Then I met Maria. She was a social studies teacher; she was very interested in international relations; she traveled the world. She was intelligent, and dark and pretty in a Southern European sort of way. Her parents were from Croatia.

She was also a fierce feminist. Neither Kip nor I were over the top sexist pigs, but occasionally we would make piggy joking remarks, and Maria would take us severely to task.

However, Maria also had a charming, wry, self-effacing sense of humor. She told me once about going to the Portland Zoo with her mother and father. The lions were “getting it on,” at the time. She was telling me about how conservative her Croation mother was.

“My mother turned to my father and me in bewilderment, and asked what the lions were doing,” she said.

I didn’t ask if she knew how she was conceived with a mother in such denial about the facts of life.

In high school, Maria told me, the quarterback of the football team had chosen her to be his girl friend. To me, Maria was attractive enough that I could imagine that happening, but Maria indicated she was surprised and shocked when football star woo’ed her. In any case, apparently, after that experience, Maria had decided she was oppressed by dominant males.

At the time I met her, she had a gentleman friend, named John. John was very intelligent. He was a professor of Internation Relations at a university in the Portland area. He was distinguished. He specialized in the Middle East. When Henry Kissenger was Secretary of State, he hired John to be Assistant Undersecretary of Something.

Maria told me, “Every so often, John has an ‘audience’ with Secretary Kissenger. He hates these meetings.”

She told me, “I picked John for my boyfriend because he is not very demanding. In fact, I picked him because he just doesn’t give me any shit.”

Maria also made it clear she was not big on the institution of marriage, as it was mostly a way for men to oppress women. Maria’s sister was married, and she made it clear she did not particularly think much of that relationship. She indicated she had no intentions of marrying John or anyone, ever.

The next summer, Maria and John went on a trip around the world. They were serious about not being “tourists.” Every so often, I would get a postcard or a photograph from a country such as India. They rode as regular passengers with ordinary Indian citizens  on trains with the people across India. They did not want to be seen as “ugly Americans” by riding in separate compartments with the other American tourists.

A few days before Maria was due to return from her trip around the world I accidentally encountered (new to me) somebody who knew Maria. During the conversation, she said, “Maria and John will be arriving at the PDX (Portland airport) in a few days. I am going to meet her there. I am looking forward to meeting her husband.”

I said, “Maria is not married.”

She said, “Yes, she is. She got married on the trip.”

Flabbergasted, I said, “Maria told me that she intended never to get married.”

She replied, “I don’t know about that. All I know is that Maria and John got married on the trip.”

When Maria actually got back, she wore no wedding ring and said not a word to me or Kip about being married for a least a month or more. I think we never said to her, “I thought you were never going to get married.” Somehow she “merged” the fact that she was married into our working relationship without every making it apparent that her views on marriage had changed.

Eventually, she and John had a couple of children, and bought and remodeled a large house in Portland. I believe my daughter and her partner and I visited them once at their house and met their children.

While I haven’t kept in touch with her, I have looked her up on the web a couple of times. She has become president for a while of an organization promoting international relations in the Portland area. Apparently, she and John are still married. (Happily, I hope.)

To this day, I remain bemused and rather entranced by the memory of the woman who was such a strong feminist that she kept it a secret when she got married.

I don’t know how much longer I will keep posting on my blog. However, there are stories I always meant to tell and while I am still alive I will maunder on about them to my three or four readers…David, Trucie-woo, Waxing Strange, perhaps Pete, though I don’t know if he is still reading. Mommy? Not many left. Before I get to the first feminist, I will talk about the science fiction high school class we taught.

First, I met with the vice-principal, My Ylvisaker. Later, I learned that Kip referred to him (with genial good humor) as “Mr. Evilseeker.”

I had been laid off from my job as a high school teacher in Seattle. Angry, I vowed to leave the state and we drove to Oregon. I visited Hood River. Fortunately, they didn’t hire me. It is a cold and dangerous place.

Then I visited Tigard, a suburb of Portland. Mr. Ylvisaker told me their alternative education program, Alternative Futures, needed a replacement teacher. It was clear that he had no idea where he would find someone strange enough to fit in with the other two teachers, Kip and Maria. It only took me a few minutes to communicate that I was weird enough.

He said, “We also have a “mass media” program. Can you teach that?’

I didn’t tell him that my wife and I had given up on television, and thought it healthier to raise a child with books instead of the tube. I silently vowed to buy a television set.

