Foreign Visitors

For the next couple weeks we will be hosting New Wife’s son and daughter-in-law as they flee (temporarily) their South African home for springtime in Texas.

None of that matters, because they will be bringing our* precious granddaughter with them:

…so the fortnight will be spent in Grandparent Heaven, and posting may be a little light other than the regular features such as the Caption Competition, Monday Funnies, Art / Culture Saturday and Classic Beauty, which I’ve already pre-loaded.

*I say “our” because my own kids have proven to be completely useless at the Grandchild Production business, so I take them where I can.
There’s another grandchild lurking in the above pic, but we won’t be able to see that one until it’s born in August.

Punching Back

Long ago, I went to pick the then-6-year-old Son&Heir up from his Catholic school’s after-school care, and found him sitting alone in the corner of the room.

One of the volunteer mommies told me that he’d been isolated for “fighting”.  Now, he wasn’t (and still isn’t) a fighter — unlike his Dad — so I called him over and asked for his side of the story.  Here’s what ensued.

“Ryan was picking on me, I told him to stop it but he didn’t, and when I turned away from him, he hit me in the back.  So I shouted at him to stop it and walked away again, but he followed me, so I hit him on the face — just like you told me to do.”
I turned to the supervisor and said, “Yeah, I did that.  I told him that if he’s being bullied, to try to get way from the bully, but if the bully comes after him, to hit the bully as hard as he can.”
“Well,” said the woman, “we don’t allow fighting in daycare.”
“But you do allow bullying, from the looks of it.”
“We didn’t see him being bullied.”
“So you admit that your supervision was a failure, in other words.”
“No, we just didn’t see anything.”
“But my son already said he shouted at Ryan, and Ryan was hitting him.  So you didn’t hear the shouting, and you didn’t see the fighting — which seems to me to be a failure on your part — and you didn’t do anything until Ryan came over with a bleeding nose.”
“Well — ”
“Did you bother to ask my son what the fighting was about?  You didn’t, did you?  This is the first time you’ve heard about the bullying, in other words.”
“We still can’t allow fighting.”
“Okay;  so what do you want me to do about all this?  Give my son a beating when we get home?”
“Oh no no no, we don’t want that.  We just want him to obey the rules.”
“He will, I promise you.  As long as you tell Ryan about the no-bullying rule.”  And I turned to the Son&Heir.  “Come on, boy.  Get your stuff and let’s go home.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“No;  how could you be in trouble for doing exactly what I told you to do?”

We never heard a peep from the school.

All that was recalled from Ye Olde Memorie Bankes by this article.

Accident Of Birth

Sarah writes about her decision to leave Portugal and take the Big Swim to Murka, and along the way she quotes Somerset Maugham:

“I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known.”

A friend once described me thus:  “Kim was born American — he just happened to be in the wrong country at the time.”

It’s even closer than that.  Right after my parents married in the early 1950s, my Dad (a civil engineer) got an offer — full-time job, permanent residence — in Canada.  He accepted the gig, and they were all ready to move when my Mom discovered she was pregnant (with me).  She was too scared to bring up a child in a strange country, far from friends and family, and so they changed their plans.

So I was born in South Africa, and for the first thirty years of my life there I felt rootless, with no ties to the country of my birth, just as Maugham describes above.  When I went back to South Africa in 2017 for the first time since the Great Wetback Episode in the mid-1980s I drove around Johannesburg, knowing every single street and suburb, and even went back to the house where I’d grown up from age 3 until I finally left it at age 24.

And I still didn’t feel at home.  It was as though I was looking at some place I’d seen in someone else’s movie:  very familiar, but not mine.

Unlike Sarah, for whom Colorado was the shining city on the hill, I had no “ideal” place to go to when I came Over Here;  I ended up living variously in Chicago, North Jersey, Austin and now, Dallas;  but none of them really felt like home, or a place where I’d dreamed of living either consciously or subconsciously.  I will admit that living in the city of Chicago (as opposed to the ‘burbs) probably came the closest, in that the North Side was very similar to where I lived in Johannesburg — apartments and houses, and literally walking distance away from downtown in both cases.  But Chicago was never my beau ideal  either.

Strangely, the places which did strike a chord with me were the West Country in England — many times I would look at a place (town, village, house, whatever) and think, “Wow, I could live there“, but of course that was impossible;  and the other place was Connecticut, which is so close to England (New England, duh) that it was scary.  But as with Old England, the liberal politics and societal foolishness (guns, etc.) of New England pushed me away from Connecticut.

I guess Texas is about it.  Unless something in my circumstances changes radically, I’m probably going to end my life here — not an altogether unpleasant prospect, by the way, except for the torrid summers and the fact that getting anywhere Not Texas requires considerable travel.

And I guess, too, that I’m getting too old to make that massive change in my circumstances.  Moving here from Africa:  massive.  Moving from place to place within the U.S.:  difficult at times, but bearable.  But my last move (from Lakeview to Plano) was over twenty years ago, and I very much doubt that I’d consider making a big move again, even if finances permitted it (they don’t).

And that’s enough introspection.  I think I’ll go to the range.  That, at least, is one of the huge advantages of Texas.

Question Answered

…the question being: “Kim, are you really that old-fashioned?”  upon reading the following:

…and realizing that I last used the phrase in a conversation with my sister as late as last year — with both of us understanding its meaning precisely.  (So did New Wife, by the way, when I asked her if she understood it.  She still uses it, occasionally.)

It is, by the way, a wonderful expression in that it acknowledges a feeling (melancholy) without taking it too seriously (i.e. by giving it a self-deprecating nickname).

Also by the way, I much prefer “melancholy” over “depression”.  Depression is a longtime (and potentially life-threatening) illness, whereas melancholy is just an attack of the blahs, easily remedied by the purchase of a new gun, reading a good book or listening to anything not composed by Igor Stravinsky or John Cage.