Tammy is good at noticing things in trees.
On Monday, she took me to Cuthbert Holmes Park. There, I saw my first great horned owl in the wild. My favorite thing about great horned owls is how they look perpetually offended: this one was no exception. Tammy also pointed out the camouflaged hummingbird nests in the trees along the trails. Upon dropping me off at my place, she remarked that my landlords had an apple tree–which I knew about–and a plum tree, which I hadn’t noticed. And a pear tree that had somehow eluded me.
To be fair, even if she hadn’t pointed out the pear tree, I would’ve noticed it today as I collected two pears off the ground when I went outside to re-pot one of my houseplants. While lining the container with potting soil, I realized that doing so directly underneath said pear tree probably wasn’t wise. Isaac Newton had beat me to the notion of gravity more than 300 years ago. Had a pear bonked me on the head, the discovery would have been one of my landlords to make: me unconscious under their pear tree.
The landlords’ daughter is in town. She was the one who introduced me to her parents via email, but it’s her partner who I know as I worked with him in Montréal. For this reason, we haven’t hung out, but that didn’t stop her from sharing on WhatsApp what her parents had to say about me. They inadvertently complimented my cycling prowess when they mentioned to her how fast I go up the hill on our street on my e-bike.
I do not have an e-bike.
Not to worry, the rest of this post isn’t going to be about how amazing I am.
My current thing is reminding people my age how antiquated and irrelevant we’ve become! I’m sure they find this endearing!
Rumours had it my colleague Andrew was planning on performing the Napoleon Dynamite dance at the upcoming staff party. I asked him today if we could consider Napoleon Dynamite a classic movie as many of our colleagues were likely toddlers when it came out.
Andrew was like:
Fellow crusty Millennial, Will, disagreed. “Breakfast Club is a classic. Napoleon Dynamite? That’s a cult film.”
Nonetheless, I wasn’t planning on gracing the staff party with my dusty presence, but if Andrew performs the Napoleon Dynamite dance? Heck yes!
Because I am a smidgen older, if I were to re-enact any dance routine from a movie, it would be the Sparkle Motion choreography from the 2001 cult film Donnie Darko.
Do not doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion!
While my film and tv references may be dated, I feel old enough to share some life lessons. Much like my pop culture references, this particular one dates back to the 90s.
Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story: Being the Worst in the Quest to be the Best.
For the first three years of elementary school, I was the only deaf kid in my class. I don’t remember feeling isolated as popular activities at that age included going down slides, playing freeze tag, throwing sand at each other, and such. Apparently kids at that age do a lot of nonsensical yelling, so my deafness was not a hindrance.
In the first and second grades, my best friend at school was Tiffany, whose trademark was the side ponytail. She mastered the manual alphabet, and we’d spend recesses conversing almost entirely by fingerspelling. I also had deaf schoolmates to hang out with outside of class time.
Then, just before entering third grade, a boarding school for the deaf in Vancouver, Jericho Hill, shut down. Many Jericho Hill students transferred to a primary and a secondary school in Burnaby. A few trickled deep into the suburbs where I lived, into Langley’s Uplands Elementary.
That year, I was no longer the only deaf student in my class. There was also Erin, whom I loved immediately. Forget Tiffany: Erin was my new best friend! Everyone loved Erin too, which was also a problem because everyone preferred Erin to me. She was prettier, had nicer clothing, and was more athletic. My eight-year-old mind determined that these were the reasons why people liked her best.
I was a better artist, though. Even Erin recognized that and regularly praised my sketching skills. Somehow, when the other students wanted help with their drawings, they would ask Erin, not me.
Do they not have eyes, I wondered. I’m the one who understands that the ears sit at nose-level, not eye-level when drawing portraits!
One day in PE class, the teacher hosted tryouts for the annual district track and field meet. We were to run through the forest that bordered the field, and the top students to emerge from the woods would get to go to the meet. Erin, Alana (another deaf friend who was also athletically superior), and I ran the first half of this course together before Alana tripped and fell. When Erin noticed that Alana fell, she turned around to make sure Alana was okay.
Me? I saw this as an opportunity to prove that I was a faster runner than Erin, and therefore better. Sure enough, I made it on the track and field team. I quickly learned after practicing outside of school hours that I didn’t care for running. I recall doing alright at the meet. What it did not do was make me more popular. What was Erin’s secret?
It wasn’t until years later when I realized why people liked Erin so much: Erin was the kind of person who made others feel good about themselves. If she had more friends because she was athletic, it was due to having a social network extending outside of school. Not because she was a gifted swimmer or softball player. I foolishly thought that by asserting my superiority, people would come to admire me.
I remember telling Erin, after one of the girls in our class asked her to help with a drawing, “You shouldn’t be doing her homework.” I said this not because I cared that this classmate was dumping her work on Erin but because I was jealous about not getting chosen.
That was the kind of shithead I was. We should all try to uplift the people we call friends. We should focus on being our best rather than being better than a friend’s best. Otherwise, we don’t deserve to call ourselves a friend. And when we inevitably fuck up, it’s best to own up to our mistakes and apologize. That’s the secret!
In case anyone cares: I’m not even that good at drawing anymore. However, I like to think I’m now kinder and more compassionate than my 90s self.
Good god, if I get any wiser, I’ll need a rocking chair.