Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 30, 2010

How it should be

One of the rewards of writing a column is reading the feedback from readers. Last week's column about the importance of place to a person sparked a response from high-school classmate Bruce. I had mentioned The Symphony on the Flint Hills and, for him, the idea of city folks coming into the Flint Hills to listen to a symphony orchestra was just wrong - the Flint Hills were for ranching and farm fishing ponds and the like.

Bruce's comment reminded me how we frequently have a sort of template in our mind of how things should be. When Rita Johanning, my first husband Jerome's mother, announced that she was getting too old to produce the huge Christmas meals she had made for years, a couple of her sons protested ardently. For them, those big meals were a key part of what Christmas was and to not have them just wasn't right.

One of Jerome's brothers unintentionally touched on one of my "how it should be" templates, while he was kidding me. I grew up in a family where public dress was pretty conservative. But after Art and I married, he began pushing me to be a bit more fashionable. One aspect of my conservative upbringing was that I never wore a top with a neckline more than a few inches from my throat. So years later when I wore a shirt with a scoop neckline to a Johanning get-together, one of Jerome's brothers said, "Oh, look, Gloria has cleavage!" Everyone laughed - including me. But for just an instant, I felt as if I should have chosen something more conservative.

Today, younger daughter Katie is my fashion consultant. Among other things, she has been prodding me to wear more "chunky" jewelry. So last Saturday, I put on such a necklace before we headed out for the day. At the restaurant that evening, one of the waitresses commented on how much she liked my top and necklace.

But even with that compliment, it just didn't fit my template of what a necklace should be. So less than an hour later, I said to Art, "I'm going to take this off."

Art replied, "Why? It looks good on you."

"Really?" I asked.

Of course, my question wasn't really a response to how it looked, but to my idea of what a necklace should be.

Art recalls that when he was a youngster, on school nights he'd always stay up with his night-owl mother Donna and watch "The Tonight Show," which in those days ended at midnight. He would also often take a nap right after school. Art's dad was an early-to-bed type. He suggested to Donna that Art should go to bed earlier. But Donna pointed out that Art wasn't getting into any trouble and did well in school, so what would be the reason for making a change? The reason, of course, was because that was how his dad felt it should be.

Art has his own templates too. Donna was always glad she had boys as she did not care for primping, make-up and all the clothing concerns women deal with. So it's no surprise that Art cannot relate at all to the notion of buying a prom dress that will be worn just once. He says it's completely crazy - a total waste of money.

Yet knowing how gaga the girls are over Lady GaGa, when Katie mentioned she wanted to go to her Kansas City show in August, Art bought her, our other daughter and two others the best tickets he could get. That show won't last any longer than Katie's prom dress was worn this past Saturday and the tickets actually cost more, so how does that fit? Art came from a family that, while frugal, felt that if you are interested enough to see something live, then you want to have the best experience possible.

In Bruce's case, he mentioned how the ranchers and farmers had good reason to look on a bunch of city folks in the Flint Hills as being out of place. But, of course, the free-range cattlemen who first drove herds through Kansas looked on those same farmers and ranchers as being interlopers. For that matter, the Native Americans didn't feel free-range herders had any business being here either and they should go home.

In the end, we are a product of our upbringing and how we see things is largely nothing more than a reflection of how it was for us when we grew up. Whatever we enjoyed growing up, well that's how it should be!

And perhaps someday, a teenage daughter may be telling Katie to ditch her chunky jewelry and get with the fashion. And for Katie, that well may feel just wrong.

Katie with date Brian Ingalsbe at the prom.

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