...continued from yesterday...
Where was my father during all this? I imagine that my mother, in the understanding way of mothers, probably told him I was having a growing pain or something because he certainly made himself scarce that summer, as did my sister. I don’t think any of it made sense to anyone except me. But I had finally come to the point where at long last I had a self to express, and that self was validated by an icon in American literature whose legacy of words would have a life-changing effect on me. It felt really good!
Luckily, by the time September rolled around I suspect Emerson and I both were tired. I put him on the shelf and headed back to college, the same me but different. Though he was never far from my heart, my passion had expended itself and I was moving on in my life...growing up, it's called. Mother and I settled down to a comfortable relationship again and never spoke about that awful time. It is to her credit that she didn't disown me.
I could not tell my grandson about all this when he asked me about my idol in the “old days,” I felt I needed to give him a simple “Frank Sinatra” that he could understand. I could have also just as easily said Elizabeth Taylor whom I had yearned to look like, Roy Rogers whom I had wanted to marry, or Turhan Bey, whose eyes always set my heart a-fluttering. If Chris had asked me who my "today’s" idols were, I would tell him his old Grandma would accept any of the Three Tenors, whichever one would stand beneath her balcony and sing love songs to her any time she wanted. Oh gosh, all of these people are more in the nature of ordinary idols -- but none could ever have affected my life the way Ralph Waldo Emerson did.
Today, my outer self still reflects a rather ordinary, average person living an ordinary, average life, but inside is a comfort zone that embraces Samuel Gompers, Ayn Rand, Betty Friedan, the hippies, the march at Selma, Hilary Clinton and still, after all this time, old Ralph Waldo himself.
I did not tell the people at work who my idol was and no one asked. Though we all worked together well, I always felt a bit out of place with them. Generally speaking I would have to say my co-workers read romance novels or comic books, watched hours of TV each night, played lots of bingo and wouldn’t be caught dead at a symphony. And that’s ok with me. I kept quiet because I didn’t like to seem “different,” but I was, and am.
After ruminating a few days on this business of idols, I told my husband about Chris’ project and about my story of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I admitted to him that I guessed I was pretty odd. Jerry laughed; he knows the inner me but never knew the story of how it got to be that way. Then he told me that when he was young he wanted to be just like Igor Sikorsky, the man who developed the first helicopter. Jer said his choice to attend MIT in Cambridge was becaise he felt to have the vision of Sikorsky he needed to have the very best training he could get.
Chris is too young to understand about the real idols both his Grandma and Grandpa had. So Frank Sinatra was a better choice for me to give him. And perhaps “idol” is the wrong word to call Emerson and Sikorsky, but the minds of these men gave force and direction to both of Jerry and me, which to a large extent shaped our adult lives.
As for the statistical bell-shaped curve, you will understand that all my co-workers and most of the ordinary, hardworking, salt-of-the earth people are gathered around its top. A few of us odd ones make up the extremes, which is where Jerry and I, along with Emerson and Sikorsky, willingly place ourselves, sitting happily on the edges of the bell-shaped curve.