Sunday, June 29, 2014

Growth Rate

Until you were well into your first year of high school, you showed few signs of achieving  any approximation of your present day height.  You can still recall your height being listed on your early drivers' licenses as 5'7" and 5' 8', causing you to watch your father, who was 6'1" with that teen mixture of impatience and envy.

If your father had been less than six feet in height say a 5'8' or 5'9', you'd have been more of a mind to live with your height as it was.  Or so you like to believe.  In your impatience and envy, another issue, stature, paced about, nascent and eager.  

You got your height.  First 6'1, then that final growth spurt where, almost as an afterthought, another two inches appeared.  During those times of growth, you imagined door jambs with penciled markings, chronicles of your progress.  At one point, well into your high school years, your mother told you she'd have done such a thing. 

 Such rituals as tracking growth progress were common to her generation and yours. At one point, she showed you a baby book with your name on it, including birth statistics, one or two sepia photographs, and yes, a few indications that you'd been measured as an infant.  "But,"  she said, "we moved too many times to think of a door-jamb record."  An old sadness visited her whenever she spoke about moving.  "If we'd been able to stay at the house in Santa Monica--"

There was never a proper way to finish that sentence.  "The house in Santa Monica" was the house you were brought home to after making your first appearance at the then Santa Monica Hospital, Fifteenth and Wilshire.  The unspoken what if in your mother's sentence was a defining moment in the lives of all your family, mother, father, sister, and you.  

Had your growth been charted on a door jamb, it would have been there, 714 Fourteenth Street. You'd likely have gone to Santa Monica High School.  You'd likely have achieved a height of 6'3", but many other factors could only be represented by that same punctuation mark your mother used when being unable to finish her if.

You did not in any conscious way conflate physical height with stature until one afternoon, years after the fact, when you sat in your car, parked across the street from that house, trying to measure what you had become against some of the many moves that brought you back to this place for a few moments of reflection before heading to the freeway that would take you miles to the south, where the campus of the University of Southern California awaited you as a workplace.

Stature has to do with the way an individual sees himself or herself; it has to do with the way the individual sees the world, then attempts to do things with some kind of agenda.

Although you missed out on the record of your growth, pencilled on a door jamb, you have indeed set forth on another iconic metric of your culture and, perhaps of cultures beyond your own, the journey.

The physical journeys you've taken during your years on this planet are much akin to those missing height markers, interesting, formative, but by no means a complete and accurate depiction of the inner journeys taken to discover you.

By any account, your childhood play of replicating the Lewis and Clark expedition was a more apt comparison.  You've set forth to find the equivalent of a Northwest Passage that was not there, wondering for the longest time What am I? as opposed to the more relevant Who.

So far as comforts go, it has been a considerable one to have made that discovery:  The what does not exist in any practical measure, only a gray abstraction.  Thanks to an individual you consider one of your primary mentors, the Lewis and Clark expedition has taken on considerable change.  

You've been charged by this mentor to identify with The Mars Explorer, sending your sensors out into the darkness of Space, sending back photos, soil samples, and such other responses of which you are able.  The difference between your explorer and the Mars Explorer is considerable.  Your territory is the darkness between people, the use of your senses to grasp the emotions and the responses they cause.

Junior high school and much of high school were not pleasant times for you.  One memory from those days remains with you because of the way it exploded in your darkness with a spectacular burst of light.  

A teacher tasked you with a paper on the Aurora Borealis, which you undertook with great zeal.  The paper was returned with any number of markings and the notation:  "Too many problems to merit more than A-.  The good parts were the feelings.  The descriptions were so-so."  You most remember her for this:  "The key to this kind of writing is to evoke.  The key to this kind of writing is the vocabulary of the heart."

Sometimes, when you look for ways to impart information to students, you think of her.  Better yet, her presence has been evoked.

Meanwhile, your journey continues.


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