What Determines Character

This mornings coffee resulted in snippets of memories, real or imagined, of my younger years and I’m still not sure which are which.  Continuing with my last thoughts of who or what makes us the person we become, I have taken a look at those years in hopes of some insight into this uncharted territory.

Surely parts of my character are easy to determine.  Traits taken from my parents and surrounding community must have been paramount in shaping the person I’ve become.

As a young girl I traipsed around the forest with my Day while he chopped trees and bucked up logs for firewood which he then sold.  He liked to hike and stay fit and active.  He was not one to laze away his days off.  We climbed the mountain every December to find the perfect Christmas tree, chopped it down and dragged it home to decorate.  These memories are still very vivid in my mind.  Was this what determined my ‘tom boy’ demeanor or was it from building go carts and toboggans, or playing with Dad’s tools in the basement.  Or was it from hanging out at the ball field while my dad umpired the junior ball team, with me practicing my spin as I threw that baseball as hard as I could.  Who knows….but I do know I loved every minute of it.

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My Dad at 21

I don’t have many Mom memories.  We didn’t ‘hang out’ so to speak.  I was that miracle baby that wasn’t supposed to be conceived or born.  So, from what my sisters tell me, I was spoiled and they were a bit resentful.  They were long gone and married by the time I was a teenager.  My oldest sis passed away very young, at 43, and my other sister is still doing well at 73.

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Me and my Sis, 2009

Mom didn’t teach me to cook or clean or any of those ‘important’ things a young girl should learn.  She did it all for me.  Loved me to pieces, sat me on her knee while she played the piano and sang to me..those are my mom memories.  Seeing her with her life jacket on, tied with a rope to a log so she could join us in the water and not be afraid.  Cooking dinner for Dad, saving me pieces of pineapple whipped cream square when the weekly sewing bee was at our house.  Lecturing me about all the holes in my pants and dirt on my face.  Trying to teach me to be a little lady….didn’t work.  I remember Girl Guides and churches…wanting to stamp and sing and clap my hands.  Loved the Pentecostal.  They really know how to wail.  Mom said I went to every church in our town, just to ‘try them out’.  That phase ended when I was about 12. Mom was such a happy, carefree stay at home person, not at all outdoorsy or athletic.  The opposite of my Dad, and me.

I don’t remember playing with dolls.  I remember playing kick the can and shooting snakes with a bee bee gun.  I remember my sisters chasing me with garter snakes and making me cry.

I lived in an ‘all boy’ neighborhood.  About 8 of them.  We were a gang and ran around like ragamuffins, climbing trees, steeling corn on the cob and giving it to my sisters to cook down at the lake.  We always thought we got away with it but of course our parents knew all about it.

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My daughter Kim, my Mom and me 1999

When I was about 8 a girl moved into our neighborhood, just down the street from us.  She was much more timid than me and didn’t like to play with the boys.  Eventually she learned to join in, but she always managed to stay clean and not rip her clothes.  I think I was a bit jealous.  My growing up years were full of fun and adventures.  Perhaps my character was defined by all those young years surrounded by boys and doing ‘boy’ things.  Perhaps that’s what gave me the strength and courage to be a bit different in my journey towards adulthood. But, of course, there were those very tumultuous times in between, before I really grew up…so to speak.

For awhile, I even managed to present myself as a young lady and was nominated Teen of the Week along with a picture and article in the local paper.  I had forgotten all about that article and while celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday back in 1996, she pulled it out of a box, all yellowed and brittle and said ‘remember this’…I was so proud of you.  For once you were a young lady.  It sure got a good laugh out of both of us.

I really was the perfect kid until about age 15 and then all hell broke loose and I became a different person.  What happened to all the ‘teachings’ from my parents, the lessons learned, the common sense.  It seems everything my parents had taught me just disappeared!  They taught me to listen to others, to be respectful, to be kind to those less fortunate.  I was taught manners and discipline and all the good things necessary to build good character.  These were the dreaded teen age years, 14 and in grade 9.  That’s where everything started to change….for the better or for the worse I really don’t know.  Mistakes, once made, can change your course in life in an instance..so let’s see if any more memories pop into my head for the next course in life…

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