Betty Duffy

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making Connections in the Modern World, or not.

When I get bored or lonely, I usually flip on the computer and do a little angling for human interaction, digital though it may be. I can usually drop a comment here or there and feel as though I've corresponded in some sense with another grown-up, even though there's lag between responses. Sometimes, I must admit, I lag for a day or two if the computer doesn't appeal to me for one reason or another.

This morning it didn't appeal to me. Either there wasn't enough activity in the hive when I visited, or what activity there was didn't grab me, and besides I needed to know that life was taking place somewhere, real life, where people walk around outdoors doing useful or mutually interactive things.

I took the kids for a walk. They were on bikes, I pushed the stroller, and we went to a nearby park, where we met a toddler named Dexter, who, bless his heart, couldn't help summoning reference to the cable-TV serial killer of the same name. Hopefully the show will be long forgotten by the time he comes of age. My toddler was exhibiting predatory behaviors of his own. He wanted to touch Dexter for some reason, and so little Dexter of the impish smile and reddish hair, ran away pursued by Paulito, blond and bearish, arms outstretched.

A woman whom Dexter called "Mamaw" arrived shortly from her car, bearing a pack of Kools and a Big Gulp. She wore short shorts and flip-flops, was exceptionally thin, and might have been younger than I, if not for the wrinkles around her lips and eyes. She gave me a bad mommy look for letting my toddler harass her charge, even though it was soft harassment, interspersed with giggles and chase.

She took Dexter over to look at the dam on the river, freeing me to acknowledge that my other children were hogging the disk swings and making them tick-tock at an outrageously high and fast pace. I noticed as well, a Mexican dad, sitting in the shade, urging his son to ask for his turn on the swings.

When I called my kids off, they got back on their bikes and started zooming through the middle of the play area, which I feared would be another calamity when some small child wandered into their path, so I put the kibosh on that too, and we all had done with the park within about ten minutes of our arrival.

We began the walk home, cutting through the fairgrounds, as noon heat was upon us, and it looked like some kind of chariot race was going on. Everywhere pencil legged racehorses thumped the ground with their hooves, and Amish men in their periwinkle shirts and suspenders brushed their sweat away.

On the fence line Mennonite girls with size twelve bottoms (I know one when I see one), propped bare feet up on the lowest fence rail and leaned in towards the track, drinking gatorade, pulling loose wisps of hair off their temples and into clip-clasp barrettes. Their dresses were bright shades of fuchsia and tangerine.

Several yards to their left stood a girl from a different sect apparently, as she wore a long-sleeved brown dress, tied with a wraparound sash, no buttons, heavy black tights and shoes, and a black bonnet. She eyed the brightly dressed girls, as they hiked their hemlines up an inch or two complaining of the heat.

And several yards to their right, I stood in a t-shirt and black lycra exer-shorts (Gross), eyeing all the girls with envy.

Several months ago I picked up a blue calico pilgrim dress at Goodwill that somebody probably wore for reenactments, although, hand-sewn with pin-tucks on the bodice and hem, and puffed sleeves, I suppose it might have been someone's real dress. I've always loved costumes, dressing up, ball gowns, granny girdles and swimsuits.

A friend was telling me recently about a show on TLC called, "My Strange Addiction" in which a person couldn't leave the house without his head-to-toe costume. More than once, I've seen someone walking around town in a face mask, or a giant foam cowboy hat and thought they were probably mentally ill, or something. But in truth, if I thought I could get away with it, I wouldn't mind dressing in costume most days. I'm going to wear that blue dress.

The kids were thirsty; I was too, so we started to head home. I'd done what I could for the day to make real-life connections in the modern world, and met with short-shorts Mamaw, long-skirted teenagers, and a Mexican dad. None of them wanted to be my friend, though I hadn't pushed too hard in any direction. But I do wonder where all the mothers have gone.

On a related note:


JMB said...

I had never seen any Amish/Mennonite before until we passed through Indiana last summer on our way to New Mexico. They were sitting under a tent eating at a rest stop on the highway. They looked so peaceful there, with all the cars and trucks buzzing by. Anyway, I hear you about where all the moms are. I remember bringing my kids out to CA to visit the in-laws and I would walk them in the neighborhood and the only people that I ever saw were the Mexicans landscapers. It was so sad. I'd then pack them all up and head over to Walmart for some good people watching.

Dawn Farias said...

We have recently moved from TX to WA (maybe temporary, maybe not?). I have been taking us to a homeschool park day once a week. There are several mothers there, unlike your trip to the park, but I still feel like I'm not making any connections. But, as you noted a little, it does take some effort on my part and I'm still too raw from having to leave my old friends to make any peppy effort for the new ones.

