My dad is a tucker. Even when he was over 350 pounds he tucked in his t-shirts, collared shirts, and polos into his sweatpants, dress pants, and jeans.
My mom is decidedly not a tucker. Even with clothes one might tuck in, she wears something over it untucked.
My mom taught me how to do hospital corners on my bed the way my grandmother taught her. My dad taught me how to fold a fitted sheet. He showed me how to tuck each corner into each other carefully, then fold in half, in half again, the thirds. When I was younger I would kick the top sheet from that tight confined corner so my legs could be free at night. It wasn’t until I was 30 did I start using a top sheet again.
Just as she’s not a tucker, she doesn’t notice time the same way me and my dad do. When I was younger, I would always arrive late when my mom brought me. I always felt so embarrassed walking into events, school, youth group minutes after the start time. When the invite says 7:00pm, I should be there before then. Not 7:02, not 7:10… and definitely not after 7:30. If I’m going to be after 7:30, I should stay home.
My dad tells us that he’s waking up at 4:30. He will be showered and ready by 5, he will make breakfast for us, so we can eat at 6 and be on the road by 7. Me and my mom just nod. I think to myself, it does not take an hour to drink a smoothie and kombucha. But I like his timeliness and schedule. He and I are similar in this way. I know that I need to be ready early in order to be ready on time.
My mom would prefer to take things as they come or just follow our rules. She’s less decisive than either of us are.
We are staying in a rental cabin for Thanksgiving this year. I am allowed to be in charge of cooking the main meal for this holiday. We normally spend a fair amount of time planning the meal – emailing each other favorite recipes and altering them as needed. This year though, we did none of that. I was too overwhelmed with my life to think much about this. I just trusted they would pick the right recipes and bring the right ingredients.
I begin cooking Thanksgiving Dinner. I’ve managed to read most of the day and avoid doing much. My brother has called and I have seen him and his kids more in this 5 minute exchange than I’ve seen him in at least a year. As I cut the butternut squash with a dull knife, my mom watches, oversees my progress with quiet gasps. She’s worried I’m going to cut myself, I’m worried I’m going to cut myself with this crappy knife. It has never made sense to me that dull knives are more dangerous until this moment. Although the knife can’t cut the squash appropriately, I could see that as I awkwardly pulled it out, it’s blade could cut me. The knives in the drawer of this rental cabin are all dull. Not one of the knives is able to fulfill its purpose.
After putting everything in the easy bake oven sized oven and returning to my book, my dad gets up and checks all the temperatures, opens the pots, and adjusts the oven. I am the one cooking but he’s the one who checks.
As I was chewing my meal, my dad asks me, “What are you going to do after getting your doctorate?” For the first time in my life I don’t know. I don’t know what I want to do exactly. I have ideas, I have thoughts, I have questions. I begin to share some of these but am halted by his thoughts. He believes I should research technology in education, because well, because he is interested in this. “You are good at this and folks seem to respond positively to the work you do with technology.”
For the first time in my life I say no. Not a “I’ll think about it” not a “maybe”, but a “maybe you can do it instead.”
I used to tell people I wanted to skydive. It was a lie. I don’t know why I lied to folks so much. This felt like a reasonable lie to tell despite the fact that I used to get sick thinking of jumping from the high dive at the pool and each summer at camp I had so much anxiety when attempting to complete the zip line. But jumping from a plane seemed reasonable. Jumping from a plane sounded like something that might happen, that maybe I’d be brave enough to get into a plane and trust another human enough to throw myself towards the earth. This type of adventure used to make me feel like I was intriguing or interesting or less of a scheduler, less of a control freak. This lie used to make me feel less anxious.
I used to lie about lots of things. It eased my anxiety while simultaneously increasing it. I never lied about big things just the small things. I lied about washing my face at night before bed. I lied about having a snack. I lied about remembering movies. I lied during small talk with people – like the weather wasn’t that cold or that I loved the heat. Those lies kept folks away from the truth that most of my life was in shambles. If I kept the lie up, then folks wouldn’t know my marriage was a disaster or that my next relationship was dysfunctional or that I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. It also ensured no one worried about me, especially my parents.
I remember when I was in kindergarten my dad took a whole week off of work to take care of me when I had chicken pox. He made sure we had plenty of oatmeal bath so the itchiness on the soles of my feet were soothed. We watched daytime television and soap operas. The drama occurring in these shows seemed like what it meant to be an adult- affairs, death, and lots of crying.
Maybe that is what it is like to be an adult.
I am decidedly not a tucker, like my mom, except I don’t even purchase items that should be tucked in. I am not tucked in in any way. I wear my heart on my sleeve, my emotions are clearly evident, and I share way too much too soon. I am untucked in every way possible. I used to lie to cover up this unkempt way of being, as if an omission or a distraction from the obvious would lead folks to believe something else.
Maybe I wasn’t lying when I told people that I wanted to skydive. I think I skydive everyday – hurling myself from a plane towards the earth trusting others with my safety. I realized a few years ago that I begin in a space of love. I meet someone new – friendly, romantic, professional – and I love them. I am naive in that way, not understanding that this trust should not be allowed immediately. I am strapping myself to this person before we jump out of the plane. I begin with love, with trust. My friends used to tell me to be careful, that the fall would hurt, the inevitable thud that would occur when gravity and the earth met by body and my heart. Yet, I am not aware of how to be myself fully and not start with love.