Monday, January 15, 2007

And Thus The Seeds Of Dorkiness Were Sown

As I contemplated Martin Luther King Day today I had a happy childhood memory. Anyone who knows me well could attest to the fact that this doesn't happen often, so humor me here.

One of the few things I remember fondly from my childhood is the long car rides my family took when we went to visit our relatives. I know most kids don't like long car rides, and I know all you hip, modern parents now have DVD players and skee-ball and kiddie pools in your vehicles to keep your children from driving you completely insane, and I'm sure my parents would have too, had that sort of thing been available back then, but my point is that as a young traveler I did not require even the potholder-weaving kits designed to occupy my attention. While my brother and sister bickered and whined and wondered if we were there yet, I was content to simply look out the window or read a library book.

Eventually everyone fell asleep except me and my dad, who was driving. And although we didn't speak -- perhaps because we didn't speak, it was during those long, silent road trips that I felt closest to my dad. We were sharing something the rest of the family was sleeping through, even if that something was nothing more than cow pasture after cornfield after Texaco station. Of course, the reason I didn't sleep through the car rides was that I found cow pastures and cornfields and Texaco stations sort of interesting, or rather, I just liked knowing about stuff.

I fault my parents for many things, but I am eternally grateful that they rarely missed an opportunity to foster and support this curiosity when I was a little girl. For one particular road trip when I was about eight, my mom borrowed an audio biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the public library. I'm not sure anything I was exposed to as a kid shaped me quite as much as the story of this man's life. Obviously I'd learned about Dr. King in school -- even if I DID live in Virginia where until very recently King had to share his day with Confederate generals Lee and Jackson -- but riding in the back of our station wagon listening to recordings of Dr. King's speeches, eyes wide with wonder; waking my mom up to flip the tape or change the batteries for me while I sat mesmerized, all that had a powerful effect on my little eight-year-old self.

It's possible that my parents simply wanted to hear King's biography themselves and hoped I'd suffer through it without complaints, but looking back I realize they probably did this for me. My sister couldn't have cared less about Martin Luther King, plus she slept through every road trip we ever took. My brother was a toddler in a carseat who certainly couldn't have appreciated the concept of soul force at that age any more than his militant ass can appreciate it now. So that leaves only me and my steadfast refusal, even then, to hit back.

What's amazing about all this is not that my conservative parents exposed me to something as weighty and un-conservative as nonviolent resistance at such a young age, but that the people who once gave their eight-year-old bookworm of a daughter ten hours of Martin Luther King, Jr. now routinely wonder how a thirty-one-year-old liberal pacifist snuck into their family.

6 comments:

Anon. Blogger said...

Great story, thanks a lot. Makes me feel like a complete ass for playing every season of Sponge Bob 100 times when we drove from Connecticut to Arizona. :)

I can imagine their blog now...
"and she wonders how a thirty-one-year-old moron snuck into the family."

:D

Dave said...

I suspect that there was a time that to be a conservative ment something other than being anti-progress. Nice memory.

Flannery Alden said...

Maybe your parents thought they were giving you a ten-hour biography of Martin Luther.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Great story, Megan. It's funny which things your parents do for you stick, and which don't.

Grant Miller said...

Nice. I love road trips for that very reason. I'm a parent, but my kids don't have anything other than books and themselves to remain entertained in the back seat. I should pick up those speeches for them.

Big Orange said...

I think sometimes we say more in silence than we do in words. if you can sit with someone for a time and NOT speak because you're perfectly comfortable... that's meaningful.

10 hours of MLK at such an early age. Wow. I can hardly handle 10 hours of ANYTHING as an adult! Must be ADHD...