Tuesday, February 12, 2013

An Addendum to the Tornado Child Post

In regard to my having referred to myself as a tornado child, my mother has requested that I make a few clarifications, which I am more than happy to make. My mom was concerned that someone would get the impression that she sent me to school each morning in a disheveled state.  Such was not the case, and my mother even has photographic evidence to prove her point.  My hair was always wildly curly, so I practically never wore it to school in its unencumbered state.  I typically wore it in pigtails, a ponytail, a braid or braids, or in some style of French braiding. My clothing was clean and pressed each morning when I left the car to walk the short distance down the walkway  and through the school gates.

Somehow, by morning recess at the very latest, and often much earlier, my hair would begin to loosen itself from its moorings.  Dirt attached itself to my clothing and skin as though there was some sort of magnetic force attracting them.  If there was a mud puddle anywhere on campus, I would have some reason to walk near it. Even though I didn't typically fall into it (I wasn't a clumsy child) some other child would find a reason to create a large splash, drenching me with the contents of the puddle. I didn't eat enough food in the lunchroom, cafeteria, or wherever I ate to create a mess of myself in that manner, but that didn't stop children seated nearby from spilling chocolate milk or grape juice on me.   If we had any reason at all to use glitter in class, I emerged from the experience looking like a Halloween version of a child dressing up as a rock star.

In short, my mother didn't do this to me. I emerged from the house each morning looking respectable, arguably even cute. My activities at school caused the transformation.

My initial school pictures are an experience from which my parents have yet to recover. Some genius decided that the order for school pictures should begin with eighth grade and proceed downward all the way to kindergarten. While eight graders should be able to refrain from activities that would drastically and negatively alter their grooming before pictures were taken, asking the same of kindergartners is probably expecting too much. When my parents first viewed my school pictures the day I brought them home after kindergarten one day, my brother and I though we would have to call 9-1-1 to have one or both of them revived. I looked like an orphan on a bad day whose hair had been done by someone who was both blind and tactically impaired. My mom had painstakingly French braided the front part of my hair, then left the back flowing in its naturally curly state. In the picture, it looked as though someone had used a crochet hook to strategically pull random sections of hair loose from the French braided portion.  The back part of my hair that was left in its curly state,  while it had been combed to perfection only a few hours before,  appeared in the picture as though someone had ratted it.

My outfit was a tasteful little pink and gray woolen jumper with a coordinated pink blouse. The buttons on my blouse had inexplicably been unbuttoned and re-buttoned in a lopsided manner, so that the collar on the left side of my blouse reached all the way up to my ear, while on the right side it looked as though I was trying to display my nonexistent cleavage (which is, for the most part, still pretty much nonexistent). Someone gave me a scarf to accessorize my outfit. (We wore uniforms that year, as I attended Catholic school for kindergarten, but the uniform requirement was waived for picture day.) The scarf someone had so generously provided to accessorize my pink and gray outfit was bright orange.  Why either the photographer's assistant or the teacher didn't at least correctly button my blouse or remove the offending orange scarf is anyone's guess. Perhaps they were both color-blind, or maybe they thought my parents planned to use my school picture for a Christmas card photo in hopes that friends and relatives would cough up alms for the poor.

My mom insisted on re-takes, but my Uncle Ralph, who is also my Godfather,  paid for the original pictures as well because he thought they were too funny to wind up in a recycling facility somewhere. The largest one is framed in an office on one of his dairies. I think he carries another one in his wallet.

From that year until I was in fifth grade, my mom insisted that my dad adjust his work schedule each year on picture day so that he could "volunteer in my classroom" on that day, which meant to essentially hogtie me until pictures had been taken so there wouldn't be a repeat of the kindergarten picture debacle.

My mom also wishes to add that during the times she was hospitalized and my brother and I were  being cared for by members of my dad's family and by their relatives as well (all for a highly substantial fee) I probably walked out  the door each morning wearing whatever it was that I had slept in the night before, and my hair was probably combed roughly once a week [by myself] whether it needed combing or not. When my mom's sisters took care of my brother and me, we looked respectable at least at the start of a day, but when care was provided (again, not cheaply) by the other side of the family, all bets were off.

Is that sufficient, mom? I tried to make it clear that my tornado-like appearance was through no fault of yours. 


  1. On the plus side, when we were in kindergarten the world was just emerging from 90's grunge style. I'm sure your mom still has a pang of irritation when she sees that picture, though.

    Some days I cringe when Ben gets off the bus. My StepDad lays clothes out for him in the morning. They (the male occupants of my house...) do not understand that there are different shades of a color and even though both the sweatpants and the sweatshirt are red, doesn't mean that they exactly match and look right together.

    That, and it's been snowy here, so he goes to school wearing a winter hat. I'm pretty sure he walks around kindergarten all morning with his hair all messy and sticking up every where, like it is when he gets off the bus.

    I'd like to think that clothes aren't scrutinized the same way on boys as they are on girls.

  2. I only see the infamous picture once a year or so, when I happen to go into the particular dairy office where it hangs. Even I cringe. I can only guess as to my mom's internal reaction. After the fact, I wonder if it was an adult or child who gave me the scarf, and either way, I wonder why a responsible adult did not intervene. It's documented history now, though, as preserved by the framed picture on my uncle's office wall.

    You know how relatives sometimes display pictures from prominent points of a person's life at his or her funeral? While I won't be there to be offended, when my time comes, I certainly hope no one drags out this portrait for display at my wake or memorial service or funeral mass or whatever.

    I think boys' clothing is scrutinized less. Gang-related attire is certainly frowned upon and/or outrightly forbidden around here. Otherwise, as long as it's clean and not overly effeminate or emo (in some areas emo may be stigmatized where little boys are concerned; in other areas maybe it's the norm) or anything of the like, people don't tend to make big deal about it. It's probably just as well not to combine stripes and plaids, or oranges and reds, on picture day, but otherwise, little boys seem to get a free pass, and, for that matter, it's almost a concern if little boys take too many pains with their appearance.