|I'd like to think this would not have been me regardless, but one never knows for certain.|
Most of us are familiar with the proverb "It takes a village to raise a child." What it means is different to different people. while many people agree with the maxim at face value, many people took umbrage at hillary clinton's use of part of the phrase in her book It Takes a Village, primarily, i assume, because it was hillary who used the ohrse. She could have entitled her book Jesus Is the Light of the World, and the evangelical and fundamental Christians of our nation would have found a way to disagree with and take offense to it. I am, however, digressing.
If most of us recall our childhoods and adolescences, we can come up with at least a few adults who were crucial to helping us to maintain relatively sane lives and to stay away from drugs, crime, wanton sex, and the other bad things out there just waiting to pounce upon and ensnare youth. This typically happens when a young person is at an age when he or she doesn't especially want to hear what his or her parents have to say. If another adult says the very thing our parents were trying to tell us, often we're willing to listen. This was true in my case.
I was fortunate enough to have had several of such adults in my life. I'd like to think that even without their guidance, I probably would not have become a crack whore, but one cannot know such things for certain.
While there are many adults, including my parents, to whom I should give credit for my relative functionality and sanity, because I'm leaving his home tonight to go back to school, I shall devote this post to my pseudouncle Scott. I will try to give credit to the others in upcoming weeks or months.
Pseudouncle Scott married Jillian, whom we consider part of the family, particularly because there's a large segment of my dad's family to whom we do not consider ourselves related; we had room for a few extra relatives, and Jillian's family became those extra relatives. Jillian's father and my father met soon after my father relocated to Florida, and my dad soon began to spend more time at his friend Jerry's house than he spent at his own.
Jerry and my dad continued to be like brothers, and the bond was solidified when each of them married and their wives got along extremely well. When Jerry's wife, Aunt Ilianna, gave birth to a very premature baby, my mother flew east to Florida to help run the household so that Ilianna would be free to come and go to the hospital as needed. My mother typed most of her doctoral dissertation with Jillian sitting on her lap.
When Matthew and I were born, Uncle Jerry flew west to deliver us. Later, Aunt Ilianna flew out because I was an especially difficult baby and my mom was experincing trouble in maintaining her sanity while being in solitary confinement for much of each day with twins, one of whom screamed for roughly twenty-three of the twenty four hours of each day.
Jillian was seven years older than I, but she was light years ahead of me in maturty to the extent that it was though we were not even of the same generation. Hence, when she married, our relationship was more like that of an aunt and niece than one of peers of any sort. Her new husband inherited the "uncle" role.
I first met Scott a day before the rehearsal for his wedding to Jillian. Our initial meeting was precarious to say the least. Scott likes to tease people -- particularly pre-adolescent girls -- and while I ordinarily handle teasing reasonably well, I wasn't at all certain I liked his particular brand of it.
It all started out when the intended six-year-old flower girl came down with chicken pox. The search was on for a new flower girl. Scott pointed out that the dress, while much shorter on me than it would have been on the six-year-old (it was supposed to be floor-length on her), would be more than large enough for me. He nominated me to be the new flower girl. In retrospect, I'm sure he was joking, but at the time I didn't think his joke was funny in the least. The very last thing any thirteen-year-old wants to do in any wedding is to be the flower girl. That ruse continued until Aunt Ilianna took the dress up on the sides to make it fit a skinnier relative than the original flower girl.
My next conflict was over my playing the violin at Scott's and Jillian's wedding. Scott was unsure that anyone who looked like me (I was thirteen but could easily have passed for nine) was capable of playing the violin well enough to be a part of his wedding in that capacity. He was an undergrad music major in addition to his pre-med studies, so he was a bit picky in terms of the music that was to be performed at his wedding. He thought I should audition for him. I had no intention of doing that; he could take me or leave me as one of his wedding musicians, but I was unwilling to demonstrate my skills for him beforehand.
We compromised -- against my will -- by my playing along with my mom as she sang the song that Scott himself was to sing at the wedding. I argued with my mother that doing such was pointless, as the notes I would play while accompanying her would be very different than those I would play when Scott sang because of the disparity between the tone of their voices, rendering my
"audition" pointless. My mom told me to play along anyway just so he could get an idea of what I might be playing. The song was "Fileds of Gold," but Scott was going to copy my mother's arrangement, which was very different from that of Sting, the original artist who performed the song.
I gave in and played along with my motther. Scott must have been suitably impressed. He took over at the piano and played while he sang, and I filled in phrases with an obligato, which was, as I said it would be, considerably different than what it was when my mother had played and sung the song. Afterwards, Scott conceded with "Touche'. I had no idea anyone so little could play so well."
We had no further contact until that summer, when my summer camp plans fell through for a time that my parents would be traveling out of the country. My parents needed a place to park me, and the pseudorelatives needed money, which my parents would pay them to care for me. It seemed like a win/win situation for everyone but me. The initial meeting, when Scott picked me up at the airport, was most awkward, and he said basically nothing to me all the way from the airport in Salt Lake City to their home -- a shabby apartment in a complex filled mostly with married BYU students in Utah County.
We got past the uncomfortable reintroduction and made a tentative peace. The situation gradually improved, though there was continued conflict throughut the summer over Scott's concern abut how little I ate. I've never been a big eater even since infancy, but the problem was compounded by Jillian's habit of cooking Cuban entrees for dinner. Jillian believed that a kid should eat what was on the table or nothing at all; I wasn't about to tuch, much less eat her Cuban concoctions.
That particular obstacle was finally overcome by their allowing me to eat cereal or to make peanut butter sandwiches along with salad or to eat rice from the meal and to take bits of the meat that was used in the Cuban concoction before Cuban spices had been applied to it and to cook it myself.
Scott and I bonded somewhat over music. He gave me piano lessons since my mom wasn't there to give them to me, and I taught him the basics of playing violin.
I spent parts of the next three summers with them while my parents traveled and my brother was at baseball camp. I didn't make life all that easy for them and caused them to earn their money by developing croup one summer and having my appendix rupture on me another summer.
When, in the fall after my third summer with them I suffered my infamous restroom assault, Scott offered in all seriousness to fly to California and kick the @$$ of the main perpetrator, who was a legal adult. I wanted to take him up on the offer (he's big), but my parents turned it down, saying that we would handle the mater legally. My parents were right in not using violence to setle the matter, but still, I appreciated the idea that someone was willing to commit violence on my behalf.
On the rare occasions when classes became difficult and my dad wasn't around to clarify tough concepts, Scott was always available. Even now in med school, I call him if something is unclear. He explains things a bit more clearly than my dad does. He helped me to prepared for medical school interviews, which he went through much more recently than my dad did.
Scott and Jillian have made me the Godmother to both of their children, for which I am deeply honored.
I would like to think that ultimately I would not have led a life of crime or ended up on skid row even if Scott had not been in my life, but his presence made the possibility even less likely.
Scott and I relate to one another primarily through trading barbs and insults, but I wuld like to express now just how sincerely I appreciate and love him.