“Teeth and Vacation!” It sounds like a curse, but it’s not. It’s just what’s happenin’ this week.
On November 21st, after screaming at impossibly high pitches all the live-long day, Petals cut her very first tooth. This was in the midst of our first family vacation. We went to the beach and had a most excellent time visiting friends, eating brunch (And on a Monday too, how luxe!), and generally hanging out. Of course, as illustrated by my bi-monthly webcomic – Hot Interracial Marriage -that’s running today at Firetower Studios, vacationing with a six month old means that the things a full-grown human would find most interesting hold no appeal.
She was amazingly uninterested in boats.
She cared very little for the fun and informative walking tour that we did of downtown Wilmington. (Did you know that Robert E. Lee’s mother was buried alive? A year before she gave birth to him?! Petals didn’t care about the possible historical ramifications of the sexton not returning to the mausoleum when he did. “What would the world have been like if Robert E. Lee had never been born?!” I asked her. She squealed and banged on her tray. I think that was baby for, “I don’t really care for historical suppositions and hypotheticals, Mom.”)
She had even less interest in sand and cold salt water and couldn’t seem to understand why anyone would spend good time and energy walking along a beach. I tried sticking her feet in the waves and she screamed. I tried settling her down in some sand and she kicked until we picked her up again. It may or may not have helped that she was sorely in need of a nap at the time that we tried all this.
She did have fun with one thing though. Dining out meant that there were many more tables to clear off, a lot more food to try, plenty of napkins to render unrecognizable, and so much stuff to chew on that she didn’t know where to begin first. And though she didn’t find the same things enjoyable that we did, I trust that one day we’ll be able to share these big things – boats, beaches, boardwalks – with her. For right now, we’ll enjoy watching her discover the taste of lemons, the ability to pull up on a chair, and what exactly happens when you try to bat a friendly cat on the butt. Ergo: Family Vacation = Success!
So, I’ve been thinking alot lately, and I haven’t really had much time to write it down. Which means that I usually forget it. Which sucks. But I promised myself to make a point of writing these thoughts down, so that they wouldn’t fly away with other meeting times and memos.
1) I’ve decided I hate the English language. Black English, Southern English, any dialectical form of it, really. And not because it is what it is, but basically because of what it represents. I can’t escape it, I can’t think outside it, I hate it and love it at the same time. It is responsible for beating my fathers and making my mothers cry. It is the only way I can express happiness, and it is the only way I can express pain. And I look at the language debates about a student’s right to keep their own language, and I wonder, why? Why am I fighting to hold on to the language of the oppressor – the BROKEN language of the opressor at that? None of my ancestors chose to speak English, why should I care if I’m told to say “He is” instead of “He be,”? It’s all in the imperialist tongue. Will I liberate students to allow them use Black English – because that is what they speak at home? or will allowing them to talk as they want simply exaggerate the separation between the White and Blacks? Basically will playing the game validate the game?
I read one of Ossie Davis’s speeches: “English is my enemy” and it’s good, but flawed. He says that the English language is racist and that users of the English language are learning to speak racistly. This isn’t a new idea. In Herbert Kohl’s book I Won’t Learn From You he talks about how one boy, Akmir, decides to not-learn racist language, and takes care to highlight every racist term in his history book and discuss those terms in class. But he ignores anyone who identifies outside the Black/White binary. And he ignores sexist language. In fact, in speaking, he seems to be completely unconscious of using some of the very discriminating linguistic methods he argues against. But I digress.
I’ve read people for and against bi-dialectism. The pros say, “face it, Black English is a decayed, substandard, form of English, and the usage of it and impedes communication with anyone who does not speak it.” The antis say, “saying that my English is substandard is an extreme insult, languages can’t be ranked anyway! Who are you to say which language is better than another? I’m not teaching my students to be anything other than themselves.” While it hurts to say it, I’m going to have to fall on the side of the pros. There is a certain context for everything, and I can’t imagine allowing my students to all turn in papers in their own grammars and try to decipher which is grammatically correct based upon which grammar the student chooses to employ! In a Spanish class, I can’t write an essay in English. Likewise, in an English class I don’t expect students to hand in essays in so-called “Black” English (which is an insult because it implies that anyone who is Black and speaks English, but does not speak Black English, is somehow less part of the “Black” category, and I refuse to let anyone define my Blackness based on some rigid ideological construct.)
2) I don’t feel prepared. Maybe that’s why I’ve been stressed out about all this stuff and applying for colleges. Maybe it’s because I have this foreboding feeling like I’m not going to get in, anywhere, and I’ll be paying back that $26,000 loan from Teaching Fellows. Last night I had a couple of dreams. In one, my mother decided to direct a play and didn’t hold a rehearsal or anything like that, and decided dress rehearsal should be on opening night. I didn’t know my lines or my blocking or anything! This dream probably stems from watching “Waiting for Guffman” but whatever. In the second dream, Mickey Jo decides that we should give swimming lessons. I protest that I haven’t had lifeguard training, that I don’t know how to start, that I’ve never taught someone how to swim before, we didn’t have a pool…she said we should do it anyway. So we’re in the pool, and I’m surrounded by toddlers ready to learn how to swim. One of them is a Gumby-shaped sponge who keeps getting absorbed with water and then unable to stay afloat. I keep having to put him against my chest and pat his back until he coughs up all the water. I turn around for a couple of seconds and all the children are standing under the water, looking at me and waiting for me to save them. Great, my own nightmare of drowning has moved to me having nightmares of being responsible for the drowning deaths of others. Yup, I think I’m losing it.
Okay that’s all, I should probably get back to work.
Next stop…da beach!