In 1979, I was admitted into the second class of women that lived on campus at the heretofore all-male Wofford College. The college was chartering a women’s basketball program and the coach wasn’t overly picky. She wasn’t desperate enough to take anyone with a pulse, but, as I had scored two baskets over three years of playing YMCA league, I made the cut. Continue reading
A year after both my parents were killed in a car accident in Alaska, I traveled there with my husband and kids to see the accident site and visit a newfound friend, the state trooper who was in charge of their case.
The accident took place within a National Forest, but the forest rangers agreed that I could plant flowers by the road as long as they were native Alaskan flowers.
The grief counselor at Life Alaska helped me locate a native plant nursery. Like every other Alaskan we encountered, the nursery owner was a kind person. Not only did he help me find two large forget-me-not plants, he also found native blue poppies to compliment them. Then he refused to take my money.
That was in 1999. Years later, my aunt and uncle visited the site on Hope Highway and noted that the forget-me-nots had spread quite nicely.
I’ve never forgotten the kindness of the nursery owner. I think of the owner every year when our Michigan forget-me-nots turn my garden and pond’s edges blue.
Today, out of curiosity, I looked to see if they are still in business. They are and I am surprised that I never noticed their name before. Here’s to Forget-Me-Not Nursery in Indian Alaska.
© Laura Hedgecock 2013
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Can you be them all? It’s a question I’ve struggled with for quite a while.
Perhaps my wondering started when a drunken Romanian woman, free of polite inhibitions, declared that the reason American women need more psychologists is because their American friendships are too superficial. According to her, we restrict ourselves to niceties, avoiding blunt or painful truths. As a result, we need outside help to deal with our problems.
In her home village, friends were resigned to each other. Friendships endured over generations, through rifts and spats. Good advice was always given, even when it made the giver massively unpopular.
She might have a point. When a friend asked me if she was right to get a divorce, I demurred. I wasn’t at all sure she was right. I told her that it was too big of a personal decision for me to weigh in with my opinion. I would (and did) support her, whatever she decided.
In that case, I was perhaps a supportive friend, a loyal friend. I wasn’t a totally honest friend. In the end, I’m not sure where that leaves me on the “good friend” scale.
We often don’t “speak our truths,” to our friends. Sometimes we are simply chicken. Many times, it’s because we are sure that they don’t want to hear it. Honesty, even tactful, loving honesty, can cut and hurt. It can feel judgmental. It can end relationships. If we’re the “honest” one, chances are we’re not going to be around (or welcome) to be the supportive one.
My truths: I want everyone to like me—all the time. I’m slow on the uptake. I miss opportunities to say something meaningful. Instead of “Are you sure that’s how you want to handle the situation?” I say, “uh-huh….” I want to do it all—be honest, loving, supportive, forgiving, and good.
My bigger truth: I don’t know where or when to draw the line when honest and supportive are mutually exclusive.
What do you think? Please comment, I’d love to cogitate on others’ points of view.
© Laura Hedgecock 2013
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If your read Tuesday’s post, “How to Reap Mistletoe,” you may recall that I invited my friend Beth and my sister to correct my story as needed. What follows is the corrected story from Beth, who mentions at every opportunity, that she is not as old as my sister. She maintains that my sister got it mostly wrong, in that the community of Cowpens, SC was not involved. Luckily, a shotgun still is.
…. The first Christmas after Beth relocated from the Washington DC area back to her native SC , she kept looking for mistletoe to hang over the her doors. In the DC area, she was able to buy mistletoe at places like nurseries, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, but she struck out at these places in SC.
Finally she went to Buford Street Drug Store in Gaffney SC, which is also a U.S. Post Office, a hardware store, and plant store. Says Beth, “It’s beautiful. One stop shopping.” When she went in and started asking where she might be able to buy mistletoe, an older man exclaimed, “Honey, I’ll shoot you some down. Where should I bring it”?
Going with the flow, as it were, Beth told him where she worked. The next morning, when she arrived at her office she found a plastic grocery bag nailed to the door with a jumble of mistletoe.
You can’t beat the generosity and the sweetness of Southerners.
Once, during a psych class, we were asked to describe each other as an automobile and a flower, among other things. I was dismayed to find my classmates overwhelmingly categorized me as a station wagon and a daisy.
