This has been a tough week for me from a writing perspective. Writing is a high priority for me, not just because it’s my vocation, but because I love it. It’s my passion.
This week I’ve been busy doing things around the house that should have been done long ago; things I’ve put off far beyond the point of procrastination. I’m not certain what the word for ‘beyond procrastination’ is, but I’m sure there is one. Let’s call it ultra-procrastination for now.
It’s not that I’m lazy; it’s just that, as a former colleague once wrote in his column - When it comes to manual dexterity, I’m right up there with snakes.
I’m not real handy around the house. God knows I try. It’s just not my thing. I believe it’s genetic. I remember watching my father fumble around with his little ‘projects’ – smashing his finger with a hammer - destroying the plumbing under the kitchen sink – blowing out the electricity in the entire house. He even struggled to put away the pots and pans when he’d help with the dishes. He could never get them to fit into their allotted space. He’d be messing around with the pans, rattling and shaking them around and shoving them every which way. It sounded like a crazed raccoon had been let loose in the cabinet. The whole experience was very educational though. I learned a lot of obscenities watching my dad work around the house.
So far this week I’ve stripped two layers of wallpaper from our bedroom walls; painted the kitchen ceiling, which I had originally started about six months ago, spackled and sanded several walls in preparation for painting and made two trips to the local Home Depot, an extremely intimidating place for those of us who are ‘home improvement challenged’. For me, making a trip to Home Depot is emasculating. I have no idea what to look for, which type of paint I need. I’m lost; totally out of my element.
Today, I was waited on by a very nice young lady who seemingly knew everything one could ever want to know about paint. I stood there, listening politely; nodding my head in agreement even though I had not even the most infinitesimal idea as to what she was talking about, while every ounce of testosterone slowly drained from my body. Oh well, at least I won’t have to shave any more.
So, in the midst of all this peripheral stuff; I still have two columns to write for this week. I’ve tried to schedule my writing time in between the stripping, patching and painting, but I just can’t work that way. It’s futile! I’ve stared at the walls in my office for so long today that I can almost see through them.
Margaret Chittenden, who I’m fairly certain never stripped wallpaper from her bedroom walls when she should have been working on one of her novels, said;
"Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing."
Truer words were never spoken.
So, here I sit, emptying everything in my head into my weekly offering for the Patch and struggling to get past the thoughts of latex, semi-gloss enamel and spackle that have intruded upon my psyche, not to mention the know-it-all, albeit helpful, paint lady at the Home Depot. Showing off is not an admirable trait!
My weekly column is entitled, Take Me Back, but I fear that to this point I haven’t taken anyone back anywhere.
So, in the spirit of keeping to my column heading, let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
I attended Roland Green School in Mansfield, MA from the first through third grade. I walked to school with a bunch of kids from our neighborhood on South Main Street – about a half mile trek. We walked rain or shine because, as my mother always told us; we weren’t going to melt. It was very seldom that we got a ride. That’s just how it was in those days. No one worried about being abducted or anything like that. Either things were safer then or we were naïve; perhaps a bit of both.
My first grade teacher, Miss Gonis, was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I was infatuated with her, or at least as infatuated as a six year old could be. She was very young, although I didn’t think so at the time. I’m guessing she was about twenty-three.
Miss Gonis was only seventeen years older than I was, so when she was forty seven, I was thirty. That could have worked, although I’m not sure if the whole ‘cougar’ thing was fashionable back then; not to mention my wife wouldn’t have understood.
Although Miss Gonis may have been my first crush, I must confess to having cheated on her with one of my classmates. We’ll call her Sandy, which is very convenient since that’s actually her name.
My friend, Robert S and I would stand outside the girl’s bathroom and wait for Sandy to come out. I’m calling him Robert S because I’m not quite sure when the statute of limitations on sexual assault expires. I’m kidding about the sexual assault, of course, although today what we did would more than likely result in us having to register as sex offenders at the tender ago of six. It’s a strange world out there.
So, Robert and I would wait for Sandy to come out of the girl’s room and then Robert would grab her, hold her arms and I’d kiss her. I find it difficult to believe that we actually did that, but we did. I recall that Miss Gonis took me aside and had a talk with me, telling me that type of behavior was not acceptable and that I should never do it again. She didn’t even tell my parents!
What I had done was all very innocent by the standards of the day, but as I said; can you imagine how the school would deal with that today? The world has changed and, in many cases, not necessarily for the better.
At the risk of sounding like some old geezer who tells stories about how when he was a kid he walked ten miles to school, uphill both ways, shoeless; I must say that there’s absolutely no question that when I was a kid we were much more respectful overall. I’m not saying we were little angels, nor am I saying that all kids today are undisciplined and disrespectful, but disrespect and shoddy behavior are definitely more pronounced today. Bad behavior was once the exception whereas, in far too many incidences; it is now the norm.
Don’t believe me? Go to Shaw’s, Kohl’s or any other store, get in line behind a young mother with a couple of children and observe. It’s appalling! It’s the old adage of the patients running the asylum. I know there are many parents who teach their children to be respectful and to behave properly, so please don’t take offense; I’m not talking to you. If this does sound familiar and as you’re reading this little Johnny is lighting the cat’s tail on fire and you’re ignoring it - wake up! It’s a lot less painful to straighten him out now than it is to bail him out later.
It once was that parents were the primary source of all things discipline; the first line of defense. When things went awry, the parents were notified first and we feared more what our parents would do to us than we feared anything the school authorities or the cops could ever do.
Disciplining a child can be difficult, sometimes more painful and traumatic to the parent than it is to the child. The old cliché, this is going to hurt me more than it is you, has some merit, but discipline and respect are the cornerstones of character building. They are the stuff from which we are fashioned.
Make this a great week!
Bob Havey is a freelance writer and a Mansfield native, currently living in Easton, MA.
Special thanks for the picture provided by Wayne Garriepy, former Mansfield resident and owner of imagesdv.com . Wayne is currently working on a documentary about Mansfield entitled, ‘A Town in Time: The Chronicle of an Uncommon Community.’