Green mashed potatoes and other family values/useful lessons
by Carolyn Wyler
My dad was a hero — my hero. He didn’t wear a Superman cape or leap from tall buildings in a single bound, but with a single kiss to the cheek he could make the pain of a small scraped knee disappear. Singlehandedly and with a quick flick of the light switch, he could vaporize the monsters hiding in the closet at night. When he passed away approximately 16 years ago, a part of me died with him. He was a quiet, kind, caring man who loved unconditionally. His face lit up with a smile whenever I or any of his children and grandchildren walked into a room. I never doubted he loved me.
Values and lessons I learned as a child I mostly credit to my father. His quiet actions screamed above the noise of the over-crowded, wordy sermons of my young world. Most the lessons I learned and values I held were from his silent messages.
“I do not like them, Sam I am, I do not like green eggs and ham.”
Well it wasn’t green eggs or ham, and it was my dad (not Sam) who placed the green mushy slime in front of my dinner plate and expected me to try it. OMG! WTF? (Well, I didn’t actually say that, as those abbreviations had not been invented yet, and in my G-rated, 7 year old world, it would have sounded more like Oh My Golly, What’s This Father?)
You think I would be used to my dad coming up with all kinds of weird and crazy things, as he did it quite often. I was pretty certain he would even lose sleep at night, trying to concoct inventions he could freak his kids out with. But green potatoes? This was just wrong, even if it was St. Patrick’s Day!
He noticed the disgusted look I had on my face, and insisted that I shouldn’t diss it until I had tried it. I cautiously placed a small bite in my mouth. My taste buds, bewildered at first, salivated, and tossed the buttery starch around in my mouth, carefully analyzing it. This couldn’t be slime. It tasted like mashed potatoes, one of my favorite foods, and my taste buds sent a message out to the brain for confirmation.
My eyeballs intercepted the message at the synapse, sending back an instant message via AIM to my buds and brain cellmates. They obviously had it all wrong. “Everything bad is green,” my eyes argued. “Vegetables, aliens, slime, money (the love of it), mold, and this mush was green too, therefore it is bad!” But it really tasted like mashed potatoes! I closed my eyes and scarfed down two servings.
At about 17 years of age, while at a church outing, my dad whispered to me that I needed to go welcome back the 16 year old girl who had just returned from “visiting her cousin for nine months.” There had been a lot of gossip about why her parents had uprooted her during her prime high school years. The fact that she appeared to have gained several pounds since she had left, (for which her family attributed to her aunt’s fantastic cooking), only added additional suspicion that the gossip was true.
She might as well have been wearing a large scarlet letter S (for slut), the way many people turned away from her. They were obviously frightened, possibly fearful they might catch an STD, a case of the sluts, or her sinful behavior might be contagious if they got within a foot of her. I heard faint whisperings as I walked over to her and greeted her with a hug.
Just a few years later, my dad was outside the house helping my brother work on his car. They had spent several hours underneath the vehicle attempting to pull an alternator out, but they were not having much success. They had run into an obstacle, the alternator being stuck between a rock and a hard place, or put in mechanical terms, the frame and the exhaust manifold.
They were just about ready to pull apart the exhaust manifold when I came out. I glanced at them through the top of the engine, their tired, frustrated, greasy sweaty faces looking back up at me as I asked them how things were going. They explained what they were trying to accomplish as best they could to me, who, at that time, knew very little about cars (though I have since changed about three tires, two batteries, one alternator and several oil filters).
I quickly assessed the situation and declared, “Well guys, instead of taking it out from underneath, why don’t you pull it out the top of the engine.” From my view it looked like an easy and quick fix to their problem. They scowled at me. I was a girl and didn’t know the first thing about cars, and should probably go back to the kitchen where I belonged and cook them up a nice meal that they could enjoy after they finished their manly work.
They reluctantly crawled out from under the car, very pessimistic, assessed the situation and decided my idea might just work. Lo and behold, just seconds later, the alternator was out and minutes later the new one was in and the car chugged happily at the click of the engine. I smirked proudly, having outsmarted a couple of “macho” men.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the full impact and value of these three separate situations and the powerful lessons that were learned:
Just because something or someone is green (or black, brown, all colors of the rainbow) or looks, acts, tastes different than what your preprogramming tells you is normal, doesn’t mean it/him/her is bad.
Others may make what you consider to be wrong, stupid, or crazy decisions, but it is in fact your life, to live it how you may. Why should anyone really care if I don a purple and green, seven legged, three armed baboon costume with a long orange and pink polka dot nose, climb on my roof and sing “I’m Henry the ape, I am I am”, but only at sunset on a Saturday, while eating a chocolate covered banana and ringing a cowbell? (Not that I’m suggesting I’d do anything of the sort, but even if I did, does it really matter as long as I’m not hurting anyone and it’s what I love)?
And finally, if something isn’t working out so well after several failed attempts, it might be time to reevaluate. You may need to move outside of your comfort zone perhaps even to another time zone, but leave behind your preconceived notions and rebuild a new way of life… one that works for you.