How Blue Birds and a Mouse Got Me to Stop Sucking My Thumb

I sucked my thumb until I was seven years old.

Child development experts say it’s normal for a child to suck a thumb or a finger for the first one to two years. After that, it may indicate a problem. For me, it indicated a problem. I was an insecure little kid, and thumb-sucking was my Linus blanket.

I only did it in bed at night, and it was always my left thumb. My parents did everything they could think of to make me stop: bandages, gloves, bitter liquids, thumb splints, begging–everything. Nothing could make me give up my addiction.

Until the summer of my seventh year.

That year I became a Blue Bird (baby Campfire Girl), as did most of my seven-year-old school girl friends in little Seminole, Oklahoma. One of the joys of Blue Birding was you got to go to a summer camp with other Blue Birds and older Camp Fire Girls. (Yes, back then Campfire was just for girls.)

So off we went to summer camp, excited about what for many of us was our first time away from our parents. We felt so grown up.

We were assigned group cabins to sleep in, and my friends and I were all in the same cabin (neat!), along with a few other Blue Birds we didn’t know.

The first night we all got in our beds, and a counselor turned out the lights and wished us goodnight. In the darkness, I started to suck my thumb, as usual. Sucking my thumb made a little squeaking noise. I’d done it so long I was oblivious to it.

After a few minutes, a voice called out in the darkness:

“I think there’s a mouse in here. Hear that squeaking?”

Mortified, I jerked my thumb out of my mouth. The squeaking stopped instantly. My cabin mates listened a few moments in the dark silence and concluded the mouse or whatever was squeaking must have left.

I was safe. I had not been revealed as a thumb sucker. And after that, I never sucked my thumb again. Never wanted to. What my parents had tried for five years to stop, the fear of ridicule by my peers did in one night.

Sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment to break a bad habit.

Former thumb suckers, I’d like to know how you quit. Or did you?

Peace and Joy,

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

I Wish I Had . . .

. . . Studied Latin.

I have a long list of things in my past I wish I had done differently, and my depression has to do with a lot of them. When I was depressed, I limited my options.

I thought I’d share some of those I Wish I Hads from time to time. Here’s the first one.

In high school and college, I studied French and Spanish. I didn’t study Latin.

French and Spanish are based on Latin. So is English. English was my best love and my strong suit in high school, and I knew I would be an English major in college.

It is said that to understand and use the English language well you really need to know Latin. But I never studied it. I thought I could get by without it. For an English major, how stupid is that?

If you study English language or literature, sciences, the law, medicine, government, et al (Latin for and others), you will be awash in Latin words and phrases.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, all educated English speakers would have known Latin. Our founding fathers were among them. Our national motto, e pluribus unum, (out of many, one) is Latin.

Latin is supposed to be a “dead” language now, but it thoroughly permeates our English language. (Permeate, from the Latin permeare, to pass through.)

We use a lot of Latin words in every day English. Here Are Just A Few:

Agenda, bona fide, consensus, de facto, et cetera, facsimile, habeas corpus, incommunicado, media, non compos mentis, onus, per capita, quantum, renegade, semper fidelis, terra firma, ultra, versus.

Pretty good for a dead language, huh?

I read more non-fiction than fiction these days (biography, history, medicine, politics, science), and I frequently find myself having to stop and look up a Latin word or phrase I’m unfamiliar with. I’m reading the redacted Mueller report now, and it’s full of academic and legal Latin.

So yes, I kick myself regularly now that I didn’t learn Latin.

Peace and joy, and I hope your “I wish I hads” are few.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

Good Words: A Blog Mini-Feature

From time to time I run across funny, profound, or inspiring sayings I like, and some of them I’ll share as “Good Words” on my blog.

I’m not the least bit religious, but I really like the powerful image of  this one:

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.

George Iles

 

My Earliest Memory: A Night in Tornado Alley

My earliest memory is from six days after my third birthday.

I am with other people in a dark cellar, lit only by a small window high on one wall. Someone is holding me up to the window, where I see nothing but dim grey light outside with shadowy objects blowing by.

It is just a brief image. For years I didn’t know if it was a real memory, or a dream.

I know now it is a real memory.

It was April 9, 1947, in Woodward, Oklahoma. I was with my mother, father, and older sister in the cellar of our house, and we were in the middle of an F5 tornado. My sister has told me it happened like this:

If you have lived in Oklahoma, you know that the wind blows all the time there. All the time. It’s a plains state. On this April evening my father noticed the wind had suddenly stopped. He went outside, assessed the still air, and looked up at a strange, greenish sky. Oklahoma is located in the middle of what is known as Tornado Alley. If you grow up in Oklahoma, as my father did, you come to know what that sudden lack of wind and greenish-colored sky means. He came in the house saying we should go down to the cellar.

So down into the cellar we went. Shortly after, at 8:42 pm, the F5 tornado struck Woodward without warning.

Back then there were no tornado warning systems as there are today. So we did not know that this tornado was part of a series of five or six tornadoes spawned by a super cell in the Texas Panhandle. They made a track up through the Texas Panhandle, into northwest Oklahoma, and ended in southeast Kansas, leaving a deadly path of destruction. The strongest and deadliest of these tornadoes was the F5 that struck Woodward, population 5,500.

To this day the 1947 Woodward tornado is still the deadliest in Oklahoma history, and the sixth deadliest in U.S. history.  It was reportedly two miles wide when it hit Woodward. It reduced much of the town to rubble, killed over 80 people, and injured 1,000 more. All in a town of 5,500.

Our family survived uninjured and our house undamaged. We were just outside the tornado’s path.

