Happily obsolete

I grew up the old fashioned way. In a time of electronic evolution and new technologies, my parents decided to bring me up the way they were, with no added help, no frivolous objects, thus repressing the urge to follow the latest trends and rendering me less of a victim of increasingly elaborate marketing ploys.

I learned to use a vinyl record player when my classmates were walking around with discmans, I had a twelve channel programmable television set and a cassette player when my contemporaries had a hundred channels, cable and the latest hi-fi systems. I also played with elaborate (and definitely non-aerodynamic) paper airplanes and retro electric trains when gameboys and Nintendos were all the rage. You’d probably assume that made me mad, and you’re right, it did…at first.

As years went by, the more I had access to what was considered obsolete and the less I dabbled with modernism, the more I learned to count on myself for entertainment and everyday tasks like reheating dishes in a skillet or oven pan and finding the right technique to not end up with half of my food stuck at the bottom of what could easily become a dish-washing nightmare. And yes, I never had microwave popcorn with all the fake butter and ten thousand useless ingredients; instead, I went through bags of burnt kernels to perfect the corn popping technique, and guess what? I still can’t make a decent batch. Didn’t expect this turn of events, huh? I learned to cook whole meals from scratch while my friends were playing video games but I still can’t make a half decent bowl of popcorn at 27, how ridiculous. Well, it doesn’t end there. Since I moved from my parents’ house, I have had access to microwaves much more often – home still being a preserved haven of health and lowkey technology – and have used them a few times to reheat something in a hurry or make the occasional mug cake. However, popcorn remained a pan-only treat until about a week ago when my roommate popped some in a paper bag. The thought having pleased me, I decided today to try my hand at the matter and followed the relatively childish procedure: put popcorn in bag, close bag, program microwave and…pop! Except she forgot to tell me one thing: how many minutes do they take in there? I was alone and just pressed on 4, a reasonable time in the microwave world, I thought. One thing is for sure, guessing is a bad idea. A burning smell started exuding from the machine around three minutes in, but being in unfamiliar territory, I assumed it was a figment of my imagination, for how could anything burn in a microwave? Famous last words. I opened the door when the timer rang, unfortunate tune of my popcorn’s death sentence: inside the brown paper bag was a clump of black chunks formerly known as popped corn kernels. I’ll refrain from describing the dark cloud that also came out of my unfriendly helper.

Ultimately, I suppose my old-fashioned upbringing had nothing to do with my popcorn-making abilities, I believe I just don’t carry the kernel-popping gene (or the paper plane designing one if we’re being precise). Nevertheless, I think I’ll maintain the tradition of making my future children just as clueless about society’s downward spiral into the technological abyss, teaching them the value of time and what wonders a little elbow grease and creativity can produce. My train and record player patiently await their little hands…or mine until then.

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The teacher’s kid

When I reached the age of 3 and went to school for the very first time, I discovered something brutal: I was the teacher’s daughter. Not only that, but I was the teacher’s daughter in 3 different schools! My mother taught in one school and my father in another and he owned his own language institute in which they both taught. I can safely say my parents were literally and factually a school.

My first day at school marked my first day as the 50/50 kid, the child whose appreciation was based on how beloved or despised my father was since my mum taught elsewhere. I was a 3 year old big eyed ball of everything happy when I came face to face with “that guy” on my bus – a 15 year old mess who detested my father and made it impossible for me to get the clean slate I deserved; I was henceforth marked. As days went by, the bittersweet reality became clearer, the random squeals of ecstasy my appearance provoked in some and the flagrant eye rolls and grunts I obviously inspired in others, it was all due to my father being a teacher, the perks and the suffering combined. I later received the same treatment from my mother’s students, but by then I had grown accustomed to the whole charade, numbed to the itchy label I seemingly wore on my forehead – watch out, I’m “the teacher’s kid”, the miniature daytime boogeyman.

It took me my whole pre-teens and a few years into the delightful years of puberty and awkward self-awareness before I truly understood how valuable and just how extraordinary my life actually was, being blessed with two teachers for parents, livng in my own private classroom. I was amazingly lucky, there is no better word to describe it. Under one roof stood gathered walking and talking human dictionaries and encyclopedias, two beautiful souls who had dedicated their lives to the sole purpose of guiding young minds (not to mention adult ones at my father’s institute) down the road of knowledge and haphazardly through life in many cases. I was taught to value people, give as much as I could and stand by all those who needed help in any way possible, to share what I knew, and something I will never cease to thank them for, to understand the value of hard work and hard-earned remuneration.

Our time on Earth is limited and precious, and while we’re here roaming its uneven roads, we might as well make our stay profitable to others, be the gardeners of minds around us, give more than we receive in the hope that someday we too will run into someone we once helped and rejoice in their resulting successes just like my parents so often do. With their minds, they could’ve been anything they wanted, but they chose to teach, to suffer through long parent-teacher conferences, long invigilation hours, endless correction nights, cancelled weekends and their kids blaming them for their lack of energy, too young to fully understand the worth of each day they spent bent over piles of papers, watering the roses of tomorrow.

I was 3 when I understood my parents were teachers, 3 when I started learning that those who teach can in fact do, those who teach know enough to understand that without what teachers do, CEOs wouldn’t be able to type their names, presidents wouldn’t be able to read their speeches and doctors wouldn’t know the difference between a vein and a nerve. I was only 3 when I understood that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like my parents: a giver.