Friday, December 21, 2007

On the Radio

A funny little memory hit me the other night when I was driving home from the train station.

My family moved from Pennsylvania to New York State when I was around seven years old. Losing my friends and changing schools was pretty traumatic. I don't think I or my parents realized just how much at the time. (I know. We're off to a hilarious start with this post.)

Anyway, during one of the early trips back to Pennsylvania to visit my grandparents, I remember listening to a radio playing in the kitchen. It was Sunday morning, and everyone was busy doing their own thing. My grandmother picked the station. It was some local-yokel AM broadcast. A little music. A little talk. Lots of back woods high society.

Some kind of talk show caught my attention. I really don't remember why, but I decided right there that I was going to call in. God knows why. I was eight at the time, and I had never done anything like that before. I didn't even like that kind of spotlight.

I scribbled down the number and sneaked upstairs to make the call. My mother called for me, but I pretended not to hear. After a couple of tries, I got through to the DJ. He ate it up. I guess little kid voices didn't often call the show. I ended saying something dreadful about moving and how much it blew. After hanging up, I just went on with my business.

A few minutes later, probably after commercials, the radio aired my recorded piece. Everyone downstairs was clueless, except my grandmother, who perked up for a moment, then said, "is that Jason???" A mad rush to find me ensued. I admitted to making the call, then everyone hurried back into the kitchen to hear the rest of my interview. They only caught the very end. After all the good stuff.

When they asked me why I made the call, I shrugged. I'm still not sure why I did it. I guess I simply had the urge to have my feelings be heard.

Fast forward to now. Our daughter in Kindergarten told us about a shy, new girl who just moved from South Africa (which actually turned out to be South DAKOTA). I told her about how it felt to be the new kid and asked her to do me a personal favor. I asked her to be the first one to make an effort to be the new girl's friend.

I'm happy to say that this girl was just at our daughter's birthday party. She's still very shy, but she enjoyed herself. Her parents seemed to be happy about that. Maybe, many years from now, she'll remember our daughter and how she made it easier. I know I still remember those who did that for me.


SzélsőFa said...

What a brave kid you were, Jason! The story amused me :)
And even if your daughter and the new girl will not stay close friends, both will remember the action of acceptance.
Sometimes it's the parent's job to make the kid make those first moves.

Jaye Wells said...

What a great story! It's so nice when we can pass along the lessons we learned the hard way to our kids. Happy birthday to your daughter, btw!

Bev said...

you're teaching your daughter good things ... if only every one would just reach out to someone around them that needs a friend the world would be a whole lot better place!

good on you

Sarah Hina said...

So that's where your blogging stems from! Different medium, maybe, but you still wanted your voice to be heard. (And too bad nobody recorded Radio Free Jason. That would be fun to listen to.) ;)

Moving is so tough on a kid. I moved to Ohio when I was eight, and encountered a lot of chilly receptions. I'm so glad you encouraged your daughter to extend a hand. A little bit of warmth goes a long way.

I hope she had a great birthday! :)

Chris Eldin said...

That is such a touching story. I think grown-ups underestimate how deeply sensitive children are to their surroundings and to change.

Your phone call must've been adorable (if not sad also). Did anyone ever get a copy of it? It would be something (as a mom) I would've wanted.

We are also getting ready to move. I will blog about this after the holidays. We have 10 and 7 year old boys. Even though it's not far, it will be a drastic change (city to country, different schools, people, etc). I am trying to ease them into this. But even though this change will be better for the whole family, they don't want to go. My ten-year old was crying last night. Both will be the new kids in town.

It is so nice what you encouraged your daughter to do. And yes, that little girl will remember it.

Hope you and Aine and your family have a great holiday!

Aine said...

Yes, her effort will probably be remembered, I just hope our daughter remembers how a good deed feels, not just the satisfaction of doing what Dad asked. Kindness comes more naturally to our eldest daughter. The younger one usually has other motivations, hidden agendas!

Sarah and Church Lady, I'd give anything to hear a recording of that voice!! LOL! Our kids are so fortunate that they'll have videos of themselves growing up.

Anonymous said...

Good story and kudos to you.

jenn said...

Those people really stand out in my mind too- My family moved around a lot when I was a kid, and I can still see the faces of every person that reached out to me as the new kid. Thanks for paying it forward, Jason. And thanks to your daughter too.

virtual nexus said...

I saw the image of your families reaction to your call so clearly; it caught my sense of humour - but that's not to denigrate how tricky it is to be the new kid on the block especially when you're from a different part of the country (or the world).

There's so much social mobility in the London commuter belt that it may be a little easier for a child to settle in here among other newcomers. Guess any change brings positive as well as negative aspects to all family members.

Anonymous said...

what a perfect story to share at this time of year!
South Africa, South Dakota, hey they're both forever away right? ;)
Kids are smart and can teach us alot if we pause to pay-attention, and then reflect.
I spent a week with my grand daughters over Thanksgiving week. We hadn't seen them in two years. I'd forgotten just how smart 7 year olds are.
You know that little girl will remember you all and your friendliness for the rest of her life.
Do they call that "Pay it forward?"

Kim said...

I just like you more and more, Jason. Next time you're in Oklahoma, you have to come over. I'll make you sweet tea and mountain oysters. It'll be grand.

