Wednesday, June 22, 2011

""What are you looking at,?" as published in The Pickens County Progress on 6/16/2011

 “What are looking at?” It’s the prepositional faux pas that makes English teachers cringe. You don’t hear it much, because nobody notices anything anymore. We’re all too busy looking at our cell phones. That is – all us older folks. Little kids still notice things. Summer is here, and they know what to do. They live in the moment, and savor each one.

Grown-ups have to pay the bills, and work hard. Although most women will take the easy way out of one job: it’s too hot to fry your own chicken. That’s probably how, many years ago, my friends Jeff and Neal managed to ruin their summer in very short order. Their Mom had stepped inside the KFC to pick up a bucket of chicken, and left the two boys in her brand new Cadillac.

Jeff was lying down in the back seat, looking at the backs of his eyelids. Neal was up front, looking at the cigarette lighter. Jeff began to notice something smelling just awful. He sat up to look, and saw twenty-seven swirly burn holes peppering the front seat upholstery. I don’t know how they were punished, but it couldn’t have been pretty.

 Not long ago, I was invited to a baby’s first birthday. Relatives slipped folding money to the proud parents, while the guest of honor sat looking at the cowbell I’d brought. Then he began to lick it. We sang “Happy Birthday,” as he looked at his cake. His fingers touched the icing and he bellowed. Then he touched his lips and tasted sugar. His tongue knew what to do next.

A different cake was cut for the rest of us. A girl cousin seemed especially determined not to waste one little bit. Once her serving was gone, she spent five minutes luxuriously licking the plate clean. I have never seen anyone work so hard at something in my whole life! And I say; good for her mom, who didn’t try and stop it. (Childhood is fleeting enough).

This precious little girl got a second helping and did exactly the same thing, again. I was told she absolutely loves food. It was plainly true. So, I decided to call her “Plate Licker,” and the nickname has stuck.

She inspired me to change how I look at life. No more multi-tasking for me. Towels are folded neatly. Letters are written thoughtfully. And I eat just like Plate Licker, even in public. When someone stares, I’ll ask, “What are you looking at?” If she says, “Where I come from, we don’t end our sentences with prepositions,” then I’m quick to tack a noun on.

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