Wednesday, February 10, 2010

PLAY NICE

When I was a kid growing up in South Alabama, my mother’s middle sister and her family lived five miles away. I grew up in my aunt’s house and spent a lot of time with my first cousins. We got along like a house on fire. We had a great time playing princess and cowboys and Indians and pirates, chasing after the mosquito truck on our bikes (which explains in part, at least, my brain damage), climbing trees, rolling up and down the large dirt mound near my aunt’s house and playing King of the Mountain, and exploring ditches and culverts. The Lord protects fools and idiots, I guess, ‘cause we never got snake bit. Heck, we never even SAW a snake. I guess we scared them all off. No self-respecting reptile would come within a mile of such rowdies.

My mother’s youngest sister was married to a Baptist preacher. They lived out of state, and we saw them and their children maybe once a year. My cousin Jeannece (named after my mother, Jean. Jean’s niece, get it?) was a major pain in the butt.

I was a real tomboy, rough as a cob and very active. My hair was kept very short because my mother had exhausted her limited store of patience years earlier on my older sister’s long hair. I never wore shoes. I ran like the wind. I was always and eternally covered in dirt and cuts, scrapes and bruises.

My favorite clothes were an old shirt and a raggedy pair of cut-off jeans passed down from my older cousin, Buster. I wanted to be a boy something fierce. Boys didn’t have to wear dresses or worry about their panties showing on the monkey bars at school. Boys didn’t have to cook or do housework or take care of babies. Boys could pee standing up. They could pee in an ARC! Peeing in an arc was totally cool. I wanted to do that. Kiss your elbow, some twisted adult told me, and you’ll turn into a boy. Consequently, I spent a lot of time trying to kiss my elbow.

Jeannece, on the other hand, was slightly chubby with long, carefully curled blonde hair and girl clothes that matched. She somehow managed to stay clean; I swear, that girl repelled dirt. She did not run. She did not climb trees. Her bike was pink, with a white basket and frilly things dangling from the handle bars. She liked baby dolls and playing house. She did not want to be a boy. She was fond of announcing she was going to have six children when she grew up. Grow up? No way. Six children? Inconceivable to me. And that was before I knew where babies come from. After that, the idea was doubly gross.

My cousin Jeannece was the kind of kid that tattled on you to get you in trouble. If you hadn’t done anything that deserved a whupping, she’d make something up. Adults loved her. She was Pollyanna on the outside and The Bad Seed on the inside. I can lay more than one peach tree switching at Jeannece’s door. Needless to say, she was not my favorite cousin. I dreaded those visits.

When she came to visit, my grandmother, who adored Jeannece and considered me the devil’s spawn, would shake her house shoe at me, give me the evil eye and say, “You’d better play nice with your cousin Jeannece, or else.”

That ‘or else’ held a world of menace. I tried to play nice with Jeannece. I really did. But it was useless. We were just too different. Sooner or later, she fell down or got left behind because she couldn’t run fast. Or she became unhappy because the rest of us didn’t want to sit inside the tidy lines of the imaginary house she’d drawn in the dirt and play dolls and Mommy and Daddy. Guess who always got to be the Mommy and boss everyone else around? Yep. The tears would inevitably commence . . . and the house shoe would come off.

I grew up, of course, though I still find it hard to believe. My husband has been fighting the battle of the bulge for the last twenty years. Part of the problem, he says, is that in his mind he’s still a skinny guy who can eat whatever he wants. I have the same problem with my age. In my mind I’m still nine years old running barefoot down the street with my dog, Andy, chasing that mosquito truck.

But on the outside, at least, I’m grown up.

And that brings me to the point of these ramblings. I am co-writing a book with another author. Writing, for me, is a solo act; never tried to write with another person. I am VERY excited about the possibilities. The brainstorming has been incredible and the creative energy is amazing. I worry, however, that I might run off and leave my friend behind.

In short, I’ve got to remember to play nice.

