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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 7 July 2007 - 11:18pm.

Home Ground

Do you like to see the humor in life? Even if it gets a bit bizarre at times? Good. Let’s take a walk together, shall we? We can talk about many things along the way.

You may have grown up like I did, with a Dad and Mom and perhaps brothers and sisters in a nice little house in a middle class neighborhood. Or you could have been some rich snob that I never met. The choice is yours.

We were not wealthy, but as kids we never knew that. Education was important to us. Watching nature shows, reading books, studying encyclopedias, dictionaries and maps was common in our household. Because of this, I tend to know of the existence of certain countries that used to be popular to teach about in school. Our toys were often sticks, stones and piles of dirt or modeling clay on the kitchen table (the sticks, stones and piles of dirt weren’t actually on the kitchen table—that idea wasn’t conceived until the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind). There was always some new bug to study, patterns in the clouds or a new street to investigate while bike riding. We made our own fun—no MTV, no MP3 players or cell phones, game consoles or Internet.

Nor did we think we were poor. Dad and Mom decided they could give us things or they could give us experiences, but not both. They chose experiences. Wise choice. Each new school year’s Show-and-Tell would allow the O’Dell kids to share all the amazing travels that they had participated in over the summer. These were quite often things the other children never got to enjoy, except vicariously through us. I never knew how fortunate we were at the time. I do now.

To date, I have been in about 45 states and 2 foreign countries—one to the north and one to the south. There is some quite beautiful and amazing landscape out there. And on these trips we goofed off and joked with one another (between the ‘When are we gonna get there’s’ and the ‘I have to pees’).

My parents are some of the best in the world. We never doubted for an instant that we were loved. And the toughest reprimands were never the ones where they dragged out the willow switch and applied it to our hides. (I do remember a few of those, though, when I tried to outrun my Mom in a circle while she held my arm with one hand and used the switch with the other—like some deranged amusement park ride). The most effective and torturous ones were the “talking to”. It never failed to elicit tears of agony when I heard the words, “I’m very disappointed in you.” It wasn’t until much later that I learned to be disappointed in me at times, too. Thanks, Mom. No…really. I learned a lot.

Home life would get rather bizarre at times, though. We never saw that so clearly as through the eyes of others who might come into our home to visit. You see, in my family we teased—a lot! You not only had to be able to take it, but you were expected to dish it out, too. Not unkind prodding and poking. Just good-natured ribbings. The thing is that we became so good at it (even my sister) that we did it with straight faces and others found it hard to distinguish it from genuine upset with one another. We were actually surprised once when a rather timid and innocent friend (what attracted him to our family is still a mystery) was about to excuse himself from our home because he thought we were having a ‘family disagreement.’ The truth is that were having no such thing. I guess that incident opened my eyes to the peculiarities of different families.

You actually develop your own little world within a family, different from those of other families, although some similarities and commonalities will overlap, of course. This same friend once surprised us all when at a dinner with our family he asked if someone would “please pass the condoms.” He meant condiments. The difference was gently explained to him and he did live it down eventually. We knew not to torture unnecessarily. (Is there ever ‘necessary torturing?’) In our family, it was like a self-imposed restraining order, though. I seem to recall that one or two of us actually broke out in a cold sweat. We weren’t used to that sort of constraint in our family.

The same principle of unique individual family environment held true when I married and had a family of my own. My wife, Linda, and I not only incorporated the unusual behaviors of our own upbringings, but also forged ahead with new and more wonderful strange-ness and bizarre-ities (if that is a word—or even if it isn’t, actually). You may see some of yourself in this journey through the mind of this slightly warped modern man (the degree of which might be determined by which of my associates you may be speaking with at the time, although the basic fact itself is never questioned). If you do, then take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone and that we may one day become the best of friends and share the same ward in our treatments and recoveries. Until then, enjoy.

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