you hold back? Take risks? Somewhere in the middle?


  1. Wow Lisa, Nate is deep, I love seeing that in a younger person.
    I know the type of people you are referring to, those who seem content with the status quo. I worry when I think like that, I think life is more fun with some risk.
    I'm glad you had a good trip, when I go home it can go either way.

  2. Yah. Well...Every risk I take that ends badly makes me less likely to take another. Right now, I have to take biggies that I expect to drop me on my head. Although that's probably giving them too much power...

    Risk taking doesn't much bother the young. This is both a good and a bad thing.

  3. Ever think they were afraid of Al-Qaeda? Sheesh. I hold risks back because risk often doesn't hold back.

  4. Somewhere in the middle, I think. I take risks, but I always hedge my bets, as it were.

    At our age, dear Lisa, rebuilding bridges burned may take more time than we have left.

    All the same, it is important at times to cast silence that nagging voice within and just go for it.

    Which is why I think I'm somewhere in the middle.

  5. Somewhere in the middle... I take some risks, I do tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and I know I get attached too quickly to things that don't last. But so far it has mostly worked out... so... yeah.

    Lovely post Lisa. I need to stalk you here instead of just on FB more often :)

  6. I'll take all kinds of risks when it comes to traveling, trying new things, learning a new instrument and playing in a band in public, that sort of thing. I wish I had taken more risks with my career.

    Once again, lovely post. I love the conversations you have with your children, who seem like terrific people.

  7. I'm also somewhere in the middle but lean more toward risk taking. Speaking of Nate, how have things worked out with the Baptists?

  8. first i want to thank you again for the great photos on FB you posted.
    Felt like I was there
    and i would like to second third fourth etc what everyone has said about Nate.
    A very intuitive young man (takes after Mom I bet)
    I'm not near the risk taker i was back in the day (unless you count using a 9 iron when i know damn well i should be hitting the 8) but i took my risks when i was younger and some panned out and some did not.
    I'm sure a lot like our folks did (if you get get them too I bet they have stories!)
    Glad you and the kids had a good time!

  9. Lisa -

    My favorite AP Lit teacher in high school was a former seminarian who quit the just before his vows when he finally figured out he was gay. He was universally the most beloved teacher in the school.

    Anyway, the one piece of advice he gave all of his students has stayed with me all these years: "Moderation is for monks. If you want to taste the spice of life, you have to take a big bite."

    I cannot think of the last time I worried about what the neighbors thought. But on the other hand, I am not a fast driver. Risk is situational.



  10. I'm somewhere in the middle, and it depends on the day. The older I get, the less I care what people think. Usually.

    Did you know that there is a bluegrass version of "Purple Rain"?

    It's pretty cool.

  11. Nate has a good head on his shoulders. Congratulations....the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. As for risk taking, sort of in the middle. I should take on more risk, but sometimes things happen out of the blue that you didn't see coming at all and, well, it makes you risk adverse. That said, despite that I've jumped in with two feet at times. It's easier to do when you are properly motivated--that is, the reward is so worth the risk.

  12. A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.
    - George Bernard Shaw

    Nate is a pretty cool kid.

  13. My parents were risk takers who laughed loud; my husband's were not. We choose to live our lives more like my folks did. Brilliant post, and wonderful comments from your readers. What a great way to start my day. This will be our discussion topic at tonight's dinner table. I am sure everyone will have lots to say. Thanks for sharing it, Lisa. XO

  14. I tend to be a risk-taker myself, but old age has moderated me to the extent of confining risks to things like adding a few extra jalapeƱos to the chili.

  15. Perhaps they are afraid of success.

  16. Great post Lisa. It's given me a lot to think about.

    I used to be a risk taker; now not so much. Life is good, most of the time these days. I just wish there were more hours in the day.

    Tell Nate he's awesome!

  17. Great post Lisa. It's given me a lot to think about.

    I used to be a risk taker; now not so much. Life is good, most of the time these days. I just wish there were more hours in the day.

    Tell Nate he's awesome!

  18. Take my word for it, after over sixty car crashes and I couldn't tell ya how many motorcycle wrecks, I am lucky to be alive. I totalled 29 cars in ten years and quit counting.
    That's why I can't get on a bike.
    There are two throttle positions, off and all the way on.

    I guess you could kinda say balls to the walls is my motto.

    Don't be afeared I say. Yer time will come.

  19. I have a sister who has a perfection complex. Everything MUST be prefect, and everything is always just fine. In fact the other day she just about screamed I'M FINE!!!

    Yea- that was convincing.

    Shit happens. Things go wrong, and whatever situation that may be, it's not likely the first time such a thing happened in the history of humanity.

    You take educated risks, and ya nevah' know what you're gonna get.

    But perfect is not so much on my radar....if it happens well great-- but I've lived long enough to know something less is more likely.

    But hey-- speaking of risks, I'm driving a recalled Toyota. Oy!


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