Friday, March 01, 2013

This is Highly Individual

Jenny has been home sick with a fever for two days, which means she watches videos a lot.  Yesterday I walked in in the middle of "Cranford," that wonderful Elizabeth Gaskell story.  Captain Brown had just carved a wooden coal scoop for...their names escape me....those two lovable elderly sisters.

The older one looks at the coal scoop and says, soberly, "Captain Brown, this is highly individual."

Love that line.

Some things in my life are highly individual as well.

The other day I was getting groceries.  Over by the milk, this mom came along, pushing her cart, with her maybe 11-year-old twin daughters, one on each side of her.  They looked cute and well-cared-for and like they were having fun.

The two girls were walking with crutches.  Not the temporary sprained-ankle, under-the-arm crutches, but the shorter, more permanent sort--a single metal pipe, with a handle sticking out at hip level to hang onto, and then a plastic semi-circle around the arm, nearer the elblow

As they passed, I looked again.  Each girl was missing a leg below the knee.  One was missing the right leg and the other, the left.

A "highly individual" sight, believe me.

My first thought was that they were messing with our minds and playing a good joke.  Maybe they has pushed both legs down one pant leg.  But no, their jeans were tight enough that that would be impossible.

I wanted very badly to stare and to ask them about 50 questions.  I decided instead to let them shop in peace.

But I wonder.  Were they conjoined twins, attached at the knee?  Were they in a freak accident?  Or were they mirror twins with the same birth defect?

I hope I have a chance to talk with them someday when I'm not imposing.

The second "highly individual" item is Emily's writing assignment.  She is finding that some classes, especially Communications classes, encourage writing and expression in the most concise, clear manner possible.  These teachers make sure that the assignments are clearly explained and the students write clearly in response.

Then there's her literature class, in which obscurity seems to be encouraged and vague is good and all kinds of modern political ants swarm all over the literary material.  Emily brought me a paper the other morning and said, "Can you help me figure out what this teacher wants from us?"


I quote from the yellow paper:

Packer: We've arrived at a point in the African American literary tradition where the literary artist is not burdened by the socio-political drive of "racial uplift" that we've seen throughout the writers we've studied (art as social protest, art as a declaration: we are human, we are worthy).  If you agree, then explain in what ways is Packer continues to take part in the African American literary tradition?  With what themes?  With what techniques?

It really said, ". . . in what ways is Packer continues. . ." 

Then there's that "if you agree."  With no guidance for anyone who disagrees.

It was highly individual, I thought.

I told Emily to concoct something wordy and obscure from her rich imagination and throw in some mysterious, obtuse phrases and she will do fine.

The third item is just a bit of fun trivia.

The new governor of Washington State is Jay Inslee.  I had dinner with him once.

He wasn’t the governor then.  He was a representative to either the state or national legislature, and he had written a book.  So he was one of 50 featured authors at a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association event in Seattle.

So was I.

We sat at the same table for dinner and had a nice chat.  I was impressed with his normal-ness and his friendliness and his story of how he and his wife got involved in politics.  They were concerned with things in the local schools and gradually realized that if they were on the school board, they could actually do something about it.

And now, many years later, he's governor.

He and his wife have been married since 1972, and he told us how hard it is to combine politics and family life, and he couldn't possibly do what he does without his wife being such an amazing supporter.

Also at our table that evening was the actress Meg Tilly.  In contrast to Mr. Inslee, Ms. Tilly had had too much to drink and was laughing way too much and took no interest in the likes of me.

Later I found out she had had a child fathered by Colin Firth.  Yes, the beloved heartthrob, Mr. Darcy in the old Pride and Prejudice movie.

That is just wrong on many levels.

I seldom actually think about this, but it is a highly individual sensation to know that I had dinner with the governor of Washington and someone who had an affair with Mr. Darcy.

Quote of the Day:
We were looking for a desk for Jenny on Craigslist and saw a picture of an old school desk, the kind where the part where you write on is attached to the seat in front of you.
Me: Hey we used to have those!

Jenny: Did you dip each other’s hair in the inkwell?
Me: We had our hair up, with coverings on.
Jenny: Did you dip each other’s covering strings in the inkwell?

(Amazing, that this plot point hasn't shown up in an Amish novel.)


  1. Janice Wynne3/01/2013 11:49 PM

    I loved my literature classes in college! Tell Emily that I had some "highly individual" assignments too. :-)

  2. I think this is a "highly individual" post! Not quite sure in what way, but I'm pretty sure... :-) Really, I loved it! Great how a person can sometimes critique a professional's ("in what ways is Packer continues") writings and find grammatical errors! Also, love your "claim to fame"!

  3. When I was in school I used to hate it when the teacher would ask us "what is the underlying meaning of this poem". Sometimes I still wonder if we don't invent some "underlying meaning" in things when what the author was saying was plain and simple. I sympathize with Jenny.

  4. I love the Cranford shows!