While faces and names tend to fade as we age, there are moments in our youth that are as pan seared as an ahi fillet in our memory banks.
One of mine that will always carry the stench of burning flesh came about when Michelle, one of my best friends in junior high, gathered the girls around to plant a disturbing little seed in our heads. You know, the kind of seed that would allow you to intentionally grow crabgrass or dandelions— if you wanted to promote terrorism through gardening.
Now, after 27 years of germination, this seed has spawned the size of a weed-infested vacant lot for me, and for the other girls who would’ve preferred to keep their self-esteem as pure as some freshly laid sod.
You see, Michelle lined us up for an enlightening presentation. She stood before us in her P.E. shorts, her exposed legs and pointer finger serving as an effective visual aide as she made her declaration. “When you put your ankles together like this, you’re supposed to have, like, three points where light shows through,” she proclaimed with all the conviction of a lifetime subscriber to Seventeen magazine.
According to Michelle, one ray shines between the ankles and calves, another beams between the calves and knees, and the other would apparently radiate between the knees and thighs. I say would because I have never experienced this type of sunburst. In fact, for me, there is such black-out darkness in that region that I’m surprised I haven’t sprouted mushrooms to harvest and sell at a roadside stand.
Did I mention that Michelle was bow legged? Yeah. This means you’d need to wear sunglasses to give her poles a peer-thru. So it’s no coincidence that she was the one to educate us, the chafing masses, about this apparent truism. The rest of us would have held the floor with something safer, like the latest scoop on Rick Springfield or the teen-zine’s guide to applying blue eye shadow.
Nevertheless, we mechanically brought our ankles together; many of us sensing that we’d fail this test worse than we did the one Mr. Frisch just handed back in science class. And we did, so much so that if there had been a remedial thigh class, we’d have been transferred instantly.
It should come as no surprise that once we realized we’d have to hand out night-vision glasses to complete our inspections, the deal was sealed that our cover-ups would get more play than our swimsuits that summer. And every summer since.
The “lesson” still haunts me today. It shows in my abnormal fascination with fall, which has little to do with ghouls and gourds and a whole lot to do with the return of full-coverage pants. And as strange as this may sound, it also shows in my interest in the paintings of Thomas Kinkade.
While the rest of the world celebrates Mr. Kinkade as a neo-Norman Rockwell slice of Americana, my interest is a little less conventional. Don’t get me wrong, Victorian mansions and quaint cottages are charming, indeed. But I’m far more captivated by the whole “Painter of Light” thing: The glow he captures in the way a candle illuminates a dark corner of the room; the way the moon glistens on the ripples of a river; how the sun sets over rolling hills—this man can find light in a cave. Is it too much to hope for that with a little help from a NASA laser and a stretch in my stride, he might be able to spot some on me?
Until Thomas comes knocking with palette, paintbrush and retina-searing light in hand, I’ll be spending my time with the weed whacker. While I’ll never get control over every blade of crabgrass that clutters my memory, I’ll be sure to get the ones that look bow legged.
Causes Shana Moore Supports