Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Family Smarts



          Intelligence was both taken for granted and prized in my family. We knew we were smart, even if the evidence wasn't always immediately at hand.
Heaven knows some of our life choices weren't exactly ringing endorsements. My sister later confided in me that, among other high jinks, she and her high school boyfriend - later her first husband  would sometimes ride around in his car through Tulsa, naked.  My mother had three unsuccessful marriages - I think. The last gentleman's surname was supposedly Looney - take from that what you will.

          I remember being about six years old and telling someone that my father must be smart because he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.  While Daddy could knock out the New York Times crossword in ink by noontime, it was the father of my best friend in Virginia that I found exotic and fascinating. A transplant from Armenia, Mr. Vartanian owned a car radiator shop and benevolently ruled his household from their den wearing what today would be called a "wife beater" tee shirt. When I stayed for dinner with them, he would sit at the head of the table sucking the marrow from lamb bones and pronounce that this was the time for eating, not talking. I had never known anyone who worked with his hands for a living.

        When my father was a young professor in Amherst and my parents were impoverished young-marrieds, he installed a huge vegetable garden and Mama canned the results. Still, no one in the family really earned by the sweat of his brow, unless you count Grampy out on horseback checking the oil wells as a geologist for the Sun Oil Company. We were desk people - teachers, lawyers, doctors and pretty much only knew desk people.

          Maybe were going full-circle. After all, in Mangum, Oklahoma my great-grandfather Ashley made his living as a store owner and farmer. Here in Massachusetts, my husbands great-great grandfather Issac Damon was a bridge builder and my father-in-law made his living crafting furniture. My son straddles both worlds. Hes as comfortable behind his desk in his day job as he in his off-hours, renovating his hundred-year-old house.

          Nowadays, teachers are told to be aware of the several different kinds of intelligences. Not only are there different intelligences, there are also different but equally skilled results an analysis of Oliver Goldsmiths writings or a handcrafted reproduction maple cupboard.
           I still think my other childhood neighbor in Virginia had the best return. Their father drove a truck for the Hostess bakery and the house held an endless supply of coconut-covered Snowballs and those chocolate cupcakes with the white squiggle across the top.

          

16 comments:

  1. We were always a pretty smart family, too, and I took it for granted until I began to visit other homes and realized that we were different. My sister and I spent time reading the dictionary for fun. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd like to know more about the different kinds of intelligence.....could you illuminate us in a future post?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let me see what I can put together. . .

      Delete
  3. my father was a doctor and one of his favorite sayings was 'they don't make tools to fit my hands' and he would say it with something almost like pride. I always thought that would be something I wouldn't brag about, not being able to use tools effectively to fix things that needed fixing. I guess he thought because he could afford to hire people there was no reason he should make the attempt. but there was also that he thought that sort of work was beneath him. I love to work with my hands whether I am making a piece of art or trying to fix something that needs repair. There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing the immediate results of your work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What an interesting comment. My father was an engineer, electrical. Supervised the design of the electrical system that kept blimps escorting convoys during WWII through to a space capsule putting a man on the moon. He told me a man who could not change a faucet washer was not worth space he consumed on earth. He remodeled my childhood home by himself; we fell asleep nightly to the sound of the shop smith sawing lumber.
      I love to understand perceptions.

      Delete
  4. Growing up, I felt inferior to my sister because she was so intelligent. She made straight A's, and was in the Beta Club. Daddy bragged that she had read our entire set of encyclopedias. I struggled to make passing grades. I laughed recently when my sister said to me, "you were probably the smartest one in our family"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She may be right - your dolls are inspired, and the products from your canning are beautiful.

      Delete
  5. Poor farmers that is my family history...at least we could feed ourselves most of the time! My Maternal Grandfather could add figures in his head...he never used scratch paper to balance his checkbook:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I would watch that series on TV called Revolution, about the world trying to cope with no electricity, I thought quite often of the value of survival knowledge - farming, sewing, etc.

      Delete
  6. Now I know why I have challenges. I'm only using one of my different intelligences and I'm not sure which one it is! This was starting to come in before I retired.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I wonder, Red, if this is at all similar to those studies that say we're only using a tiny percentage of our brain's capacity.

      Delete
  7. My son's favorite class is Drafting and Design. I hope he goes the hands-on route. We don't really have hands-on type people in my family.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I had brilliant parents but I managed to only sew up slightly above average. This apple fell far from the tree.
    We have a Looney family here. I was so glad when I got to know them well enough to use first names.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We were poor blue color, and actually smarter than we realized.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ha! I love that image of your Armenian neighbor at the table, basically telling everyone to be quiet.

    We were desk people too, for generations, on my mom's side. My dad's ancestors were farmers. Maybe that's why their marriage didn't work out!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I don't know whether I'm particularly smart, I only know that I feel stupid often. I suppose it depends on where the benchmark is. I'm smarter than some but not highly educated or particularly articulate. I can write it better than I can say it.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by and I'd love to hear what you think.