Friday, November 14, 2008

Do Over

The infamous phrase "do over" takes me back to my childhood in the rough and tumble suburbs of the American southeast. As gypsy children of the the flower children, like "water" pipes, peace tamborines and Bob Dylan records and books of all of the existentialists, Bro and I happened to be accessories to the lives of our parents, who spent a few years unceremoniously plucking us up from various locals and plopping down into others. In the mid-1980's we were plopped down in Richmond, Virginia and told to "grow roots". (According to my mother, "roots" were somehow mythically "important". I still scratch my head at the oxymoron of "roots" and "suburbia", given that fact that we were a little nuclear family island far from any other family structure, like grandparents or cousins and such. But even the Moms knew this, and so I digress.)

Long story short, Bro and I did our best to please our parental units by assimilating as quickly as possible into our new zip code. In doing so, we forged our way beyond our grassy front yard to the wide open street, where we played with the native children in our midst. Much to our delight, the native children spoke a version of English that was at first very difficult to understand. They uttered things like, "DANG IT!" in a moment of frustration, and when addressing the group of us, used a contraction of the words "you" and "all" that could be used to address a large and small group alike. In combination, the aforementioned vocabulary words of "DANG IT, YA'LL!" could be used to convey a number of messages. They also yelled "DO OVER" every time a ball went foul or we had to pause one of our street games to allow for a passing car. Bro and I learned our new vocabulary very quickly. We then brought home the new street lexicon to enlighten the parents.

Because I was the child of the flower children who was born under the sign of Scorpio, I had a tendency to lay in wait until the perfect moment to precicely execute my new words. Bro, on the other hand, was the child born under Sagitarias, so he couldn't wait to aim and fire away as quickly as possible in his characteristic style of completely ambushing the big people in our lives. One night at dinner, Bro was apparently less than pleased with the organic food on his plate. Thus, he remarked to the parents:

"DANG YA'LL!!..."

Of course, after expelling these words, Bro didn't know what else to say.

I'll never forget our mother looking up from her plate and asking Bro to repeat himself. Thus, Bro repeated, eagerly awaiting a hearty congratulations for speaking "Southern" to the folks. Instead, however, the mother didn't even flinch with the hint of a reaction. Rather, she put down her fork, told every one to stop eating and launched into a lesson on grammar. In this moment, it became extremely important to her that Bro and I not assimilate too greatly into the lexicon of the Southern suburbian street. According to our mother, we had to somehow find a way to establish "roots" without simultaneously "sounding like ignorant hicks".

Long story short, I piped up in defence of Bro and asked if he could have a "do over". Perhaps he could he try again with something that sounded less ignorant?

"Do over?," said my mother. Suddenly the heat of her gaze had fallen on me. I instantly realized that I was also using a word that I had learned from the kids on the street.

"Yes," I said, gulping down a brussel sprout, "Like, he can do-it-over-again..."

"Nam-a-ste," the mother said, using all three syllabus in my name. She was using her classic still-as-water "voice of death", which indicated that she was extremely serious and about to tell us something very imporant and life-altering.

"First, the phrase that you are using is neither intelligent nor it is proper english unless positioned into a complete sentence. What you are using is called "slang". And second, you should also learn that if you are talking about giving Bro here a second chance, we will do that so that he can practice to express himself clearly, but it is more imporatant to me that both of you realize that you only get one, single shot at life. Hence, there are no "do-over's" in life, so I want you to learn to get it right the first time..."

The Moms went on to stress that we must always think before we speak and that it is very important to know that people will judge us if we speak only in Southern suburbia street slang. With this, she rapidly outlined the words that we were never, ever permitted to use in or outside of our new home. For example, we were not allowed to ever use the "N" word, which, we learned that evening was a very bad word referring to black people. It was then that the Moms assured us that if she ever heard or found out that we used that word, we would not live to see our next birthdays. Absolutely no "do-over's", indeed. I remember being very impressed that evening with how well the Moms already spoke the native lexicon, even though she didn't really chat much to any of the neighbor ladies. And, for what it's worth, I am also thankful that the Moms refused to allow her gypsy children to be ignorant or racist. (Thanks, Mom.)

That said, however grammatically incorrect a "do-over" may be according to my mother, I would like to point out that this also happens to be the same woman who claimed to be 29 years old until she was 36. To this end, she went on to successfully claim that she was 41 years old until her 55th birthday...

No do-over's, huh? I fail to agree...

Life may not give us second chances, and yes, we may have to strive to get it right the first time, but with my 31st birthday upon me at midnight tonight, I have decided to officially exorcise my non-roots on that Southern suburbian street and call for just one "do-over" when it comes to this particular year of my life. In many ways, I got it all "right" the first time. In other ways, however, I feel as though the intense roller coaster of this year has effectively taken at least 5 years off of the end of my total life span. In acknowledgment of this, I am choosing to ask for at least one year back.

Tomorrow I will be celebrating the first anniversary of my 30th birthday. Call it what you will, but this time I intend to get it right, ya'll...



Alan Ward said...

Happy 30th birthday! Hope you enjoy many more! ;-)

Kim Ayres said...

Hope you have a great day :)

SeanG said...

Happy Birthday

Anonymous said...

Feliz cumpleaƱos, Namaste!

May 31 have gentler hands and heart than 30.

VJ said...

I could use a few more of those too. So could everyone as a matter of fact! But Happy Belated B-Day N! Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'