They took things too seriously. They were probably the kind of people who refused the marijuana cigarette on the deck of the Mayflower because marijuana, as everyone knows, is a gateway drug. My ancestors came over to America when New Amsterdam was New Amsterdam, and settled down as farmers in New Rochelle, New York. In the late 1700s, when the colonial shit started to hit the fan, a lot of their neighbors heard about soldiers and Rush Limbaugh types printing up pamphlets, and they responded by shrugging their shoulders like, Whatever, and boiling the beef for dinner as usual. My people,on the other hand, were thinking, This isn’t right. This is our king they’re talking about! And they quietly packed up their things and moved to Canada.
This certainly doesn’t make them unAmerican. What is more American than earnestness flowing slightly out of proportion? That, in fact, is exactly how Europeans identify us in airports. Americans look stressed out about doing the right thing, while Europeans are just really, really relieved to have gone sixty years without starting another embarrassing World War.
And maybe this is why I spend so much time concerned about what I am doing, and if it is the right thing, and what it all means. Without which, I guess, I wouldn’t have much to write about. Unfortunately, it also means that I worry that buying a car with an automatic transmission will affect my whole being. It may mean I have given up on youth and sensuality. Maybe my ancestors are the reason I am consumed by questions about how to structure the English curriculum. Not so consumed that I’m grading essays right now. Small tasks are not as fun as deep, terrible consideration of the big picture.
The healthy thing, I think, is to take things very seriously, and then go have dinner and wine and get a good night’s sleep. To examine when it’s time to examine, and then to stare dumbly for a while, to shrug and remind yourself that if you haven’t started a World War, you’re probably not such a bad person.
I spend the school year examining and grabbing at various tactics and wrestling a thousand tasks to the ground. Now it’s time to ease up. When all the leaves are out, fully grown, I know it’s time to start opening the palms. The students will squirm away. Too much examining digs your crow’s feet prematurely deep. Summer isn’t serious, and it’s almost here.
*Note: this writing reflects nothing on actual, true-life relatives, and their actual “issues,” as I solely lay claim to said “issues,” and they are wonderful people who have generously tolerated both my serious and my flippant remarks for 33 years. All genealogical information is based on my sloppy and cursory clicking through Ancestry.com. These ancestors certainly did not come over on the Mayflower– they came from Amsterdam some time later. It is true that many of us remain in Canada, while I am descended from those who returned to America, either because they realized how awesome the colonies turned out to be, or (more likely) because they were not laid back enough to make it as Canadians.