{I won't make you eat the mountain oysters. ;)}

Kim said...

I am holding you responsible for the tune that is now stuck in my head: "On the Radio" by Donna Summer.

Not pleasant. I can only remember the first two lines and the chorus.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

That was a lovely story! And it is amazing how much our life repeats in our children - but we hope for all the best for them and that they do it all better than we did.

Merry Christmas to you and Aine and your children! Have a blessed holiday season!


Abhinav said...

It has been a year and a half since I moved from the lap of nature to a concrete jungle. So I totally identify with this feeling... Strange how we can't make do without either our wings or (in this case) our roots.

I also remember reading a particularly poignant narration of visiting one's erstwhile home that appeared in The Brooklyn Reader - Sunday Dinner In Brooklyn by Anatole Broyard. In fact, I love all the articles that appeared in that book - a celebration par excellence.

Anyway, I have already digressed too much. Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, so true. It's such a challenge for parents to teach through experience without triggering that defensive, knee-jerk reaction in kids to blow us off. And yeah, I was an, um, interesting kid. ;)

Jaye, our daughter made out like a bandit. Not only did she have her true party, but there were three different dinners and a trip to the movies. I guess everyone tries to make up for a birthday too close to Christmas. Mine is on the wrong side of the equation. Just after everything is over. Everyone, including me, is too tired to care. ;)

Bev, so true. If everyone made at least one effort, the effects would be huge.

Sarah, Radio Free Jason! That's awesome. All of this drive to reach out probably stems from being an only child and not really connecting with parents on top of it. Sorry to hear about your own move. That's a tough time. Just as we're learning to form social bonds, they get broken.

Church Lady, I've thought a lot about your situation over the last day. On the one hand, I've sorry for raising a sensitive subject. On the other, maybe it's good to hear the perspective of a (grown up) child. They will survive it, and they will probably be the stronger for it. My advice would be to be especially sensitive to how they are feeling--not to soothe them, but to validate them. Encourage them to keep some contact with their old friends. Also, they may isolate to deal with their emotions. Once in a while you may want to meet them there just to hear what they have to say. You can't solve the situation, but having someone who is listening to them will help. Usually parents just push them to make new friends and say how easy it is. But the feelings aren't easy. A sense of understanding will fight negative reaction from setting in (like being cautious/suspicious socially).

Anonymous said...

StrugglingWriter, thanks. :)

Jenn, seeing their, that rings true for me too. I can't remember all their names, but I remember their faces.

Julie, it was pretty hilarious! It was like someone tossed a bucket of mice into the middle of crowd. **It would be interesting to do a study of cultural differences in this area. I'm sure reactions to new people differ all over the world.

Rem, I like the idea of paying it forward. It shows respect for people-at-large. Have a great time with your family this season! BTW, we both burst out laughing when we learned it was South Dakota. We originally asked all kinds of questions about language and accent and that sort of thing. No wonder she looked at us like we were nuts.

Kaycie, someday we'd love to make a cross country trip. There would be so much inspiration for photography and writing. An afternoon kicking back and meeting folks would be grand! (The song I can't get out of my head is the one from Regina Spektor.)

Ello, I might be insane, but I like giving them "adult" views of things sometimes. I think kids are capable of great things. We don't have to assume that the understanding is beyond their years.

Abhinav, as melancholy as it is, I like holding on to those roots, even if it means feeling a bit disconnected from where you are at the moment.

To All who are Celebrating: Merry Christmas to you and your families!!

iamnasra said...

So touching story ..Thanks for sharing ....Merry X-Mas

Vesper said...

Such nice and lovely stories, Jason, both of them! You're teaching good things to your children.

I would like to wish you and Aine and all of your loved ones, a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year! :-)

virtual nexus said...

Just to wish you and yours every happiness over Christmas and the New Year.

...I've moved to different locations over the years, and feel there are differences according to the expectations of an area, and the degree of parochiality.

Terri said...

This is a great story to share at this time of year :-)
I remember moving cities when I was 7, too, after my father died and I must say making friends wasn't easy, especially since I was fairly shy to start with. I'm sure your daughter's part will have made a lasting impression.

mermaid said...

Sometimes, talking to a stranger seems more natural than talking to someone we know. We can expose ourselves to them without the risk of future judgment. Life blossoms when that stranger becomes our friend.

Thank you for encouraging your daughter to be brave.

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks Jason, Your kind words mean a lot.

This move is something we are truly blessed to be able to do. It is a house on a beautiful piece of land in a rural area, but still close enough to the amenities of city life. You can stand in the driveway and hear nature. that's it. Just beautiful birds and breezes and squirrels walking across leaves. I almost can't believe we're doing it. We've been on the fence for a long time, and stuck in the mindset of 'we can afford it this year, but what about next year?' and that mindset has frozen us.
So, we still are talking about 'we might have to move back down, so don't get used to this house' but we are giving it a shot. Otherwise, we'll just stay stagnant.
The kids have no idea how lucky we are. We can't tell them either. They will have to realize this on their own. I'm hoping they will see the difference between driving by grafitti-covered dumpsters to get home versus driving by tree-lined roads and horse farms on the way to home.

Sorry to ramble. But I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts.