Friday, March 29, 2013

Counting Corners

As the name of the blog implies, I am a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.  Unfortunately, this is not an act of free will.  At this point, I don't have other options.  I've always been different from most... not in the way that everyone is different (think unique snowflake), a more radical different. It's hard to explain, but I will try.

Let's start at the beginning.  Born as the fourth daughter of an Italian immigrant turned mental health executive and the first born child of a clinical psychologist, I was never like the other kids.  My parents proceeded to have two daughters after me, bringing them to a whopping total of six daughters.  God bless them.  My parents are two of the most loving and accepting individuals you will ever meet.  They feed and forgive just about everyone.  As a teenager, their tolerance was maddening.  No fit of fury ever seemed to phase them (almost).  I think that may have something to do with working in mental health all their lives.

My sisters currently range in age from 40 - 18 years old.  They are all equally gorgeous, intelligent, hilarious, and caring.  Some of the best times we spent together involved singing songs from the musical Annie, baking disasters, and beauty regimens.  Our sisterhood has brought me some of the greatest joys in my life.  We are always there for each other when it counts.  They have saved me from depression, madness, and self-doubt.  They are a part of me... actually, five gorgeous, intelligent, hilarious, and caring parts of me.

In retrospect, I can see that I was a funny kid.  My sense of humor was a bit off the wall, though my early attempts at humor left something to be desired.

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Cookie monster."
"Cookie monster who?"
"Cookie monster YOU!"

Yeah, I made that one up myself.  I told it over and over and over again.  It never got old, I just moved on to bigger and better jokes, like this gem from my father:

"If a polka-dot canoe was walking down the street, how many pancakes does it take to cover the roof of a dog house?"
"57 because ice cream has no bones."

I don't know what cracked me up more, the joke or the look on people's faces when I told it.

Curiosity ran rapidly through my developing mind.  I was always asking questions.  Lots of questions.  "How does the TV work?", "Why do we get goosebumps when we're cold and when we are scared?", "Why can't I be wise until I'm old?", "How is understanding different than knowing?".  I asked all these questions before I turned 13, challenging adults to answer my questions, not to be difficult,  but because I wanted to know.  My father was the victim of my outrage over the notion that I could only be smart as a child, not wise. "How is wisdom different?" I would ask.  The best response he managed was to tell me that being old was a prerequisite for wisdom, which I loathsomely accepted only after years of protest.  In school, one of my teachers casually mentioned that it is different to understand something than to know it.  I did not agree. "If I don't understand something, it is because there is something I do not know.  Once I know all the pieces of something, I understand it. So, how is understanding different than knowing?"  You could say I stumped the teachers with that one.

Catholic school was a small pond my big fish little self thrived in. My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Trembulak, told me I should be a philosopher because I was very good at asking questions there were no answers to yet.  She was probably the best teacher I ever had.  We used to do 'heart room meditations' after lunch. We would close our eyes and she would read to us from some book that guided our consciousness down into our heart rooms where we were told to find Jesus and talk to him about different aspects of our lives.  Everyone in the class loved heart room meditations.  They just made us feel good.  At the end of 5th grade, we read The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford.  Spoiler alert: at the end of the book Bodger, this old lab, whom everyone thought died, comes limping out of the woods.  I was overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry.  I cried for three hours.  I don't know really know why I cried so much, but I did.  Two of the kids in my class got the Guinness Book of World Records from the bookshelf in the back of the room and wrote my name on the inside of the back cover for the longest cry in the world.  My teacher thought it was hormones kicking in, but I was late bloomer.  That was just me.

My mother and I painted and repainted my bedroom walls roughly every three years.  My favorite was a pale lilac color.  It made the perfect canvas for me, my sisters, and my friends to draw/write/finger paint on.  Over my bed, I hung a poster of Albert Einstein with the caption, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. - Albert Einstein."  On the adjacent wall hung the periodic table... hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium  boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine, neon, sodium, magnesium, aluminum, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur... I only memorized about half of the elements, but I was satisfied with that.

In grade school, kids told me I was weird. A lot. I didn't understand why, but I knew I liked myself, so it didn't bother me.  In high school, kids told me I was weird. A lot. I didn't understand why, but I knew I was a good person, so I didn't let it bother me. In college, I met people other people who grew up with others telling them that they were weird.  That was awesome.  Then, I graduated.  A lot has happened between then and now, but that will be saved for another time.  For now, suffice it to say that in a world teeming with curved surfaces, my corners have taken some wear and tear.