Saturday, July 08, 2006

Marconi's Quadrants

Just know that, as I write this, Pippin is pawing the mouse. And since it is a cordless mouse (because Pippin chews cords, Hooligan that he is), when he knocks it on the floor I can't just pull up the cord and retrieve it. So, I'm a touch distracted.

My junior year, American Lit teacher at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, California, was Mr. Marconi. So much of what I remember learning of good stuff about life as well as literature and the connections between the two, I hear in his voice because I learned it in his classroom. He told us that we each have four quadrants concerning knowledge about us. One is what everyone knows about me (I'm short, I make puns), one what only I know about me (that I have a crush on a certain person, that my left baby toe itches), one what everyone but me knows about me (what I look like from behind, how my smile makes people feel), and the final one what no one knows about me(I would suppose how I would respond to torture and the exact length of my intestines would go here). One of the jobs in life is bringing light into the dark quadrants, allowing others to see the important things that only I know and discovering the important things that I don't know.

This last few years, I keep being surprised by something in the everybody but me section. Which is, how much people like me. I mean, I know I have friends. I know they like me, I know they are good friends. And then something happens, and I am touched and startled and amazed. Let me give you a few examples.

For 38 years Kate and I were lost to each other -- we had both moved at the same time, and letters didn't get forwarded or something. A few years ago Julie was looking in a children's book of hers and read the inscription, to her from Kate. Of course, she hadn't seen Kate since before we moved to Fairbanks in 1969 and so she wanted to know who she was. Which led to a conversation about that and how much I missed her. So, Julie went on and found her for me! Now, I had looked there and also on ICQ, but Kate joined classmates after I looked and never joined ICQ (both of which I joined hoping to find her). So, Julie put us in touch with each other and we e-mailed joyously and talked on the phone, and that November when I went to California I spent a week with Kate. And she took me all around and introduced me to one and all as "My best friend from high school who has been lost for 38 years and now we've found each other again!" And, every time she said it my heart got warm and a glow took over the world.

While I was visiting Kate, we happened to be only a couple of blocks from the shop where I had gone for manicures for three years. Kam is from Vietnam and I used to go in every Saturday at 8 (I was her first lady of the day). Because I had been a teacher, she asked me to help her kids with their school work, which I happily did. She was studying for her citizenship test and asked me to quiz her. The study sheet the Vietnamese Society had given her was about a 874th generation Xerox copy that could barely be read. I took it home and typed it into my new computer and brought her a clean copy. Every week I quizzed her, and because I know you best remember what you understand, we discussed the questions. Having failed the test twice, this time she aced it. The tester told her that any woman who, when asked about the houses of the legislature in California, added that in Virginia one of them is the House of Burgesses got an automatic pass! That had been ten years previous. So, that day, Kate and I dropped in to say hi to Kam. When she saw me, she jumped out of her chair, calling out, "Joycelyn! Joycelyn!" and hugged me and insisted on doing my nails right there and then and wouldn't let me pay. It touched me. Last summer, when I went back to see her and she told me, "I appreciate you forever" it startled and touched me even more.

Also last summer, Kate took me to see Jane, who had been my best friend in my second high school (TDHS) and who I had also lost track of when I moved to Alaska the first time and who Julie's father, Michael, had tracked down. (It was wonderful that Kate and Jane like each other, by the way.) And Jane introduced me to her family as "my best friend from high school"! Again, for some reason, that the depth of the emotion on her part was as deep as on mine, surprised and pleased me.

Last month, I had my teeth cleaned. Frank, my hygienist, smiled when I came in and told me that he had been looking forward to that day ever since he saw my name on the list the evening before! That he really enjoys me and it always makes his day when I come in! Amazing. I mean, I like Frank. I get that good feeling when I see him, too. But, it never occurred to me I had that effect on him.

And then, today, between breakfast and shopping and meeting Stephanie and Crystalyn, I had my hair cut. Julie has moved from a shop that was very convenient to one in her own home, which is not. Knowing that I would be taking the Care-A-Van to the appointment, and remembering the last time I came and had to wait an hour for the CAV to be able to take me home, she organized her day so I would be her last customer so she could drive me home. Because, she said, "you've been a client forever and I would hate it if my changing my shop would make it so I never got to see you. You spend your life helping people, and I want to help you." And when we got to Auke Bay and remembered that she had forgotten to give me the Alaska King Crab she had intended to, she turned around and got it. (Yes, in case you are wondering, I am having King Crab for dinner tonight. Along with a salad and steamed potatoes and beets from FCF.) Again, this startled me.

Now, I know that all of these people are good, helpful, excellent people. I like all of them immensely. So, what is it that so startles me? Somewhere in the stuff I don't know about myself quadrant is not only that there are people who really like me, but also there must be some thought that they shouldn't? That they don't? That I'm not worthy of this much regard? And that is really odd, because I always thought that I was pretty well set up in my own esteem. I always thought that I knew my full worth. But I am beginning to suspect that I may know how smart I am and what a good job I do and I may not know at all something else about me.

One thing it proves, the universal thump goes around and it doesn't necessarily come back from the people you have thumped. Because, other than liking them, I assure you I don't know of anything I did to earn Frank's and Julie's regard.


Gina said...

Apparently, it is enough that you are just you! :)

Maya's Granny said...

Gina, Now I'm feeling warm and touched about you! Picture a big smile and misty eyes.

J said...

I remember when you left CCS, and how shocked you were that the word Kind was the word so many people used to describe you. I wasn't shocked at all. I remember how kind you always were to my friends, how you helped people who many people would say shouldn't be helped (at CCS), and so on.

Kate said...

I am so on ICQ: 46-191-728. I don't get on it much anymore because it hogs resources, & my computer is resource poor because of all the programs I have on it. But if I knew you were going to be on at a certain time on a certain day ...

I have that same sense of amazement when I find that someone I like also likes me. I've spent my life feeling not up to standard, & so am always amazed when someone seems to think otherwise. You've always had more self-esteem than I do, & I think it's because you got to go live with Auntie & she was very good for you. I of course got to stay home with my mother, who wasn't.

Jane & I are making noises about getting together soon, but we're both so busy that it's hard!

Maya's Granny said...

J. When I left CCS, they gave me a huge gift certificate to the local bookstore. I was amazed at the size of it! When I went in to buy the books (and I couldn't spend it all in one go, I had to go in over six months to find that many books I didn't already own that I wanted!), the owner said she had been pretty sure that gift certificate had been for me and that it was the biggest she ever sold. I said, yes, people did know I like books and she laughed and said "Lots of people like books. It takes more than that for people to do something like this."

As for being kind to your friends --I never cease to be horrified by the way children are routinely treated. The way I treated your friends should have been nothing special at all.