Of course, their choices were framed in what they considered flattering terms. I was practical, able to carry a load, and not easily stopped. (I wanted to be seen as having speed, elegance, and cornering.) As far as flowers went, I loved daisies, but wanted others to see me as something a little more unusual—or at least less omnipresent and smelling good.
This wasn’t how I saw myself. Though I wouldn’t have picked something expensive as a Porsche, I didn’t see myself as the very thing parked in the majority of suburban neighborhood driveways. I saw myself and hoped others saw me as a trailblazer—perhaps a Range Rover—practical, but ready to handle even the most daunting of landscapes and adventures.
Thirty years later, I’m ok with being a daisy. I like being the one to bring a smile to the face of casual passersby. I don’t want to be inaccessible or even less accessible.
I still struggle, though, with the station wagon moniker. I rest uneasily under the mantle of average and practical. In middle age, I still yearn to make a statement, to turn heads, and to foster admiration.
But, alas, you can’t hide from who you are. Friends don’t see us as we want to be seen. They see us—and love us—as we are. Whatever else I’ve achieved in my lifetime, I’ve been blessed with friends. If they choose to include a station wagon in their livery, I’m happy to drive it over.
© Laura Hedgecock 2013
Do two quarters equal a Kennedy half-dollar? I didn’t think so in 1965.
My grandmother used to give my sister and I “50 cent pieces” as we left her home in Virginia and started back to South Carolina. We were tickled pink to get them. Once, after arriving home with my beautiful Kennedy half-dollar, I started an impromptu show and tell session in the neighborhood. My big mistake was showing it to my arch nemesis (or as close as one little five-year old girl can be to an arch nemesis) –the little girl who lived across the street.
I offered to show it to her in front of an empty lot. “Oh,” she said, “Let me see it!” As soon as I handed it over, she raised her arm, reared back and threw it as far as she could into the brush. Tears were shed, parents were called, and a fruitless hunt for the coin ensued. But to no avail. The “50 cent piece” was never found.
The little girl’s father, Dr. Olds, a physics professor at a nearby college, had a brilliant mathematical mind. He once told us that he entertained himself when stopped by trains by looking at the car numbers and adding up the number of cars whose four digit id numbers were prime numbers. He was, and still is, a sweet and patient man. He punished his daughter by docking her nickel allowance for 10 weeks. The problem came when he offered me my payment. He came over with two quarters but I was totally unconvinced that two quarters would equal 50 cents. Poor Dr. Olds would have had less work driving to the bank and getting me a Kennedy half-dollar than he had trying to explain to a 4 ½ year old how to carry a one when adding two fives. Finally, when I remained unconvinced after 20 minutes of very patient mathematical illustrations and demonstrations, my dad stopped snickering long enough to intervene. He promised me that, though I didn’t understand the math, I could simply believe Dr. Olds because Dr. Olds was a very smart and honest man.
Sometimes, when I add things up by hand, I think of Dr. Olds and the lesson we all learned that day: Equivalent ≠ Equal.
© Laura Hedgecock 2009
My roommate from college’s mother used to have artful expressions about life. One of her best lessons for me was “You like what likes you, be it a four-legged dog or a two-legged dog.”
This expression described the pull of attraction towards those that are already our admirerers. But I took her wisdom to mean not to pick your friends or dates based on their looks, but rather on their loyalty.
Last week, while vacationing in Myrtle Beach, I watched my eight year old niece follow my older son around the beach. They reminded me of Sarah Flack’s saying, but not because my niece in any way resembles a two-, or even four-, legged dog. They reminded me of this saying because of the level of intimacy they exhibited while exploring for shells and shark’s teeth on the beach. It was a level of intimacy measured and marked by their companionable silence. When a dog follows you around, there’s no need to impress or discuss. The mutual admiration or acceptance is already there. You can just ‘be’, together. And so it was with these two kids as they searched the beach together.
My heart swelled as I watched them from the hotel balcony. (Since I was using a telephoto lens to watch, I guess that it was technically spying.) My niece would occasionally play in the waves, pick up shells, or just follow in her cousin’s wake. My son smile as he saw her jumping in the water or wait patiently holding her towel as his younger, very girlie, cousin, meticulously washed her shoes and feet, and brushed sand of her legs. I had mistakenly thought the gift of silence was for the adults – sleeping happy kids. Little did I know that the gift of silence was to be found by the kids in the late afternoon on the beach.
Laura Hedgecock 2009