Oh, by the way, Jeannece grew up, too, and she made a perfectly lovely adult. She’s a very gifted teacher, and she has five children.

I got over wanting to be a boy . . . although, I will admit to an occasional twinge of envy when I am waiting in line in the ladies’ room.

22 comments:

Gwen Hernandez said...

God, Jeanie, I can't wait until you're published. Your humor and expressions (voice!) are so fun to read. I loved "We got along like a house on fire", and I could just imagine you running down the street after the mosquito truck.

I was quite a tomboy, too, and in some ways I still am, though I spiff up the exterior occasionally.

I can't imagine co-writing at this point, so good luck. But, I've always been a solitary runner, and lately I started running with my neighbor and a couple of other ladies, and I'm actually enjoying it. It's different, but still nice.

So, maybe co-writing will be different, but still nice. Enjoy!

Jeanie said...

Gwen, I've never tried it before either! Should be an adventure. It sure is nice to have someone to hash things out with plotwise. We are still in the beginning phase, so fingers crossed! And those pesky little details, like eye color and names, etc., have been solidified twice as fast. We have very different styles, of course, but I think this will make both of us stretch and grow.

Heather said...

What a great blog post! My secretary came running into my office wondering what in the world would make me belly laugh during the day (sad comment on what I am like about the office, but great statement on your post).

I know your sentiment well. I am an only child and solo practitioner. I find it very hard to play nice with others. I feel like if I don't rush forward and do as much as I can, I am not pulling my weight. However, as a result, I tend to be too bossy and take over things.

I can't wait to see the finished project of your co-author venture!

Heather

Jeanie said...

Thanks, Heather. It was so good seeing you at Murder in the Magic City.

I, too, worry about charging ahead and doing too much. Don't want to be selfish. Never having done something like this before, it will be learn as I go . . . or should I say 'learn as WE go'? There I go again, with the self-centeredness. Arggh!

Anna Campbell said...

Jean, what a beautiful post. I know, I know, I'm projecting - but I just watched a documentary about Mark Twain and somehow there seemed to be so many echoes. Not that I'm implying you grew up in the early 1800s! Oh, man, I'm just getting into more and more trouble here. Laughed at Jeanneace being such a pain as a kid and growing up into a nice adult - that's lovely! Good luck with the writing project. I'm not sure I could do it - I think I'm too much of a control freak. Hmm, was I bossy little girl? You betcha! Snort!

Jeanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeanie said...

Sorry, removed my previous reply because I am a fumble fingers!

Anyway, thanks, Anna . . . I think. As old as Mark Twain, huh? Ouch.

No, seriously, can't wait to read MY RECKLESS SURRENDER when it comes out in June. What a smoking hot, gorgeous cover! Yowza!

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Jean, I really admire Mark Twain - so consider that a compliment! Thanks for saying you're looking forward to MY RECKLESS SURRENDER!

Louisa Cornell said...

I grew up with brothers, Jeanie, so I know exactly what you mean. And we three kids were so bad that the other people in the trailer park in Selma where we lived in the mid-1960's wouldn't let their kids play with us. I mean that is some SERIOUS badness when other trailer-trash won't let their kids play with you. My Mama begged us to "play nice" We did, but nice for us did not equate with nice for others. The incident with my three year old brother and the industrial sized dryer at the laundromat comes to mind.

Like La Campbell I was that bossy big sister so I just don't know if I could do what you and Melissa are doing, but I KNOW the results will be fabulous!

And ladies if you get the chance to read Jeanie's manuscript Demons in Dixie do NOT do it at work or while drinking any beverages! You will either get fired, have to go home and change the pants you wet or you will drown! It is SO DAMNED FUNNY!

Jeanie said...

Thanks, Louisa. You are a good friend and loyal supporter. You will receive the money in the mail in a few days.

