I was born on the Kansas prairie. On a long-ago day in July, I appeared, beating one sister by a couple of years and a brother by a solid six.
According to birth order experts, firstborns tend to be compliant, conscientious, perfectionist achievers, doing things straight by the book. Which I was and I did and to this day, still do.
Speaking of books, I devoured them. A voracious reader, I scoured the church library for titles I hadn’t read, nabbing trips to the Hutchinson Public Library as often as I could get ‘em. From my little house on the prairie, I traveled the world, went back in time, met thousands of fascinating people and solved countless mysteries, all without leaving the plains.
There was little, I found, that couldn’t be done with a book in one hand. This drove my mother to distraction when she’d go to comb my hair. I’d assume the classic reader’s pose; i.e., head bent, nose in book, mind in a far-distant place. And I’d feel a tug. “Look up,” she’d say, fingers plaiting two fat braids, which, even then, shown red in summer’s sun.
Nose in book. Life by the book. Firstborn, dreamer, conscientious achiever. To such a one came four boys. And God laughed.
To a girl who likes order came chaos. To a girl who wants things to make sense, nonsense. And to a girl who played it safe, followed rules, came children. Who don’t play it safe and challenge rules.
In the unwritten book that every mom carries, the one that holds all of her hopes and dreams for her children, that chapter’s missing. I’d bet the kitchen sink, the family fortune and the beloved Bosch mixer on it.
In all my born days, I’ve never aspired to such endeavors. Not once, not ever has my life seemed incomplete because I’ve not leapt off a cliff into a glacier-fed pool, or recklessly slalomed down a mountain mere inches from the edge, or climbed spider like between two rock faces to heights that would’ve killed me had I slipped. Not once.
That’s not in my book of “Safe and Pleasant Activities for a Girl” or the one entitled “How to Keep Your Children Safe So They Will Live to be Adults and Give You Grandkids.” It’s not.
It is, however, in my son’s book. Which, by every appearance, is titled “The Manly Man’s Guide to Dangerous and Harebrained Stunts,” or, “How to Improve Your Mother’s Prayer Life in Thirty Seconds.” Canny fellow that he is, he seemed to know that such escapades would be discouraged by his bookish mom, and so he flew cross country to “experience Colorado” with a friend. It was after he returned and was happily recounting his experiences that inspiration struck.
For this one looking to find his way, who’s seeking God’s will for his life, I have a lead. Blotting sweat from my brow with a BOH (Bright Orange Handkerchief), I announced it to his father. “I have heard from the Lord.”
He peered at me, brows arching into a question mark. “I know what he’s called to do. He shall live the rest of his life here in the flatlands, selling Tupperware.”
He hiccuped, looking doubtful. “Good luck with that,” he said, and went back to perusing the news on his iPhone.
No, he’s not following the script, my adrenaline junky. And neither is the bicyclist who passed me one day on the road.
There I was, running in peace, trotting in time with the sunshine. Lost in thought in the day’s early light, I was alone. Or so I thought when all at once, a cyclist sprang from nowhere.
Nothing interrupts a girl’s weighty deliberations on such things as immigration reform, when to schedule a hair appointment, or what to make for dinner like the sudden appearance of another human coming in from your blind spot. By a great show of strength, I managed the slightest smile and a wave in spite of my jiggling innards.
If there is a handbook for cyclists called “Rules of the Open Road,” I’ve got an amendment, and it goes like this. “Riders shall equip their cycles with small bells or horns, which must be jingled, jangled, honked, or dinged when approaching an innocent jogger. Especially if said jogger is a forty-something female actively solving world problems and planning the evening menu. For sure, ring or honk when coming up from the rear.
“As certain females have been known to shatter crystal in Warsaw when startled, it behooves the rider to announce his approach. Playing Twister with one’s bike in the ditch isn’t all that much fun. Besides, there’s really no sense in both parties losing their dignity all over the berm. Thank you.”
There’s much in life that one can’t control. We’re all different with unique personalities, tastes and differing rule books. It makes life terribly interesting, if somewhat shorter for mothers raising adrenaline junkies and living in bike country. There is, of course, that.