A Profound Question
Last week, I wrote an essay about making Halloween cookies with Jack and Owen. It was a fun time for the three of us. For a couple of hours, we laughed and enjoyed making cookies.
However, while I was there during my weekly visit with the boys, Jack came up to me and asked whether I would like to see his Halloween costume that he would being wearing in a couple of days. I told him that I would love to see what he was wearing. He went off, got dressed-up, and reappeared in his firefighter's outfit. He showed me all his equipment: an axe, walkie-talkie, and whistle. He looked darling, and I told him so.
If the truth be known, Jack and Owen are the crème de la crème in my mind. Merely they being themselves is close to perfection. It would be hard to find something about which I do not admire about them. Nevertheless, Jack wanted approval of his outfit, which he got. Thus ended my day with Jack and Owen.
However, driving back to Crown Point, I started to process that day. Why do I care so much about them? That has haunted me for a long, long time. It was then the significance of Jack's asking me whether I wanted to see his costume hit me. He merely wanted from his papa, my acceptance of who he was.
Essentially, isn't that what we all want in life? Don't we desire our loved one's approval? We all want approval regarding how we look on Halloween or when going out for dinner or a movie. Our desire is to feel that we are held in high esteem by someone close to us.
I received that when I was young from my family as well as my extended family. I was only several years older than Jack when Bud Oakford, who was my cousin, asked me to help him at his candy store, Aunt Charlotte's, just prior to Christmas that year. There I was not quite ten years old, but I was putting pretzels on a conveyor belt, which coated them with chocolate. Bud saw something in me, and he acted based upon his insight. At the time, I was happy to help him and did not address what he saw in me. I merely wanted to assist Bud in his candy store. However, that one event over six decades ago benefitted me greatly halfway through my life when I realized what he had done.
A decade before my working at Aunt Charlotte's, my father went off to WWII in the South Pacific. Just prior to his leaving, I was born. Upon his return, he did not go to college, because he needed to provide for my mother and me. However, a half dozen years later, he got a promotion and transferred from Pennsauken, NJ to Pittsburgh, PA. That happened to be the spring following my coating pretzels. When looking for a home in Pittsburgh, my father asked a realtor, which community had the best school system. His logic was that he wanted to assure that his three boys would be prepared academically for college. He wanted to guarantee the opportunity for his children of going to college, which the war prevented him from having.
The real estate agent told my father that Mt. Lebanon was the best. For the next half of my life, that choice had a profound negative effect upon me. I went from an above average student in Pennsauken who could work in a candy story to feeling dumb and poor. Mt. Lebanon was the 19th best school system in the entire nation and was the wealthiest community in Pittsburgh. Looking back upon my feelings of inadequacy, I understand my logic was flawed. However, at that time, I felt inferior intellectually and financially. It was difficult to go from an above average student to an average student...albeit in a first class school system in a golden ghetto.
When I started to put the pieces of my life together, I realized that I made a mistake. Being average in a super school still meant that I was above average. That explains why I am still teaching at the college level. All my students over the past two decades have more ability than even the best of them think. I do not want any of them to make the same mistake as I did many decades ago. That was the backstory and now the present.
There I was in Indy a couple days before Halloween. Jack, an innocent five-year-old, looked at me and asked me whether I would like to see him in his costume. You can imagine how I processed that question given my background. Life won't always be fair for Jack and Owen. But, man, I will do what I can to encourage them to be all they can be, which is always more than they can imagine. Trust me.
Go to the tool bar at the top of this page and click on Search. Then type in Jack Owen. You will find over 130 essays about them. The following picture is of three large binders with copies of those articles.
Nevertheless, nearly all of those events with Jack and Owen will not be remembered by them when they become adults. However, Jack and Owen will have my website and binders to remember just how proud their papa was of them. This picture is of them on Halloween. Owen is a race car driver all set to accelerate, and Jack is the firefighter.
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Visit the "The Hand May Be a Little Child's" page to read more about this topic.
Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Best and Worst of Times page to read more about this topic.