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The Out Crowd Champion: "How I Came to be Me"

An amateur comedienne, Liz loves humor and practical jokes, including funny songs. All hail April 1st & Oct. 31st! ;-)

Why I wrote this Article

Since a fellow author has issued a challenge to other authors to write about their passion and what makes them who they are, I've penned this article. Is it a rant? Not quite--except for perhaps in the last paragraph--it's just a back story of who and why I am and how I got here.

Challenge accepted. Get in, sit down, buckle up and hang on: here we go!

Part I: Yankee Roots

It all began back in 1948 when I was born to a pair of parents who hailed from New England. Yankee roots were mine, even though a California-born gal. I was raised with an eclectic mix of attitudes, opinions and values, in part due to the fact that my father was 25 years older than my mother. Talk about your May-December relationships! However, it was true love, and a first marriage for both. They were blissfully happy for 31 years until my father passed away just shy of his 79th birthday.

Since they were both of Yankee stock, my father having hailed from New Hampshire of French-Canadian ancestry, and my mother from Massachussetts, I got an overdose of the 'use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without' ethic. Additionally, they both lived through the first 'Great Depression' era. (Yes, I said the first--as of this writing in 2010, we are currently in the second, whether or not the politicians want to admit it!)

Thus it was that I became loathe to throw anything away, lest it come in handy some day. Mind you, I'm not one of those awful "hoarders" seen in many of the current 'reality' TV shows; I just don't part easily with things once acquired. This runs to heirlooms and books; useful containers and clothing, but not to stacks of paper or scraps of string.

I don't go dumpster-diving or scavenge 'finds' from curbside leavings; nor do I frequent flea-markets as a shopper. (I remember finding in the hoardings of an elderly great-great aunt who passed on in her mid-80's, everything she'd ever owned or been given. Oy! There was even a box of scraps of string, carefully labeled, 'bits of string too small to save.' No, I'm nowhere near that bad!)

Part II: Mother's Influence

It was, however, with some great amusement that my mother and I carefully collected odd bits of junk such as empty thread spools, scraps of lace, sections of worn-out window curtains, odd buttons and plastic bottle caps. Our purpose in this madness? We were going to re-cycle these oddments into the most fantastic dollhouse ever created! The little caps would make the foundation of a fancy chandelier; the buttons would top a foot stool; naturally, the curtain and lace scraps would serve their original purpose at the windows of this mansion.

Time went on; the collection outgrew its plastic bag and was upgraded into a shoebox. Any time we found some small weird bit of something-or-other, and were on the verge of tossing it out, we'd chime in unison, "no, put it in the Dollhouse Box," as it had been titled. The bits and pieces continued to accumulate, and we knew we'd make the dollhouse that was the envy of the neighborhood.

Years went by, as years do. I grew older, moved on to high school--lost interest in a dollhouse of my own. Still, the Dollhouse Box occupied its place of honor in the bottom of the linen closet. We kept at it, looking now to the future...for surely, if the day came that I got married, and perhaps had girls of my own, they would love to have such a wonderful dollhouse as mom and I would make!

And it came to pass that I did indeed marry, and as luck would have it, both my children were girls. Aha! We were vindicated! The Dollhouse Box was redeemed! We began adding to it again. And the years went by, and my girls grew to the age of playing with dolls....but what happened? We could not find a suitably sturdy box in which to create our masterpiece; purchased houses were so cookie-cutter 'tacky' looking...and we lacked the construction skills to build from scratch. Hope did not die, though.

My daughters grew up, and married, and the first had boys. Oh, dear! No dollhouse for them! Still the years rolled on, and the time came that my mother followed my father to eternal rest. She did not live to see her great-granddaughters born to my other daughter. When I cleared out her house, there, in a sad and lonely corner sat the faithful Dollhouse Box, covered in dust.

As I realized that our dream and plan of all those years was never to be, I sat and bawled like a baby as I tossed the box and all its carefully gleaned contents into the trash. They were tears of regret; tears of mourning; tears of 'all that waste' of carefully salvaged items. (And yes, I still cry over waste.)

Part III: Dad's Influence

But that is just one side of me. The other side is my father. My can-do-anything-I-put-my-mind-to attitude. My angst if a pet project is taken away from me because "I can do it myself!" My ability to 'speak mechanic' and not get ripped off by auto-repair slimeballs. My dad would not even allow me to apply for a driver's license without at a minimum knowing how to change a tire and the oil, but I learned oh, so much more.