Then I met with Kip, an engineer from Tacoma who became a high school math teacher. In those days, engineers made blueprints by hand and pen rather than with CAD programs on computers. Kip not only printed well, like an architect, but Maria and I agreed that when Kip  wrote on the chalkboard, he displayed “happy writing.” Just a few lines on the board cheered up the entire classroom. We never figured out how he did it.

Kip introduced me to his cats. I learned that he and Maria and a journalism teacher had created a program called “Alternative Futures” to prepare young people for a changing future. I later learned that Kip had fallen in love with one of his students, Karen. It is a big no no for high school teachers to diddle their students. I knew one teacher who was fired for kissing a student. However, as one of my fellow male teachers said to me once in the teacher’s room, “When I look at those fresh young female bodies, I am terribly tempted. However, when those fresh young female bodies open their mouths and speak to me, all temptation disappears.”

The year I arrived, Karen was gone. She had traveled to Ecuador to learn Spanish and do good deeds. Everyone knew that Kip and Karen were in love, but they didn’t cross the lines. When I met Karen, later, she was cute, but no bodacious. In fact, I realized, Kip had fallen in love with her mind, though I am sure he liked her body well enough. She started college; Kip got her father’s permmission to “court her;” eventually they married. I think I attended the wedding. I lost all touch with Kip.

To be continued…

Hen Pecked

November 14, 2010

 

Most people who keep chickens around here only keep hens. There are a lot of problems with roosters. Not just the crowing in the middle of the night. They don’t live that long. They are vicious and jealous as well, When my wife and I affectionately pet our three hens (who are now all laying eggs), they all “assume the position”; that is, they squat down so the rooster (which they think we are) can mount them.

If we had a rooster and he observed us petting our chickens (which we do affectionately) he would be outraged and likely attack us in a fury. “That’s one of my harem you blankety-blank!” he would scream. An outraged rooster can do a lot of damage.

Lots of people around here keep chickens; most of us avoid having roosters. For various reasons lots of people hatch or purchase small chicks that turn out to be roosters. It’s hard to tell the difference. People also become very sentimental about their chickens; they don’t want to eat or cull the roosters.

I dropped off some stuff today at a local recycling center. They often have chickens wandering the center. Hmm…they all look kind of big; they look like roosters, I thought today.

I asked the manager, “Don’t you lose some of your chickens to predators, letting them wander around free like that? I have some chickens, but they are really safely caged in.”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Those these have been around for a year or so; that’s pretty good. My hens at home are well protected, but I don’t worry about the roosters here at the center. People hate to kill their roosters, so they just drop them off here at the recycling center.” Her shrug eloquently said, Where they have to survive on their own.

So remember when you drop off a nice couch at your local thrift center; it better be able to take care of itself when the coyote, raccoons, and eagles come around and start scratching the furniture

Candor ends at 6?

November 4, 2010

Recently, David Rochester wrote:

Last night I had occasion to attend a Celebration of Autumn party which was heavily attended by the under-six crowd. In watching and listening to these children, I was struck by their directness; they asked for what they wanted, and were clear about what (and whom) they did and didn’t like. And I thought about the fact that we spend most of our adolescent and adult lives trying to recapture the honesty and candor we naturally had as young children. Most of us, I think, never do get back to that place of being really honest with ourselves and others. Yes, some of that is good boundaries, but a lot of it is fear-based. And I wonder what we’re afraid of … usually the consequence of honesty would be to part us from people and circumstances dragging us down and making us inauthentic.

Random Granddaughter is now six years old. We received an invitation from her private school, which she attends with children of a famous SW billionaire (for whom I would probably have to eliminate you with extreme prejudice if I named), to observe her in first grade during “Grandparents and Grandfriends Day.”

Does she really want Grandma and Grandpa to observe her? Her Mommies say, “Yes, she does.”

Or is she just saying that because she thinks she is supposed to? Well, probably she really wants us to attend. But by second grade she may just be acting polite.

Right now she throws a hissy fit when asked to eat something she does not want to eat, and she is direct in saying what she likes and doesn’t like. But pretty soon she will learn to eat what her parents and grandparents say she should eat, and pretty soon she will learn to hide the honesty and candor she had at two, three, four, and five years of age. Comes with the territory, I’m afraid.

I’ve put away most of what I’ve written about her in my blog with instructions for it to be given to her when she is fifteen years of age. If she hasn’t already run away from home by then or started a revolution somewhere or living in a commune in San Francisco or Washington, D.C. or Chicago.By then she will deny she ever knew me…or the child I described in her infancy and toddleracy.