Friday, May 18, 2012

Dear reader, a foreward

****This is stuff for the memoir******

When children are born I assume all parents share the same vague dreams for their future offspring.  When you are an in the womb, mothers and fathers worry mightily about your physical health.  Once it’s determined that you are not predisposed to a genetic illness they can safely go on hoping that one day you will lead a “happy life.”  Then when there are financial and emotional struggles between the two parents during the infant through toddler years, they pray that your neophyte brain has not picked up on the turmoil and that you will, in fact, not turn out to be a junkie.  You start kindergarten and they wish deeply in the middle of the night, that children will not punch you and tell you that you are ugly.  And then at some point, when they realize that you seem to be a well adjusted child who has not is not a moving target for the sharp arrows of bullies – they believe that perhaps this is the time to breathe a sigh of relief.  That is until, the day that school officials tell them that their child is gifted. 

Getting into the gifted program is one of the most destructive things that can ever happen to a child.  I suppose that some people revel in the opportunity to consider themselves “special” and “above average.”  But when you are me, this is not the case.  To be told that you are gifted is not only an evaluation of your intellectual capacity and aptitude for academic success.  It is indeed also (more importantly) an albatross that one must carry in the hallways of grade school as mightily as other children carry primary colored lunch boxes and oversized pencils. 

My grade school revealed their evaluation of my giftedness to my parents as dramatically and vaguely as an 11 year girl might announce she has a crush on “a certain boy” to her 6th grade class.   My parents - penniless college students in education and psychology – were probably better equipped to receive the news than most.  They had an understanding that children adjust to labels like Floridians adjust to the news that a hurricane will eventually destroy their home. That is to say, Floridians and children assume that everything will be exactly the same until the day that they see that everything they believed to be secure and absolute has been pushed through an industrial paper shredder.    Armed with the fear that I might turn into a giant parental nightmare, they decided to deliver the information as swiftly and cryptically as possible. 

My mom announced to me, in the kitchen after school, that she had received a letter from my school.  Next to a wooden napkin holder and a set of keys, there was an off white envelope resting on the built in table with my full name on the front.  I knew two things to be true in that moment at the age of 7.  One – that everything that I ever needed to know about myself was printed on beige paper and two – that my mom was never going to let me look inside.  She said she had just received the results of my IQ score and she had to talk to me about them.  And in a moment of cosmic lucidity she explained “the results suggest you are very intelligent.  Much more intelligent than most.  But if I tell you what your score is, it will change your life forever.  So I won’t.”  Her brevity on the subject was alarming.  My mother has never been short of speech on anything in her entire life and certainly has never let my obvious levels of discomfort sway her from proceeding in embarrassing conversations.  To date – she had already trapped me (during an innocuous ride to the library) in a conversation about the dirty details of intercourse and the strict definition of homosexuality.  These were subjects she insisted I should ask more questions about if I ever felt curious.  There was an absolute open door policy when it came to sex.  But my confusion and fear about the envelope and the test score did not provoke more discussion.  The entire conversation died the second after she declared “So I won’t.”  And then that particular fact was never brought up again.  

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