Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My People Be Big Boned

In all the years I taught school a lot of things kids have told me have made me laugh, or made me think, or sometimes made me cry.  I can't really remember all the things I've been told that parents would cringe if they knew had been spilled to me.  But there was one moment and one revelation that I can identify with.  A young, slightly plump girl was in tears one day as she came into the classroom during my planning period wanting to talk.  Seems she had been to the doctor for a physical and he had informed her that her weight was going to be a real problem for her.  And while I could see that she was leaning toward her familial tendencies to be a "big" girl, this doctor had really scared her.  We had a long talk about it and I like to think I helped her get over her fears and maybe think about some small changes.  Not that the doctor was really wrong, I just think he really shook her up.    But as she explained to me quite sincerely, "My people be big-boned, Ms. Riggan," I knew exactly what she meant.

Now that's reasoning I can understand.  You see, my people be big boned too.  Yes, as you can see by the picture below, I come from some really "healthy" stock. 
That's my mother's family at a gathering in the 1920s.  Mother wasn't in the picture but that's her daddy (my "big Pa") third from the left on the back row and flanked by two of his big (as in age and size) sisters.  The sister sitting second from the left never grew to the size of her other siblings (guess it does skip some of the family). 
Forty years later, when I was just entering my teens, I could lay both my hands across one of my grandfather's hands.  He and his sisters were all over 6 feet tall and held commanding presence when they entered the room.  These attributes were helpful in Pa's profession as a lawman as he seldom felt the need to carry a weapon.  His size, those large, strong hands, and that deep voice would usually suffice in bringing a prisoner into line.  I remember Aunt Catherine, Pa's sister, catching me eating strawberries in her garden.  The sound of her voice calling my name gave me a sense of kinship with the lawbreakers Pa brought in to the jail in Gallatin. 
Whenever I'm up in front of a classroom of teenagers who have little interest in what I'm saying I try to channel that inner Big Pa that I know is somewhere inside my much shorter than 6 foot frame and take command.  Haven't had to pull a weapon yet so maybe there is something there. 
So far I have managed to keep the big boned heredity somewhat under control by staying busy, getting as much exercise as possible and eating my veggies every day.  But everyday is a challenge because, as you now understand, My People Be Big Boned.

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