Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Noisy Junk

I cleared out my desk today. Yes, I’m done with second year. At our school, like many medical schools, only first and second year students get assigned desk space. As third- and fourth-years, you move around with your clinical rotations, engaged in a more nomadic academic life. So today, I officially gave up my home. Actually, I was supposed to clear out my desk and turn in my key last Friday after I finished my final, but it somehow slipped my mind in the excitement of being half-done with medical school.
There was really nothing much to clear out. My friends know I rarely study at school, and most of what was left was junk. I threw everything away, except for a dozen drumsticks which I found housed in a bottom drawer. This made me smile because it seemed funny that someone would stow a pile of drumsticks in their desk.
The sticks were from a skit my friends and I put on for Keck’s talent show earlier this year. We called ourselves “Noisy Junk,” which is a great name for a ragtag group of amateur street percussionists. Imagine a band of medical students eager to beat out their angst on trash bins and paint buckets, and you pretty much get the point. I actually got blisters on my hands from rehearsing, and lost one of my drumsticks mid-act when I got carried away in the frenzy that was our finale.
So hauling these sticks back to my car seemed to nicely sum up the year. You work hard, endure, and hope that when you lose yourself in the whirlwind, it’s for something worthwhile. And when it’s over with, when the details are long-forgotten, hopefully you can look back and smile. I dropped one of my sticks while walking to my car and the thing clattered down a flight of stairs before rolling to a stop. You know, I’m still learning that when sticks go a-flying mid-act, sometimes you just have to take comfort in the fact that life never came with a script—just hope no one takes a stick to the face and slide back in rhythm with the next measure. The show certainly does go on, and damn, does it go fast.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Mother's Day Memory

My seventh birthday was coming up. I told my mom that I wanted to have it at Putt Putt Golf, the local mini golf center in Tallahassee where I grew up. It was going to be my first birthday party outside our home, and I had been absolutely set on Putt Putt ever since attending a friend’s party there just a few months prior. I was an entirely unoriginal kid. But my mom—she went to work planning and preparing my special day because it was what I wanted.
Looking back, it must’ve been a small leap for my parents, too. My family was only a year or two removed from living off my dad’s grad student stipend of 800 dollars per month. So spending money to host a kid’s birthday bash was a fairly new concept for them. Unfortunately for my mom, she was unknowingly engaged in a losing battle. I think in retrospect, I really wasn’t looking forward to celebrating my own birthday as much as I was hoping to re-enact the birthday party I had previously attended. Like a lot of kids, I simply wanted to do all the cool things everyone else had done.
Well, my mom invited all my closest friends, and we all gathered on the 18-hole course. My parents paid for everyone’s putters, and immediately, I knew something was wrong. You see, my friend’s party featured this young, excited mini golf employee who led everyone through introductory birthday activities, cheered us on at each hole, and handed out prizes. I remember looking around, and feeling indignant about receiving only a club and a ball. So I hounded my mom about how she had messed up the planning and how critical it was to have this silly worker leading all the fun. My parents ended up asking the management, who informed them that the goofy teenager with the official golf visor was only included in the more expensive birthday package.  I was crestfallen. It’s embarrassing how clearly I can recall the overwhelming disappointment I felt from a birthday nearly two decades ago. But then, I doubt many of us are especially proud of what emotional maturity we displayed as seven-year-olds.
I’m not sure why certain memories seem to randomly stick with us more than others. But I’ve grown to appreciate this one, because it illustrates a lot of what my mom embodies. She has always worked quietly, moved tirelessly to provide the best for my brother and I, regardless of how consistently unappreciative we have been in return. And I know she has always worried herself with notions that she was somehow failing to provide us with key opportunities afforded to other kids—either because of financial limitations, or because her lack of familiarity with aspects of American culture. I’m sure it probably broke her heart a little when her seven-year-old son made clear that his birthday wasn’t of the same caliber as his peers’.
For this, mom, I apologize. If ever I could sit down with my seven year old self, I would tell him that the only time he should ever feel disappointment is if he lets you down. In fact, I would tell him that his only job in the entire world is to make you proud—to do right by you. And if he could just do that, he will grow up to be more than okay. He might even one day realize he’s no longer that thankless punk, but a man who owes you the world. You’ve given me everything, mom, I love you, and I hope you have a happy Mother’s Day.

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