I like to play “remember” with myself for one day when I’m not able to I will no longer have a game to play. I believe my mind is capable of many things that I’ve not even tapped in to yet. Phenomenally I know that I have the power to change my mood. I’ve tried it, tested it and found it most successful. For instance, I can be driving in traffic on I-94 when some whipper-snapper begins tailgating me. I’m not talking about the kind of tailgating where he is back there somewhere. I’m talking about the kind where he’s either trying to kiss the bumper on the outside of my car or the one in it. For as often as I look out the windshield in front of me it seems like I have to drive paying close attention to what is in my rear view mirror. As of late, a lot of shenanigans happen behind me. When I am tailgated, cut-off, passed on the right or forced out of my lane by an irresponsible driver, I turn into Jodi Rae Ingstad – The self-proclaimed Christian Blonde on the Prairie with extreme road rage. My nostrils stretch themselves open to feel as big as the hole in the Grand Canyon. I gnash my teeth and suddenly that thing that happens inside of me happens. Some superheroes just put on a cape. I grow tail feathers and turn in to “Super Mother-henny!” I place my hands tightly on the steering wheel and do everything I can to do that thing my mom and grandma always used to do to me. The finger shake. Not the middle finger like you’d suspect most road-ragers to extend. I am a Christian road-rager and believe there is mighty power in the shaking of the pointer finger. I don’t care what your age is. Seeing a woman shake her pointer finger at you while wearing a face of disgust is enough to make the Pope ask for forgiveness I reckon.
My mind is a thing too powerful to waste and so I turn my rage into something just the opposite. I use my mind to find the prize of serenity for another day. I can choose to be enraged or I can choose to be engaged with the people, friends, co-workers and animals around me. I choose engaged. I slow my anger and instead find joy in the fact I have the ability to travel in a modern vehicle and not in a covered wagon. I acknowledge that not all people woke up to drive and that too changes my mind from angry, enraged and reactive to grateful, aware and forgiving.
This day I am remembering my first day of school each year. It is a game I play with myself for a variety of reasons. My memory is so vivid about the olden days that I remember them extra hard so that when my golden days arrive I can die with the memories. I remember the names of all my teachers from every class in every school from every grade. I remember mundane things about them. I remember how Mrs. Mark in the sixth grade used to make me use a contraption that helped me hold my pencil correctly. I remember Mr. Thompson at Eastwood Elementary shared candy bars with us. Mrs. Fischer in Kindred told me I was “cute but not funny.” I remember the smell of Mrs. Brekke’s perfume and I remember how Mrs. Hanson, my kindergarten teacher from Argusville, N.D., was sweeter than the blood in my diabetic body during a high glucose reading.
What I don’t remember is being afraid to go to school. I don’t remember my parents wondering if the bus driver would drive us drunk and I don’t remember having to go through a metal detector to be searched for weapons. I don’t remember my friends dropping out and I don’t remember there being a pair of Nike tennis shoes that cost more than 300 dollars that everyone had to have. I don’t remember boys wearing their pants down to the bottom of their hips with their boxers showing and I don’t remember girls leaving the house dressed like 8-year-old hookers. And now I go back to remembering.
I do remember teachers had paddles and could use them. I remember them using them and I remember them being effective. Respect was taught back then with accountability built in to the sting of the paddle. It wasn’t abuse then. It was school law and it was what made us know the difference between right and wrong.
Today I have all you parents on my mind as you send your kids back to school. Times are changing – it’s true. Inasmuch, not everything has to change. There was something very right and good about the fear of the paddle. It was even nurturing in a way. Hold on to the old ways as best you can. And don’t forget to send along an apple for the teacher! They deserve at least that. Have fun kids! Don’t’ leave the house without pulling your pants up and buying a belt. Girls dress with class and not showing your (Oh thank goodness I’m not in a rhyming mood!) Happy 2011-2012 school year kiddos!
Ingstad lives on the prairie near Valley City and writes this column for the Times-Record.