Yes, my dad may have been old enough to be my grandpa (and it really riled him when folks so mistook him), but he was way ahead of his time in many ways. One of those ways was in teaching his daughter her way around a workshop, car and toolbox. As an only child, I used to be chief 'grease monkey' as he tinkered on the car, and I even learned a little bit of turning things on a lathe.

At his side, I learned photographic composition and darkroom skills. From him, I gained my love of nature and the great outdoors, and learned advanced camping skills, and the love of going on hikes in the woods. (Although, my mother also enjoyed camping, let me not shortchange her.)

In my father's era, little girls were normally expected to stay home, learn to cook and sew and clean, and they were most expressly disallowed into "boys only" trades such as carpentry and auto mechanics. The attitudes prevailed even into my teen years--I recall being annoyed at being forced to take home economics in high school when I would much rather have taken auto shop...but I was not allowed, for no better reason than being a girl. A pox on them all!

My passion is for non-girly things. I was (and still am, in many ways) a tomboy of the first water. I loved to make elaborate mud constructions, climb trees or work on the car. I was never afraid to get my hands dirty. So, I was this weird mix, and the entire Dollhouse Box thing was a bit of a misfit for me. My preference for tomboyishness perhaps explains in full why the dollhouse never happened.

I hated dressing up; I resented that girls were not allowed, in my day, to wear pants to school, even in cold weather; I hated makeup and fussing with my hair--preferring (to this day) a short, no-fuss "pixie" cut--I've better things to do with my time than dealing with 'putting on my face' ( I already have one, thank you), and 'setting' my arrow-straight hair that never holds what it's told to do anyway. I tried for a while to learn this stuff, under the well-meaning "tutelage" of my so-called friends...but soon enough gave it up as an unworthy cause.

These were the activities that occupied my childhood, and given that among other things, my father refused to allow a TV in the house--on the grounds that the commercials insulted one's intelligence (turns out he was right!)--I grew up reading, listening to records of my parent's generation...taking piano lessons (big joke!). As a result, I was a miniature adult, knew words of many syllables well beyond my years, and music I have no right to know by virtue of my own age..such as World War I tunes.

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Strange Results

This double-whammy of Yankee values led to some odd things going on around the house.

All reasonably sized containers were deemed fit for second service in other areas. This applied to anything from mayonnaise jars to old tobacco tins, and there were plenty of both to be found.

My mother saved food containers for storing leftovers. She had a few glass bowls and covered jars with lids designed for the purpose, but not many. Mostly we'd use the saved commercial food jars.

In his workshop in the basement, my father similarly used second-hand containers for storing small parts. Little screws, nails, clips, washers, nuts and bolts, etc. would be stored in anything from mayonnaise and mustard jars to old tobacco tins that had been his father's. My dad didn't smoke, but apparently my paternal grandfather did; there were numerous tins from "plug tobacco" in my dad's shop.

The stage was set. My mother was an on-again-off-again seamstress. She could sew, and do so well, but she wasn't at it all the time. Nonetheless, you could go into her sewing basket and find a box of pins labeled, "do not put pins in this box!" Well, what the heck?

It turns out, she meant that these were her "good" sewing pins, and she didn't want them mixed with miscellaneous pins from purchased shirts or from the dry cleaner, as those were much coarser, and considered "crowbars" to seamstresses!

There were also 2-pound emptied coffee cans containing most anything but coffee. One had teabags inside! Way to confuse people, for sure. My dad had some such tins also in his workshop, for slightly bulkier items than screws and washers.

For his darkroom chemicals, dad had a few whiskey bottles, because some of the chemicals came dry, in a small can, and had to be mixed. Of course, the can would then not hold the quantity. So, dad opened up and flattened the cans, drilled the corners, and wired the cans around the bottles as labels!

In our house, everything got repurposed, often with comical results.

Part IV: The End Result

Welcome to the Out Crowd! I was a card-carrying member, with few friends in school; the butt of jokes and pranks pulled on me--even by my few so-called friends. "NOT FAIR!" Was my refrain.

I lived through it..and for it, am perhaps stronger today. I speak my mind, I am who I am, and I don't care a whit for fashion or "in" trends.

I am in it for comfort, first, last and in the middle. If it's a fashion faux-pas to wear socks with sandals...too bad! Anyone who does not like the way I look, is welcome to look the other way. Anyone who does not agree with me is welcome to their own opinion--we all have those--and know what they are worth--.and the similie that goes with!

