Friday, October 4, 2013

tongue tied

As we all know- one of my few "talents" is talking.  (Just because we all learn to do it by the time we are two- and it happens to be one of our most basic functions as human beings doesn't make it any less of a talent, ok? whatever) So I rarely (if ever) find myself tongue tied.  If there is one thing I am comfortable doing in an awkward situation - it is talking.  I talk to strangers in the grocery story check out line, women I have never met in the Nordstrom nursing lounge, single dads at the park (that is for anyone who has ever wondered why they see the single dads at the park talking to me, it is my talent) people just feel the need to talk to me- and I happen to be Ok with it.  JT always laughs at the amount of strange information, or deep secrets, I come away with after these random encounters with strangers.  I blame it on the Hairstylist in me.  There is something about sitting in a chair with someone combing your hair that forces you to spill your guts.  And apparently I have that affect on people even before they sit in my chair.  But this isn't about how easily other people talk to me- it is about how easily I talk to them.   Accept for this one time I found myself tongue tied.

You hear about people meeting their favorite movie star and then going completely blank or stammering incoherently until Security is called.  They mess up their one opportunity to exchange conversation with their hero or role model, or heart throb.  That would never be me.  Or so I thought.

Recently I had the opportunity to go to a Retirement Celebration for my favorite High School teacher, Ms. Bedtelyon.  She was my hero.

I had a rare opportunity to be her student for all four years of high school.  Not because I kept failing her class and having to retake it, she was the English teacher who taught the Advanced and A.P. English classes.   So my A.P. English class primarily consisted of the same teacher and students for all four years.  She did have a sort of Team Teacher, Mr. Nicholson (Bob), that taught us Sophomore year and frequently throughout the other years, when you talk about Ms. B you have to include Bob as well.  ( I don't know why we called him his first name, we just did.)

She taught me important facts like: You don't have to have a point to have a point.  ( you will only understand that phrase if you had Ms. B or an obsession with obscure Beattles movies from the 60's)

The Point Poster
pic from here

 She taught me a love for Charles Dickens and a disdain for Jane Austen.  (Fortunately I can still love the movies made from her books without having to love the books themselves.)  She encouraged me to dream about traveling through Europe living off of art and baguettes.  She scolded me for using words like "alot". Oh wait, that is two words.  (You are only laughing right now if you love Ms. B)  She taught me to love writing.  (So if you enjoy reading my blog, you should thank her, but don't tell her about all of the grammatical errors I make... some day when I am rich and famous I will have an Editor to fix all of that.)  Ms. Bedtelyon was absolutely inspiring as a person and as a teacher.  And Bob was about as much fun as you could possibly have while still learning.  Most of my academic memories from high school include them.


Oh yeah, I am writing a post about the time I got all tongue tied and lost my cool (and my only talent).  You would think having spent four years with Ms. B and Bob that I would feel absolutely comfortable talking to them again.  After all, as far as the Language Arts go, they raised me. And as near as I know, they loved me as well.

So how did it happen?  How did I walk in to the auditorium of my alma mater Lindbergh High School and speak jibber jabber?

There he was: Bob.  I was almost speechless. Almost.  He was one of my high school heroes.  The teaching partner to my beloved Ms. Bedtelyon.  My theater teacher and debate coach.  One of my favorite teachers ever (accept for the times he kicked me out of class for talking too much).  He was not Brad Pitt.  He was someone I had spent nearly everyday with for four years.  He was simply a teacher.  He was talking to one of my fellow class mates and it seemed like a great opportunity to say Hi.

I entered the conversation in time to hear this class mate talking about his 3rd Doctorate Degree that he was working on, and the Universities that he is teaching at.  (I should interject here, that I always felt a little inferior in my A.P. class since many of the students were in A.P. everything and I was only in A.P. English.  I also dated The Jock in our High School, and was a future Hair Stylist.  All of which seem to be ammunition for those who consider themselves "Intellectually Superior".)  As I heard him talk about his many intellectual accomplishments I felt my one true talent (talking alot)--- (ha ha, again, you are only laughing at the word alot if you know Ms. B) slipping down my throat.  Suddenly I wasn't talking to the brainiac from High School and my favorite theater teacher- it was like I was talking to Brad Pitt and George Clooney.  Why was I so tongue tied???

That is when Bob turned to hug me and asked what I was up to these days.

Suddenly I felt I had let everyone down.  I don't have three doctorate degrees.  (I don't even have one Bachelors Degree!) I didn't go on to be a famous actress from the time I spent with him in Theater.  Or an inspiring English Teacher following in their footsteps.  I have never even been to Europe to study art and eat baggettes (although I ate my fair share of them in Madagascar.) I had nothing.  I felt my tongue begin to twist and turn.   The title Hair Stylist had never felt so simple.  And really, that isn't even what I consider myself.   I am a Mom.

And that is what I said.  Only I didn't say it with pride or joy.  I said it with embarrassment and failure.

"Oh, me?" I answered weakly "I just stay home with my three kids"

I said it.  For Ms. Bedtelyon the most horrible word in the English language is "alot", for Katie Tyler that word is "just".  And there it was.  Attached to myself and my children.

Just a mom.

I wanted to cry.  I was angry that I didn't have a Bachelors Degree in English.  That I didn't go on to be a writer, or an actress, or any of the things I was sure I would do when I last left that High School auditorium.  I was angry that Bob or Ms. Bedtelyon would somehow know I had never traveled through Europe breathing in the Art and History that they taught me in Humanities.  I felt like a failure.

But more than any of that, I was mad that I used the word "just".

I am a stay at home Mom.  And I care deeply about that career choice.  I chose to have kids and stay home with them - even when I could have chosen differently.  I don't have 3 doctorate degrees,  a stamp filled past port, or a best selling novel- not because I couldn't have those things.  But because, for now, I have chosen something else.  Something that I actually love more than art, or literature, or anything else in the world.  My family.

After my pathetic response, and then the awkwardness that followed, Bob reached out and put his arm around me telling me about his own young child.  (If you know Bob, you are in shock, he was the bachelor of bachelors and seemed to have no intention of "settling down".  Yep, he has a kid.)  He was not disappointed in me.  He didn't think I had given up my potential for some superfluous job.  He was actually happy.  And in fact, Mr. Smarty Pants Tons of Degrees came up to me later to tell me that he would trade every degree he had for my job.

Not only was I tongue tied- I was humbled.

When will I realize that I am a success?  When will I accept myself and my choices?  When will I be strong enough to claim my title as a Stay at Home Mom with pride?  And when will I remove the word "just" from my vocabulary?

So I didn't meet Brad Pitt or anyone famous.  But I did get to hug my two favorite teachers.  (And the best part was Ms. B remembering me-  after years and years of teaching, and hundreds of students- she remembered me!)  Hopefully I get a do-over someday.   Hopefully I regain my talent for talking.  Hopefully I can smile and tell them that I am teaching my own kids a love of the arts and literature.  And hopefully they will be proud of me as well. 

Three reasons I love being a stay at home mom.