When I was a girl, unless it was lightenin or hailin or I was dead asleep in my bed, I was outside in the big open world… or crawlin under something or explorin. Thank goodness I wasn’t afraid of small spaces like my cousin Cynthia. A few times when we played hide and seek I found Cynthia hidin, cowered down and cryin in a closet, poor girl. She could get herself in there, but once she shut the door and was in the dark, she would get so scared she would freeze. Beats me how after the first or second time she didn’t remember what that was like…I reckon she was a slow learner. Anyways, she would get so afraid in there that she couldn’t yell or even open up the door to get herself out. She’d have to wait until she was found. Her momma would say, “Oh, don’t you worry yourself at all about her. She’ll be just fine. That youngin’s just got a bad case of ‘claustrophobia’. Funny how a mind changes a word to fit what it knows. “Claustrophobia” sounded a whole lot like “closet phobia” to me and that is what I called bein scared in tight spots until I learned the real word years later.
Yes, funny how we hear what we want to hear… and sometimes not what is really bein said at all. I thought for the longest time that the nonsense rhyme that Grandma would sing to us said, “Maresy- dotes and dosey-dotes and little lambsy-divey” . I was happily singin that song at the top of my lungs…I remember it like it was yesterday…I was walkin down the street in town window shoppin when my singin was corrected by a snooty middle-aged, know-it-all. Her pronunciation and personality were as cold and sharp as her beady pond water brown eyes and her pinched, hoisted nose. In the most proper English diction I had ever heard on a hillbilly, she snapped, “Mares Eat Oats. And Does Eat Oats. And Little Lambs Eat Ivy.” That’s all she said. She didn’t say, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interfere, but I know that song too…but the way I learned it the words are…” No, she didn’t say anything like that. All she said were the correct words, and she said them real slow for me like she thought I wasn’t right in the head. So, before she turned tail and marched away I got a few chosen words in myself. Because I was about 13 and going through a bit of a smartypants stage, I answered her even slower than she had spoken when she was correcting me, “Well, I’ll be! You sure are kind! Thank you for clearin that up for me! I have no idea what might have happened had I never know the correct words! You have done me a favor…now I won’t look like an i’jut next time I sing that song out in public! I feel better! So much better. Thank you.”
Truth was, it didn’t make me feel better or worse. If I’d known I was wrong, I wouldn’t have been singin it that way all that time. I would have asked to know the right words. Being wrong about a nursery rhyme isn’t a big deal. What is a big deal is when we don’t know somethin important is wrong… when we go along without anybody tellin us things we really need to know. Not knowin a whole story, seein a whole picture, or hearin the whole truth can cause some problems…sometimes big problems. I’ve been known to think I understood when I didn’t at all. I have had simple miscommunications that led to things that were anything but simple… I have been ignorant because I didn’t know any better. I have failed to ask for clarification because I wasn’t aware that I needed any. I didn’t ask for help… and nobody offered any. The problem is, that sometimes when a person finally gets clear about somethin, when she finally figures out what somethin really means, it takes a while to undo all the wrong that was done.
The things we let confuse and scare us! Some we should be legitimately scared of… but some not…like Cynthia’s terror of close spaces. I was pretty good about not lettin myself get scared. Just because my body was someplace didn’t mean my mind had to be. I might be hidin behind a barn door or under the porch steps… I could hide for the longest time in a feed bin, or tucked in tight inside a hollow tree stump. I could hide during a search game and never be found the whole time. I liked to be tucked away sometimes. I’ve always thought it’s kind of peaceful to be alone.
When I was younger I needed to get away from the loudness of my siblings every now and then and just be still and quiet. It wasn’t hard to find a good spot…sittin on a rock by the stream… or leanin up against the base of my favorite weeping willow tree trunk… it’s low drooping branches keepin me shielded and shaded too. Or one of my favorite spots was laid out in the middle of one of Daddy’s or Granddaddy’s fields feelin the sun warm my skin … Or lyin on my back in our yard, lookin up at the stars. How I loved to climb up and sit on a tree limb and look up at the sun’s rays flickerin through the leaves, or close my eyes and listen to the birds…the call of a whippoorwill, or the playful conversation between mockingbirds. I loved to watch water sparkle and tumble into foam over creek rocks, or watch a leave or twig stuck in an eddy…spinnin and spinnin in an endless tiny whirlpool. I can almost hear the creek sounds now. In my mind I can see it clearly… I have seen that sight so many times before. I know how frustrated that leaf or twig must have felt too… after it has gone around and around and around one too many times in that eddy… I can imagine it tryin to figure out how to get out from where it has gotten itself stuck… dizzy and disoriented …tryin to figure out how to find a way back to the moving stream where it belongs.