The ugly duckling historian

It’s an old joke that I have bad handwriting. First through fourth grade weren’t fun for me. At all.


Fortunately, I had a fifth grade teacher, Mr. Martindale, who was offbeat — kind of a nerdy guy. People made fun of him, but I liked him; we were kindred spirits, in a way. He noticed when I worked hard on what didn’t come naturally and also helped me see where I did excel.


Mr. Martindale liked to give out awards. The above are only a few I found stored among my childhood belongings when my mom emptied a portion of her attic into my house.

He made a huge difference in my life.

Yet, now, after twelve years of reading handwritten exams myself, I can tell you my handwriting isn’t as bad as I thought. Ugly, yes. Worse than my peers from the 1980’s, probably. Yet when I compare it to what I’ve had to decipher, I’m fine with my pen and pencil skills. I’ll still never offer to write anyone’s wedding invitations or sketch up a coffee shop’s chalkboard sign but I can get by.


Fifth grade did many things for me, but it didn’t cure me of looking for outside validation and awards. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I hadn’t been scared to fail in my teens and twenties.

Yet regret’s a silly thing if it means aiming to undo what’s already happened. Because we can’t.

Or if we could, we’d risk unleashing these guys in our neighborhoods.

Fathers Day (Doctor Who).jpg
Reapers, from Episode 8, Doctor Who, courtesy of Wikipedia

Nobody wants that.

When Wise and I were in Washington, DC last month, he said he wondered what it would be like to work at the American History Museum. I looked at the Smithsonian job listings on a whim later – and lo and behold, I was qualified for and interested in several openings for jobs I could actually turn into a  career. Really qualified, not I can frame and stretch this bit of experience qualified. And really interested, not we could use the income so I will convince myself interested.

Oh well. The window of time when I could pick up and move to DC has closed.

Before we left for DC, in late May and June, I had whole weeks in Memphis where I thought my life is exactly what I want right now, when I could appreciate our beautiful bluffs and good art instead of lamenting the flat streets and lack of an ocean.

Blue kid

I wouldn’t want to change anything, anyway. Any other choices would mean no running into the blue kid above and he always makes me laugh.

Or worse, I might not have the chance to ask Wise why he took fifty-two pictures of the pedals on our paddle boat in the capital Tidal Basin. One for every week of the year? An obsession with complete rotations? Wise paddle

I most certainly would not want to erase the day Hoot made this happen:

Jonah and Giraffe

I have to believe that I’m simply a bit behind some externally imposed curve when it comes to settling on my calling and that when it does come, it’ll be awesome and well worth the wait.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s