What’s Normal?

To break a cardinal rule in writing, I will answer the question posed in the title right now…I don’t know.

Sorry. If you came here for the answer to that question…er…you probably will still want to know after reading…

I haven’t been normal. Ever.

Growing up in a Duke, Oklahoma where high school basketball is a second religion, I was an anomaly. Of course, I practiced in the gym, I had a uniform and traveled with the team. All really cool, because admission was free. I was THAT player the coach sent in with seconds left in the game.

You know, at the point where I couldn’t screw up too badly and lose the game on accident for us. Our team was usually pretty good, so we would be paired with the team with the poorest rating in tournaments. My BIG opportunity to showcase my lack of athletic talent came in those few games.

As I grew older, I began to appreciate suiting up but not playing in games.

1. I didn’t sweat

2. I didn’t screw up the game for anyone and

3. I got in free to the games.

What’s not to like…er…if you really don’t care that much about basketball? Free ride to every game, pay no admission all for the small price of warming the bench during the games and looking interested and enthusiastic.

The 80s was about big hair. Big hair meant lots of blow drying, hot rollers and curling irons and Rave hairspray after games.

If you played an entire game. I didn’t. Ever. So I could be ready to go socialize during the boys’ game in a few minutes. Probably more on that another day.

Anyway, books and reading had always been my thing. We had a pretty spare library at school, elementary library consisted of several book carts in the hallway. High school was a small room within one of the classrooms.

But, every 2 weeks or so, the bookmobile came to town. If you aren’t familiar with a bookmobile, it is like a mobile home that is gutted and filled with shelves of books. The librarians in our system tried to keep a variety of new releases on board and to change out books sometimes for all of us out in the outskirts of our library system.

In the summer, I would walk downtown, enter the bookmobile through a door near the back and check out a stack of books. Upon making my decisions, I checked them out with the librarian near the driver at the front of the bus. As I filled out my name on each card, I couldn’t wait to get home and start reading. I had two weeks and it was rare for me to have a book unfinished in that time. Did I mentioned I love reading?

The bookmobile also had a section of vinyl LPs that were the “audible” books of the period. Oh. I had a sweet little denim-print mono record player! I could LISTEN to books too!

Books were cool and all, but those LPs…so technologically FORWARD to listen to my book on a vinyl record, especially one I had read over and over…From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Mom was not excited about LPs. She knew the dangers of using someone else’s LP. Books were pretty durable, but if you scratched a record in those days, it was toast and she knew that. But she gave in once.

The day I checked it out was heaven…I would be checking out many more, I was sure. I had 2 glorious weeks to listen to my LP on my little denim record player. Sigh.

To this day, I would swear on a Bible that I returned that LP when the bookmobile came back two weeks later, but the library has the final ban hammer. No more books until I paid for that record. I was CRUSHED. No records and even WORSE…no books.

I didn’t have a discretionary spending fund at the time and mom paid the fee and I was told never to bring home an LP again.

Now you think that the story would include that I did chores, etc., to pay Mom back for that LP. No, sorry. Instead, my mom had the “lost” record to remind me each time that I needed to keep up with my books and records that were borrowed. Guilt works pretty well on me.

The LP never turned up in the many moves I have made….so Southern Prairie Library System you owe me an apology.

f you have never read the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, you should. Even if you are adult. To be honest, I have more dreams of running away from home now than I ever did as a kid. How would I get anywhere? I lived in Duke, Oklahoma. The closest city is 14 miles away. My great-uncle was the school principal. My great-aunt was THAT neighbor who watched everyone in the neighborhood out her kitchen window. I wasn’t sneaking anywhere back then.

Mixed Up Files is two children who run away from home and they literally live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC for a surprising amount of time. They hide in bathroom stalls, keeping their feet up, at closing to keep from being detected by the museum security. Claudia, a pragmatic being, brings her younger brother along solely because he has more money saved than she does. There’s more to the story, of course, but I became obsessed with being able to run away and live in the MMoA…how cool is that?

Ok, I never ran away. The guilt would have killed me, to be honest. My parents had a pretty easy gig when I was younger; I was easily shamed. If I misbehaved, “What would your grandmother think?” was sufficient to get me on the trail of righteousness once again.

Back to the term normal. I wasn’t. I spent tons of time inside my own head. While other kids were playing hoops in their driveways, I was either in my bedroom reading or every once in a while, I would go outside somewhere and read.

Not sure what age I was, but when someone gave my mother some Harlequin Romance novels…a lot of them…I finally had reading material for days and didn’t need to return them in 2 weeks. I read most of them more than once. They were filler when I couldn’t check out a book in a library. Harlequins may also be responsible for my unrealistic expectations for love. More on that another time.

“Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”
E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

When junior high rolled around and we had that special unit on the MENSTRUAL CYCLE, I was stoked because we got several pamphlets(reading material!) , probably provided by a corporate sponsor. The pamphlets also gave helpful skin care, hair care and makeup guidance for that young lady new to pubescence.

My dad wasn’t a fan of makeup and, well, rules are rules, so I settled on IMPROVING my skin care and hair care. The pamphlet made the very helpful suggestion of having small, travel-sized squirt bottles of things like water to tame hair when it became mussed.

So I filled a bottle of water. For good measure, I filled a bottle of baby oil, probably one of the only other beauty product available to me as a pre-teen. I would use it to moisturize my skin! Yes!

I didn’t label the bottles. Unfortunately for my hair. So while taming my hair for school one morning in that fog reserved for non-morning people, I accidentally used baby oil on my bangs. In shortening my morning routine, I had not reserved time to fix any mistake I might make…

Did you know that baby oil and water look very similar on hair until water dries?

I do now. I was the laughingstock of my first hour class because my bangs look like I had worked over a deep fryer all night with no hairnet. I am pretty sure no one from the Duke School Class of 1984 will forget when Cheryl decided to organize her beauty supplies and how a drowsy mishap gave me greasy hair instead of the beautiful, well-managed coif that I was envisioning…

Back to What’s Normal…I am not. These days, I am much more comfortable not appearing normal. I know too much. I have an excellent hair stylist who is a genius with people who go rogue with hair products and personal scissors…I don’t hate basketball, but I don’t play it either. My Kindle is my partner for life…easy on the eyes and books instantly…I would have never dreamed…

Yes, I still read books. Not one bit athletic… But I have sworn off baby oil for life.

If you have suggestions, comments, and even praise, please check out the Comment section on oppositeofserene.blog OR my homepage for my blog on Face Book!


Published by Cheryllmillard

DaughterSisterMotherGrandma trying to find myself before I die. I read. A lot. Hate housework, especially doing dishes. Changed political parties because I finally realized I wasn't a rich white male. Doing my best.

One thought on “What’s Normal?

  1. I LOVE this book. I have read it many times, also planning my escape to the museum. It still holds a place on my bookshelf… and real estate on my bookshelf is hard to come by!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: