Yesterday Tabitha and I got into a conversation about childhood. Specifically her childhood, and how odd it has been.
I’m not sure what triggered this train of thought in her, but our conversation started with her remembering a time when she was over at a friend’s house a few years ago and suddenly felt like drawing something. “Where’s your paper and pens?” she asked. Her friend stared at her blankly while she repeated this request a few times. Eventually it occurred to Tabitha that perhaps not every household suffers from the sort of office-supply manifestations that are so common in a house full of academics.
There is, for example, a stack of scrap paper roughly two feet high by the side of my desk even as I type this, and everyone in the house knows that as long as they don’t mind writing on the other side of old lecture notes, assignments, or drafts of handouts, they can have as much of it as they want.
Don’t even get me started on the tide of pens that flows through the house, depositing random writing implements on – and occasionally under – every flat surface and within every hollow space. Come the apocalypse, we will take notes.
But in many ways she is right – she has had a rather odd childhood so far.
In an era where the average American reads less than four books a year and a disturbingly large percentage of Americans haven’t read a book since they fled high school in a panic, she has grown up in a house where the most numerically common items are probably books and has read a surprising percentage of them. She’s had a library card since she was two.
She has traveled and seen how people who are not Americans live their lives. It’s not like here. She can count as friends people who live halfway across the globe, and all over the country as well. She’s lived through a hurricane, an earthquake, and tornado season, all in the same year.
She had a frequent flier card by the time she turned one.
She has read Vonnegut. She knows who Mondrian was and what his paintings look like. She can quote Doctor Who.
There are times when I would like to think that all of this amounts to something better than the usual childhood but when you get down to it, really, it’s just different rather than better. Those are two independent variables. And that is perhaps the lesson after all.
Familiar and normal are not the same things. Different is interesting. Having a perspective on life that isn’t the same as the people around you is worthwhile simply for the opportunities it creates, even if it’s just the opportunity to draw something on a moment’s notice.
Welcome to our family. We do odd things for odd reasons. And we enjoy ourselves that way.