Also, I would love if we could all get away with dressing in the pretty patterned dresses from the fifties or so.

Erin said...

There is only one decent park in my hometown anymore and I believe the only reason it is so well-liked still is because it hosts several county events. The other parks, however, are places that seem more appropriate for people like short-shorts mamaw... a little creepy.

About Facebook... funny! I'm still a youngster, I guess, because I don't have kids and I started using FB when it first began. (I had recently starting college when FB was created -- originally created for college kids.) So I'm an original. *wink* Unfortunately, the "backyard" has changed so much since then that it's not nearly as much fun anymore. I, personally, like blogging MUCH better.

Margaret in Minnesota said...

I'll be your friend.

[Meant to sound like a faraway voice, coming from...oh...perhaps a spider in the rafters.]

This was a lovely post and I've been lurking too long. Hi, I'm Margaret, and my size-10 bottom is in a floral skirt right now.

Though tomorrow it may well be shorts.

Kimberlie said...

I wish I had a size 12 bottom. I'm working on it though.

The last few times I went to the park all the moms/babysitters/dads/grandparents were on their iPhones. In fact, one time last year Paul and I went out for a super-romantic dinner at an expensive place and the couple at the table across from us were both on their smart phones doing whatever but they sure weren't talking with each other. Sheesh! I have such a love/hate relationship with the "new media." I just wish that people would come out to play because I am lonely and tired of being my kids' "ship's activity director" ala Julie. (Lame Love Boat reference - yes I am THAT old.)

Katharine said...

Apparently, all the Moms are working at my OB clinic. They give me "the look" every visit when I'm waddling in with my 4 kids in tow. It's summer, I wonder where their kids are...

val said... moms at my park. Apparantly they're out there making more money than the dads, who are always there. Oh well, they're nicer anyway. No cliques to contend with. Sorry our new job didn't bring us back, we could have started a mean park mom clique together.

Sarah said...

Hi there. I saw you're from Indiana, and wanted to say, "me too." I'm also a Catholic yahoo. At least, I think I am. :)

I also heard a rumor that someone from our parish knows you. A certain Sean Gallagher?

Anyway, just thought I'd say hey. I enjoy reading your blog quite a bit.

Sarah said...

and I forgot, I have a blog too.

Anonymous said...

I need a friend, but I'm too shy. It takes too much energy.

I wish someone would just walk up to me and be friends with me instantly. LOL

There's lots of moms around here. And Amish. Maybe you could move to KY.

BettyDuffy said...

JMB, Indiana is crawling with Amish/Mennonite people. Lots near where we live. In fact, I think I'm almost a neighbor to this guy:
Yeah, Walmart is the closest I get to actual human interaction around here with people I don't already know. I can't figure out if it's the town or the times.

Dawn, I know that feeling, when you're making friends out of circumstance rather than having a true affinity for someone's personality. Seems like that happens more and more as we get older. Helps us grow in virtue, i guess.

Erin, This was definitely one of those parks, but actually, I think all the parks in the area are sort of blue collar, surrounded by bungalows, etc. I'm not sure where the mom's in the big houses go to play.

Margaret, I feel like I'm meeting a celebrity! Thanks for un-lurking.

Kimberlie, I used to watch the love boat too. And same, my husband often reports on the ubiquitous I-phone from his travels. All over the airports and restaurants, that's what people do now.

Val--Move back! PLEASE!

Sarah, I do know Sean. How funny. Small world.

Anon--yes, energy. I'm shy sometimes too in real life. I don't know why. Gotta put yourself out there.

TS said...

Is a twelve-size bottom too much or too little or just right?

BettyDuffy said...

Hmm...depends on your taste, and your stature.

I've had one for most of my life, so I consider it just right. There are those in this mixed-up crazy world who might classify it as large, however.

Hey Sarah at fumbling--email me if you want.

JMB said...

I read that story in the NY Post this morning! Wow! The other night my daughter and I watched this show about the Amish on the History Channel. It was about ex Amish people who go to live in outlier communities of former Amish. It was kind of sad. They seem so lost.

BettyDuffy said...

I do wonder if this guy really knew what he was doing. Seems like if you are not reading English newspapers, or getting online, and you're just some lonely (horny) Amish guy, you might not realize that sexting strangers gets you in big trouble. That said, he probably did know that soliciting a 13 year-old was a bad idea.

Owen said...

And off you went into the *real* world and came back with a mega connection for your online world. The better for us.

(still slogging, er, I mean blogging away myself)

TS said...

I didn't know even know butts had sizes!

Karen Edmisten said...

Hey, Betty, Indiana isn't that far from Nebraska ... but if you come visit, you have to bring that pilgrim dress.