Thursday, February 28, 2013

Elephants and other things I don't want to forget

I use Microsoft's Bing Desktop which is a search box that sits almost hidden on my desktop and has the added benefit of changing the background on my desktop everyday. Today is the image above of the Elephants with the description "A herd of elephants in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya".

For a few days, I've been getting little hints that it is time to go visit the zoo. Of course, as you become aware of something, you are more likely to notice things that trigger that idea. So I can easily say that it isn't synchronicity but just coincidence though I personally prefer the more magical belief.

I have always had a strong attraction to elephants. My father bought a beautiful table while working overseas when I was very young. The two feet were actually carved into elephants with ivory tusks and toenails and other inlay. It quickly became "my table" and now has the middle of one side of it worn from the black lacquer down to the wood from propping my feet up on it all my life while watching television (no matter how many times my mother hollered at me to "Get your feet off the coffee table!)". It was just too convenient! And now that worn spot triggers fond memories of my mom (even when being yelled at).

The circus use to come to New Orleans and set up near Schweggman's supermarket. After the first time going, I got to go to the tent and see the elephants up close. They would probe with their snouts and I remember thinking I could sneak back in and free them all from the chains that bound thier feet even if I knew they wouldn't get very far.

That memory always reminds me of the time I got to ride an elephant. I don't know where it was or how old I was. I do remember being scared that I would hurt this big animal by stepping on it and grabbing its ear as I climbed up. There was no seat or reins, just a bareback ride as its keeper lead it along. I was on top of the world!

Later in life, I got the nickname "Elephant Ears" because my ears stuck out. At the time, I didn't know that had partially been caused at birth when the doctor had to use the wrong forceps and crushed my skull. It took a long time to discover this because my mom held the belief you didn't speak of bad events and draw that energy down on you but I was persistent and eventually got the story from her.

So when folks teased me and called me "Elephant Ears", it was bittersweet. I knew they meant it in a cruel way and many nights I fell asleep with my ears pressed tightly against my pillows in hopes that they would grow closer to my head. At the same time, I thought of my elephants that I loved so much and bit by bit, became less annoyed and more special by their taunts. Once I heard "An elephant never forgets!", it was just one more feather in my cap.

As I grew up, my mother and I talked about how they had decided not to have surgery in hopes that my head would grow out properly. I told her that as science improved, it was probably better to wait and that I could get them fixed if I wanted to now but I was okay with who I was. If I had known at the time that I was the second son and my brother Freddie had died of meningitis, I would have understood my mom's fear of losing me and the thought of any surgery on my head.

So here I sit, looking at a beautiful picture of elephants in Africa, remembering many interesting things about them, hoping to visit them someday in their own natural habitat, and thinking I really am overdue for a visit to the zoo.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Year of the Snake

I ate at a local Chinese buffet today to celebrate the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). The server was one that waited on me often and she was particularily upbeat and talkative. I suspect it was because of it being the Spring Festival. She said she was very happy to serve me today (something she didn't usually say) so I told her "Thank you and Happy New Year.".

She actually gasped and stared for a moment. Then a broad smile filled her face and she asked "Chinese New Year?". "Yes." I responded.

"Thank you and Happy Chinese New Year!". She almost bounced away. I was quite glad a friend had reminded me of the date yesterday, which I may have missed otherwise. It was such a warm feeling to know why she was so upbeat and to acknowledge why and add to her positive energy.

I left a big tip with another waiter that came to the table. He obviously noticed (and I was worried she might not get the tip). He told me he would be back with my change. I told him to keep it and he responded by saying he would let my server know I had left it (as if he had read my mind).

We are quite a melting pot in this country and it's fun to learn and share in other cultures. I was blessed to travel a few times when I was young (and the world seemed kinder), so I have been exposed to a variety of different cultures. My parents taught me to respect differences even if we didn't agree with them. I have since learned how enlightening this can be.

I don't always do as well in following the principles I set for myself. It seems so much easier to follow the grooves in a road even when you don't want to. The mind is the same way. Paths laid down over time are hard to change but it is worth the extra effort. If simply for the reward of one more smile.