Painful Adjectives

Physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury. This is the definition of one particular noun. The noun in question. Pain.

A word or phrase naming an attribute added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it. This is the definition of an adjective.

Okay please stay with me, I’m not trying to insult my readers. I realize my readers are highly intelligent and of the highest quality. Yes, I’ve peeked at your profiles.

The town that I grew up in, Polson Montana, sits on the southern shore of Flathead Lake. The entire area rests on the Flathead Salish and Kootenai Indian Reservation. Growing up in a small mountain town had its advantages. Freedom to roam the countryside, the number one advantage for adventurous children like myself, provided more than territory to explore My friends and I were allowed to roam almost anywhere as long as we returned home on time. Today I’m going to tell (write) you a story. I’ll keep it brief and (mostly) to the point. It’s the story of a lie, a consequence, and most importantly, a child (me) learning something about the world of right and wrong.

I’d been roaming the countryside all day with my friends, and I was late getting home. As expected, my mother was waiting for me. What I didn’t expect was that she was going to teach me a valuable lesson that day, a lesson that I’m still thinking about, almost 40 years later.

When I finally got home, the sun was setting, and so we’re my hopes of not getting grounded. My mother didn’t hesitate to square up with me, not to kick my butt, but to look into my eyes, and wait for my lies. And she was right, let the wammy begin. I’m confident that I didn’t hold her gaze, looked right and left, accessing every creative area of my brain that a preteen can access. It went something like this.

“Mom I got in a bicycle accident. I was going really fast, and I came to a corner. Then, mom, I ran into a little Indian Kid when I was going around the corner. And that’s how it happened, mom. So I’m late. I’m sorry. It’s true.”

Some BS like that. Anyway, she looked at me with a smile, sat us both down, and it went something like this.

My mother didn’t yell at me for lying about where I’d been but instead wanted to know why I had told her that I ran into an Indian Kid instead of just a kid. That’s just how my mother was too, a child of the 1960s, and completely nonracist. See, that’s what I’m writing about today, The Painful Adjectives. For example, how many times do you hear someone referred to by race, size or weight, how they dress, how they talk, sexual orientation, and on and on? I understand the temptation, sometimes it’s just faster and easier to get to the point by describing a person as quickly as possible.

I’m constantly doing self inventories. Not long ago, I made the decision to work on this for myself. And yes, it is challenging, but everything important is a challenge. Anyway, something to think about.

Thanks for reading.

J.S.

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