And there you have it--my passions run deep, and my preferences were shaped long ago. I will champion the underdog, for I have been there. I will continue to rail against unfairness in all its disguises and venues, even in the government.

For I still cannot understand how we can on the one hand teach our children to "play fair," and then when that child (or adult) comes across an unfair situation and cries foul, slap them down with the callous explanation, "life isn't fair!" Sorry, that won't fly: I don't do double standards!

© 2010 Liz Elias


Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on January 08, 2021:

Thanks, Peggy; glad you enjoyed this piece of fluff. ;-)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 07, 2021:

Thanks for sharing some of your history of what shaped you. It sounds like you had a great upbringing that taught you some values important today.

Robert Sacchi on February 15, 2017:

I see, I was wondering if there was a career penalty for being on the outs.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on February 14, 2017:

Not really, because my chosen career was as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. I did not want to be away at work, and paying for childcare, thereby missing so many of the 'firsts' that my children would experience. I dabbled in the workplace when they were older, but I never tried for a career, so I don't see it as a hurt or loss. Now, I'm a writer here and for my own amusement as well.

Robert Sacchi on February 14, 2017:

Do you think being on the outs hurt you in getting and advancing job wise?

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on April 14, 2012:

Hello, mollymeadows,

I'm so glad you enjoyed this mini-bio. Thanks very much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Mary Strain from The Shire on April 14, 2012:

Loved this. So well written, too! I loved the box of string "too small to save." Sounds like my mother. Great hub!

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on April 12, 2012:

Thank you, moonlake. I'm pleased you enjoyed the article and personal history. I know what you mean about unfinished projects--my life seems to be littered with them--usually because I ran out of money on a project that was going to cost more than I bargained on.

moonlake from America on April 12, 2012:

Great read. I guess we all have projects we plan for but never get around to doing them. A doll house was also one of mine. Never got it done.

I really enjoyed reading about your life. Great Hub Voted Up.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on April 12, 2012:

Hello, Daughter of Maat,

Thank you very much. I'm pleased that you enjoyed this sneak peek into who I am.

Mel Flagg COA OSC from Rural Central Florida on April 12, 2012:

Great hub, it reminded me a little of my upbringing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, great read.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on July 01, 2010:

RisingBreeze: thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you're stopping by.

Mickey Dee: LOL!

Winsome: Thank you so much! I will check out your hub!

Winsome from Southern California by way of Texas on July 01, 2010:

Great narrative and family spirit DML, if you are an out-crowd, you might enjoy my hub Everyone is a Weed in Someone's Garden. Cheers =:)

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on June 29, 2010:

Thanks for stopping by and your comments, John B Badd. Much appreciated. ;-)

John B Badd from Saint Louis, MO on June 29, 2010:

This was a great mini-autobiography. I like that by sharing your separate experiences with both of your parents you were able to give us a glimpse into your past and what has made you, you. I was saddened by the dollhouse that never was, though the dream and collection you and your mother shared was more valuable than any house you could build or buy. I think we all could learn much from your father, and I think his response to commercials has to be a classic piece of wisdom few have been able to imitate. I am glad you had two great people to help make you who you are and I wish you the best in the future.

Micky Dee on June 21, 2010:

Champion the underdog! The overdogs are over-rated!

RisingBreeze on June 19, 2010:

I came over to see your response to bonnebartron's challenge and found I very much enjoyed reading this. Your insights into your childhood, involving spending time with your mother and learning things from your father, are very heart-warming.

Although your father's age was much greater than yours and thus you had less time(years) to spend with him, it's apparent you were important to him and that he wanted to do well by you. He provided you with such invaluable tools: information and hands-on experience. Some of us don't appreciate what we are taught when we're younger, but you sound like you did even at that time, which is wonderful! :) It probably came along with that mentality passed on from your parents after living through the first Great Depression.

I loved hearing about your collection for the dollhouse. It's a very hard line to walk sometimes, keeping things that may still be of use (but you're not sure when) versus just hoarding items for whatever reasons. I can just imagine all the different things that might have been saved to make it a really unique dollhouse. :D I was quite saddened to hear(read) that it was all for naught in the end with it finally winding up in the trash. It's obvious it was not an easy realization or a simple decision to let your gatherings go. I'm sorry. Still, I'm sure it brought smiles and excitement when you were collecting bits with your mother, and that has it's own worth.

A lovely read. Thank you for sharing it.

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