That night, after the tornado passed, and for the next several days afterward my father went out with other uninjured survivors to look for the dead and help the injured. As he worked he took black and white photos of the devastated town.

The map and photos at the bottom of this post are from the 1947 Woodward tornado, but they are not my father’s pictures. His photos were a treasured part of our family history, but after our mother’s death my sister and I could not find them in the family albums at the house. We don’t know what happened to them.  Our mother was also a native Oklahoman with a strong sense of state history, and we think she may have donated them to the Oklahoma Historical Society. A generous gift from her to the society’s museum, but a disappointment for her daughters.

Since then I’ve found photos of the 1947 Woodward tornado online, and the pictures here are a sample of them. They are mementos of my first memory and a major event in my life’s history, but it is not the same as having the ones from our father’s camera.

Peace and Joy,

Marjorie Beck

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Path of the April 9 1947 Tornadoes, starting in northeastern Texas and ending in southwestern Kansas.

When You Know You’re Old

I am 74 years old, and I have always looked younger than my age. I inherited my mother’s good genes for youthful appearance.

I was carded in a bar on my 30th birthday.

When I turned 40 one of my colleagues at work said, “You can’t be 40! You don’t even have any wrinkles.”

Into my 50s and 60s I was constantly told I didn’t look my age.

I hit 70 and everything changed.

I woke up one morning and found I had crepe paper skin and a turkey neck.

I hardly have any eyebrows anymore. I have bags under my eyes. Granny hairs regularly sprout on my chin.

I listen to classic country music and classic rock and say of current music, “I don’t know how those kids can listen to that shit.”

It’s been ages since anyone asked me if I qualified for the senior discount.

I can’t fake it anymore. I’m old. And the world is recognizing it.

I live in Eugene, Oregon, and Eugene lives for protest rallies. I attended one recently and as I left I was accosted by two men who saw by an item I was wearing that my political views differed radically from theirs. Two young native American women who were passing stopped and told the men firmly to “stop harassing that elderly woman.”

Wow. An elderly woman. It’s finally arrived.

Now I just have to learn to live with it and “age gracefully.” YUCK. I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you like this post, follow me and you’ll get notices when I post new ones.

Peace and Joy,

Marjorie Beck

 

 

 

What’s With The Blog Title?

It’s time for a little something on depression. There are lots of ways to be depressed, beside the one most people think of, feeling sad and hopeless and crying all the time. Feeling sad and hopeless and crying all the time is what drove me to see my doctor in 1997, when I got my depression diagnosis.

Sadness was only one of many ways depression had me in its grip, and to explain more about that I need to start with my blog title, Wish I Could Have Been There.

It comes from the song I Wish I Could Have Been There, by John Anderson, one of my favorite country singers. The song tells of a man reflecting on all the times his occupation (country singer on the road maybe?) pulls him away from his wife and children and all the important family events he has missed.

The song came to have profound meaning for me after my depression diagnosis. It explained something about my high school reunions that always left me baffled and disturbed.

I attended University High School in Norman, Oklahoma, a small laboratory school for the College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. I was one of seventeen in the graduating class of 1962.

At one time many universities operated these laboratory schools; they were designed to provide students a solid, classical education from teachers who challenged their students to embrace learning in an atmosphere of experimentation and innovation.

Most of the schools have closed by now, which I think is a shame. Most of my classmates to this day would testify we received a superior education at our University High School. Almost of us had at least one teacher there we absolutely revered.

Being a laboratory school for the university, UHS attracted a lot of professors’ kids, and the nerd quotient was pretty high. I was not a nerd.

My family moved to Norman in 1957 from Seminole, Oklahoma, when my mother accepted an invitation to teach first grade at University School. I entered the 8th grade at the high school and quickly made friends.

By the next year I was a cheerleader, and head cheerleader my senior year. In my junior year I was homecoming queen. All through high school I ran with the really cool kids. I was very popular.

But later when I went to class reunions, other classmates would regale me with remembered stories involving me. I had no memory of many of these incidents. I laughed with my old friends as if I too remembered the events, but inside I was gobsmacked at how their memories could be so different from mine.

After I was diagnosed with depression and learned more about the illness, I finally understood why.

Depression runs in both sides of my family. After my diagnosis in 1997 at the age of 53, I recognized I had had depression most of my life. It started manifesting subtly in my childhood and grew more obvious, to me at least, as I got older.

I had lots of friends, I was popular, I had a successful career, yet often I was miserable inside. I would sometimes look forward to activities with friends and then find within an hour or so I was bored or stressed and dying to get away. Sometimes I would get irritable and lose my temper.

So one of the things about depression is that when you’re in it and feeling it, you are focusing on yourself and your own misery, not on the people around you. Like a narcissist, except the self-absorption is not about how great you think you are, but about how inadequate you feel.

Thus I may have been there physically with my high school classmates, yet far, far away emotionally. This emotional absence was true for me much of my life. It cost me friendships I didn’t have the energy to maintain. It cost me my marriage. It cost me the love of my life.

Thus the title of my blog, Wish I Could Have Been There. When I got diagnosed with depression and started taking medication, the person inside me who had been struggling to come out all those years came out. At 57 years old, I was finally the me I had always wanted to be.

I wish every day now I had been that me all along. There is so much in my life I  missed. So many bad choices and lost opportunities. So much regret.

I know, you’re not supposed to dwell on your regrets. It’s toxic.

But when you know how different your life would have been if you had escaped that depression cocoon so much earlier, it’s hard not to have regrets. So far, I haven’t figured out how to get past them.

There’s  more to tell about how depression has shaped my life, but that’s for future posts.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you like this post, follow me and you’ll get notices when I post new ones.

Peace and Joy,

Marjorie Beck