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.
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.
we’re 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 husband’s great-great grandfather Issac Damon was a bridge builder
and my father-in-law made his living crafting furniture. My son straddles both
worlds. He’s as comfortable behind his desk in
his day job as he in his off-hours, renovating his hundred-year-old house.
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 Goldsmith’s 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.