This American Life In Color

This American Life In Color
 
Most people experience drastic changes in their lives as they grow older.  Some people are afraid of those changes and try to keep their lives the same until they die. They continue living in the same place with the same people and do the same things forever. I always wanted to see the whole world and to travel as much as possible.  I grew up on a small town farm in Southern Indiana, near a small town of Fort Branch.  I lived like a free little native, running barefoot in the fields and trees, surrounded by mountains.  Flordia was another world.  At 18, I moved to Miami to go to school.  The woods and corn fields were replaced with palm trees and buildings.  I put on new shoes and set out to learn about the new world that I would son move into. I got some HUGE unplanned surprises.  My old life was so much less complicated than my new life. The new rules of life of monopoly were different in Miami from those in the Midwest Soutern Indiana town I came from.  In Indiana, I trusted everyone.  There were no locks on our doors and strangers were welcomed without question.  Because the winters were usually harsh and long in Indiana and the roads were often closed, my parents used to rent a small apartment in town for us.  Whoever needed or wanted to stay in town just stayed there.  I didn’t like to miss school, so I often stayed there when the roads were closed.    Sometimes, when I was 12 or 13, I would stay in town for a week or more at a time by myself.  Mom always left some money, so I just climbed up and got some money and went to Subway Sandwiches or McDonalds.  No one seemed surprised to see a little girl by herself.  The people at the store helped me find what I wanted.  The waitresses at the Pastime always gave me a big dessert, and the little old woman down the hall used to tap on my door  to invite me over for cookies and TV.  My parents never worried about me, and I never even thought about being afraid.   The world I knew was safe, and the people in it were kind.  If I needed help, I could ask almost anyone. I soon learned that I was not to trust anyone.  Every door was locked. Nobody trusted strangers. When I first went downtown in Miami, I smiled and said “hello” to everyone.  People often answered me, but they did it with very strange looks on their faces.  Some of the other students decided I needed protection because I didn’t have enough brains to survive on my own in the city.  They told me not to look at people and not to talk to strangers.  They showed me how to hold my purse so that it would be hard to steal.  After awhile, I noticed that people really weren’t the same.  They didn’t look at me when they walked down the street;  they looked through me.  When I tried to tell a young woman on the bus how beautiful her baby was, she glared at me, tightened her arms around her baby, and turned away.  I realized I needed to be afraid of strangers, too, to protect myself....or to at least be more aware of my surroundings compared to living in Indiana.
The sounds were different in Indiana from those in Miami, South Florida.  In my hometown, the sounds were those typical of a farm:  the barking of dogs, the mooing of cattle, the whistling of wind in the trees.  The sounds of the night were always my favorite.  At sundown, the coyotes started to howl, and the sound echoed eerily from the surrounding forests and hills. The frogs answered with a cacophony of croaks from the creek at the bottom of the hill, and the crickets added to the noise.   The cattle and the dog joined in, too.   If I listened quietly, I could hear the wind rustling  around the corner of the house. The air was alive with sound, but the sounds were those of nature.  I could listen or not listen because the sounds weren’t intrusive.  Even in town, the very rare sound of a siren only meant that the deputy was on his way home to supper and was signaling his wife to set the table. In Florida, my ears were always assaulted by the loud city sounds of the honking of cars,yelling of people, and wailing of sirens from ambulances, police cars, etc.  My first night in the city was TERRIBLE!  I did not sleep all night.  My dorm room was across the street from The Jackson Memorial Hospital, right in the middle of Miami.  The E.R. at the Jackson Memorial hospital faced my college dorm.  All night long, I could hear the ambulances and the sirens as they raced to the emergency entrance.  I could hear the ambulance attendants talking to the nurses.  I could hear the cars going by insanely, braking and accelerating constantly with the change of the traffic light on the corner.  The people 
seemed totally different in Indiana from those in Miami, FL. In Indiana, people were pretty much the same race not much diversity.  My Daddy was a farmer and drove a school bus to make ends meet. He wore blue overalls over black work pants and a dark green shirt—everyday.  He had one suit in his entire life.  He wore it to weddings and funerals.  He also had one tie and one white shirt.  My Mom & Aunts made their own clothes and mine, too, until I got old enough to make my own, so everything had a homemade, ffloral-print slook. People worked, went to church, cooked homemade meals usually, and lived very similar lives.  However, in Miami there were people in uniforms, in suits, in old rags...just all kinds of different people. There was also a blind man playing a violin, with a can for donations in front of him.  Then, there were the men with makeup . . .not that there’s anything wrong with that!.  However, I’d never seen a man wear cosmetics; I didn’t even know there were men who might want to wear makeup.   I was completely confused as to why both men and women, wearing hot pants, would be standing around on street corners in the Miami weather.  It seemed like a strange fashion statement to make.  Added to that, there were Asians, and African Americans, American Indians, Indians from India, Europeans, Greeks, and Russians, Mexicans, Canadians, Costa Ricans, Brazilians, Cubans, Germans, British, and every other race & culture too.  The people were confusing, fascinating,  amazing, and truly wonderful! I have been off of the farm for a long time now, and I can appreciate and value the differences between Idaho and San Francisco.  Indiana was a spectacular place to grow up.  I could run the hills feeling safe and in tune with nature.  In other words, it was the idyllic life.  However, it was also a a very sheltered life. Miami opened my eyes and my mind to so many possibilities. I certainly became more adjusted and accepting of difference.   Over time, I learned to feel as much at home in the chaos of the city as I did in the peace of the USA. I learned the hard way that life is life but life is good regardless!

Valerie Harper

Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets. – Yogi Berra


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