Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I'm Still Scratching My Head on This One: Old sayings and how they apply to daily life.

Over the years I’ve been in earshot of many maxims, adages and any other term you want to use for what might now be called conventional wisdom. At least it was the wisdom used at the convention that was being held when it was first spoken. I heard them in the home that I grew up in, my mother and father used them all the time. Let’s face it, one of the first ones that we might hear growing up is, “Don’t touch it, it’s hot.” Now that statement is not exactly what I mean when I speak of maxims or adages. I’m really thinking more along the line of things that might be found in Poor Richard’s Almanac. You know, statements like, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That sort of thing.

One that my Grandpa Bryant liked to toss around was, “If you convince a fool against his will, he’s of the same opinion still.” There were many times that he and I had discussions that were efforts to, well, enlighten the other. More than once I walked away reciting his maxim with him in mind, I know that at the same time he was saying it of me. Frankly, that’s okay. I can only think of one conversation that was meaningful enough between us that I went so far as to make it very clear that he needed to see things my way, that I wouldn’t tolerate his bigoted opinion any longer. When the conversation was finished, at least I had nothing more to say on the subject and I would hear no more on it either, my grandpa looked me square in the face and said to me, “you are my favorite grandson, and I’ll tell you why, you stood up to me.” I know that my granddad loved all of his grandchildren alike; I do think that I held a bit of a special place in his life because I made it clear that I wasn’t going to allow him to get away with everything that he did.

There are other things that I have heard, another attributed to Grandpa Bryant was information that he imparted to newlyweds, well those headed to the altar, any way. He would give them this sound advice, “You are about to tie a knot with your tongue that you can’t untie with your teeth.” While he was right in his statement about making promises and commitments before God, it is also true that the same knot that he’s talking about can be gnawed in two by even a lousy attorney.

Other old sayings come to mind like, “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” I understand that this statement refers to personal life, that the days before the end of a crisis will always be the hardest ones to face. Makes sense really, how could it not be true. There comes a point where we reach the acme of any situation and then it heads toward its decline. It’s like the concept that you can only walk half way into the jungle, from there you are walking out. I know enough about overgrowth to know that in the center of the jungle it’s usually the densest and therefore most likely the darkest. If you squint you can see the parallel.

The adage that I’ve had on my mind the past few days is one that’s been heard over and over again in most of our lives. If we deny it, we’re only kidding ourselves. How many times have we heard, “you can’t go home again.”? I know that I’ve heard it over and over, and I have to admit that it took me a long time to figure out exactly what it meant. It’s no secret that I moved out of my family home later than most and when I moved it was under fire and when I look back at it, I moved out in a knee jerk reaction situation, for everyone involved. While I have thought about it this week I have finally come to understand exactly what the statement means. The thing that got me out of the house the quickest was patched up hastily after I had an address of my own. The move changed my life in many ways, some for the good, some for the bad, but I expect that there’s an old saying to cover that as well. I got to thinking about the statement, “you can’t go home again,” on Sunday afternoon and there finally came a clear spot where the light could illuminate it for me. After I moved out of the family home, the manse of my childhood, teen years and young adulthood, it took me many years to go back and spend the night. Really, there was never a reason to stay the night, I only moved forty minutes away. It didn’t make sense to sleep on sheets that my mother would feel obligated to wash after I slept one night on them when I could go home and put another day on the sheets that I was going to wash anyway.

I don’t think that I spent a night at the home place until after my father died, since then I’ve spent several nights there in the last 21 months. It doesn’t seem like home really, I’ll always be comfortable there, but the house creaks different than my apartment building does. There are sounds that I’m not used too, smells I’m not familiar with and there are things that just aren’t the same as when I was a kid, so they don’t feel quite right now that I’ve lived away and have a place of my own. The bed I've slept in there doessn’t sleep the same because it’s at my place and the sheets smell like Bounce, they don’t smell like me. Being at Mom’s for an overnighter feels more like being a guest than it does being at home, but I am at the place that will always be home. It’s a strange position to be in, one where you are comfortable, but not comfortable, a bit of a paradox really.

There are other places that we pass through in our lives where we grow comfortable and feel at ease when we are there. They become second homes for us, or shelters or cozy coves where we know that we can tuck in and weather the storms in our lives. There are times though that for one reason or another we leave those places and when we return, we find that the cozy has run out of the little cove with the tides that have risen and fallen while we were away, we feel that our boat isn’t as safe there as it once was. There are places, that once felt like home where we are always welcome, we can spend the night there if we chose, but we won’t be sleeping in our bed, we'll be sleeping in, "theirs." There are people there that we love, and people that we just don’t feel as comfortable with as we used to. I’ve been looking at all of this and trying to think of an old saying that covers these thoughts. Surely there is one, isn’t there? “You can’t go home again,” just shouldn’t be true. After all, isn’t it home? Isn’t it the place where we grew up, where we should be most comfortable, the place where we learned to cozy up in during the storms because it was a cove that we could return to when the waters got too rough? Isn’t home where our family is where we are allowed to be ourselves and everyone understands?

I’m having a hard time with this one, I’m not sure of the answer, I do hear Dorothy Gale singing in the barnyard about a place over the rainbow, maybe that is the place where we will forever feel at home. Why am I saying maybe? It is the place where we will forever feel at home. Seems like I remember something about only walking half way into the jungle, maybe on the way out I’ll see the Emerald City. I know that I’ll feel at home there.


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