Sorry to be so late responding to your post. I fell down an embankment today and broke my ankle. I feel like a complete idiot AND my foot hurts like crazy. Been to the hospital and got a temporary splint. Off tomorrow to the ortho to get a cast. I wanted time to write, but not like this!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Jeanie! Oh, no. I'm so sorry about your ankle. I hope it feels better soon.

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh no! Jeanie are you okay? Good grief! The lengths some people will go to to get some writing time at home!

Cari Hislop said...

That was hilarious! I was half way through the post when I said to myself, "I bet this is Jeanie!" sure enough, it was...you really do have a fantastic voice. If you ever tired of writing romances your childhood sounds like a diamond mine of stories. Did you ever read The Great Brain series as a kid? I loved those books. I'm sorry to hear you've broken your ankle...running down a dirt hill? I hope you feel better very soon!!!! But as Louisa hinted at, the upside, once the painkillers kick in, will be enforced inactivity ie lots of writing time!

Christine said...

Jeanie: Excellent post! I was a Tomboy as well. I loved playing hockey and getting dirty--hated being a girl. But I grew up, too.

Still don't know if I "play nice."

Hope your foot heals fast! Huggles!

Jeanie said...

Thanks to everyone for their kind remarks and well-wishes. The ankle is doing better -- pain pills and two benedryl last night and, surprisingly, I slept! As long as I stay off it, it doesn't grumble. Go today to get a cast. Not looking forward to that. But at least it's not my hand and I can still type! Whew! Now to relearn how to use a pair of crutches. That should be interesting.

No, I didn't break it falling down a dirt hill or doing anything exciting or adventurous. I was at a friend's house on my way to deliver food to a sick acquaintance and stepped out of my shoe! My friend's driveway has a steep embankment on one side. I stepped, my shoe turned and down I went. Not my most glamorous or graceful moment.

The shoes, a pair of clogs, are going in the garbage. Who needs footwear that treacherous?

Christine said...

Is it your right or left foot? I hope not your right one. I broke my left foot and had a very bad sprain a few years ago.Thank God not my right one as I am the premiere driver of all peeps. Any way, I hope you heal fast. Take care of yourself!!

Tammy Lynn said...

Jeanie (or should I call you Grace?) I'm so sorry to hear about your ankle. Those damned clogs are treacherous. If you remember, I sprained my ankle trying on a pair of clogs in my bedroom a couple of years ago, so I know well the humility of saying, "The shoes did it!" But I still wear clogs more than any other style.

As for playing nice...I'm an only child, but Mom "kept kids" in our home when I was young. I was never really alone during the day, so I had to learn to play nice and share cause that's how Mom was making extra money. Getting dirty was something I did, but definately not intentionally! I was, and still am, all girl!

I also echo Louisa's comment on DEMONS IN DIXIE. You'll embarras yourself laughing out loud. My prediction is that Jeanie will be the next MaryJanice Davidson...but even funnier!

Jeanie said...

Christine, it was my left foot, thank goodness! At least I can drive. Tammy, you learned your lessons well, because you are one of the nicest people I know! Watch those clogs, though. They are sneaky little bissturds. Hope your writing is going well and don't fall off your shoes!

Watery Tart said...

I LOVE your style! This was just a fabulous read from beginning to end. I'm not normally a romance reader, but if romance is what you write, I can tell you right now, I will make an exception.

Jeanie said...

Why, thank you, Watery Tart! What a lovely thing to say, and what a wonderful name. I take it you are a Monty Python fan? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. We used to DREAM of living in a corridor!

But I digress. Thanks for the props. You couldn't have said anything nicer!

M.V.Freeman said...

Lovely post Jeanie,
Oh, those memories, I could just feel it and taste it.

You made me think back on my childhood....there was always someone I had to "play nice" with.

I think it is wonderful that you are co-authoring a book! What an outstanding step. :-) What is it about?

Stern Rake Studio said...

I'll try to pay better attention to your posting schedule. The other commentators are spot-on! You have a gift for humor. (BTW, my siblings & I grew up watching Monty Python and other British comedy shows).

Ted