Musings on Mistakes, Book Review – Indomitable by J.D. Edwards, Short Story – Anything but Rush

Musings on Mistakes

I had to replace my mailbox.  It wasn’t as simple as just hanging a new mailbox on the house.  Where I live, we have post mailboxes (i.e., rural mailboxes).  The whole exercise in removing the first one and installing the new one had me thinking about mistakes.

The reason I had to replace my mailbox is that several weeks back, during the one semi-decent snowfall we had this winter, a guy who lives down the street from me (let’s call him Jimmy – not his real name), was out playing in the snow on his side-by-side, when he lost control and nailed my mailbox.  The first lesson learned from this might have been, maybe don’t play in the snow on a side-by-side on a busy street. 

But that judgment would be kinda hypocritical of me ‘cause if I had a side-by-side, I might’ve been out playing in the street with it, too.  One or two people reading this may remember the times I thought it great fun to cut sliding donuts in the snow in the Walmart parking lot while out cruising The Boulevard on Saturday night.  It WAS great fun, but it was also stupid:  I could not have afforded to wreck my car or someone else’s parked car.  Luckily, the worst that happened was I lightly slid into a massive pile of bulldozed snow and added another dent to my beater car.  It was like a badge of honor.

Sometimes, mistakes are fun, whether sliding around in motorized vehicles or dating that guy or gal even though  a little voice  inside says,” Don’t do it!”  (It’s the same little voice that later says, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that.”  I mean, it would be weird if you heard the little voice inside your head say, “I told you so!”   Right?) As long as there’s no collateral damage, enjoy the ride, tell the story for years to come, but learn not to make a habit of that particular mistake.

But, in this case (the case of my mailbox – I’ve moved on from sliding donuts in the Walmart parking lot, both literally and figuratively), there was collateral damage — my mailbox was all but laying on the ground.  It was still more or less standing, like your drunk friend swaying on her feet while her brain decides whether to shut her down for the night, but it was a sad sight. 

I’m sure Jimmy was having a great time when my mailbox interrupted his slide.  I don’t begrudge him that fun.  Why?  Because Jimmy owned up to his mistake. I would never have known he hit my mailbox except that he knocked on my door and told me he did.  I would’ve blamed the snowplow driver.  (I would’ve blamed the snowplow driver because my yard guy swears The Snowplow Guy — like there is only one — makes a game out of seeing how close he can get to every mailbox he sees.  Even when I told him Jimmy clipped my mailbox, my lawn guy said, “No, I bet it was the Snowplow Guy.”)  Anyway, unfortunately, when Jimmy knocked on my door, I wasn’t expecting company.  I mean, it was a SNOW DAY.  So, yeah, I was pretty much a fright.   A braless fright in paint spattered bright blue sweats and a black shirt. (It was the only long-sleeved tee I had that was clean.  Yes, there’s a whole other series of mistakes behind that style crime. but let’s not go down that rabbit hole.)

Jimmy, however, was not deterred from his mission by the hag who opened the door. He apologized for hitting the mailbox, and then he handed me a wad of bills and told me if it wasn’t enough to call him and he’d pay whatever it took to put up a new mailbox.  I was pretty quiet because 1) I knew I looked a mess, and that’s not the time for neighborly conversation, and 2) I’d just gotten my first look at my mailbox seriously listing to one side and was thinking, “How the hell am I going to get another mailbox planted with the ground frozen?

Later, I started the online search to replace the mailbox.  It was then I discovered the mistake I’d made eight years before. The metal stake that came with my original mailbox was meant to be secured to an above-ground wooden post.  What I had done was attach the aluminum post cover directly to the metal stake and set the stake in Quikrete.  I don’t remember how I came to that solution, but I suspect I didn’t read the instructions.  (Yes, I,  a woman, sometimes forgo reading instructions when I think I can see how things fit together.  I have a lateral file cabinet with a drawer that won’t latch and won’t come out, so it can’t be fixed, because I put some parts on backward.  That happened after I planted the mailbox, and so I hadn’t yet learned the lesson about always reading the directions.  Okay, I’m not promising I’ve completely learned the lesson now, either. . .)

Anyhow, when Jimmy hit the box, he popped the aluminum post over the screw heads, cracking the post.  And he bent the metal stake.  Still, I wondered if I’d not made my mistake, would the mailbox still be usable? Would a wooden post have saved the mailbox from destruction?  After more carefully inspecting the mailbox, the answer was not really.  He also broke the graceful, curved  arm that held the box itself, making the box wobbly.  (Okay, I could probably have patched that up with that miracle we call duct tape, but it would’ve been even  more unsightly than my snow day attire.)   So, I proceeded with spending Jimmy’s money – well some of his money – I ended up deciding my mistake was maybe a contributing factor, and so split the cost with him.

They don’t make the mailbox I had anymore.  I found one that was kinda close, but without the graceful, curved arm under the box.  Once I selected a new mailbox, I had to dig up that metal stake.  While I  was out at the street with a shovel, letting the realization wash over me that I was gonna have to dig a huge hole to get that Quikrete out, my lawn guy happened by and said he could hook the stake to his earthmover and pop it out in five minutes.  I briefly considered stubbornly doing it myself, kind of as a penance for having made the mailbox-planting mistake eight years ago, but decided that sometimes it’s okay to accept help in rectifying a mistake.    

Just to make it completely obvious, the morals from my mailbox story are many.  Everybody makes mistakes.  Life without mistakes would be a whole lot less interesting.  Sometimes it takes years to see your mistakes. Owning up to a mistake is the right thing to do, and if you’ve harmed someone with your mistake, make amends.  It’s okay to accept help – even to get out from under a mistake you’ve made.  In reality, you probably don’t need to use an entire bag of Quikrete to set a metal spike.

 Book Review:  Indomitable, by J.D. Edwards

Indomitable, by J.D. Edwards is a historical imagining of the story of real-life slave Eliza Harris who was the person upon whom the Uncle Tom’s Cabin character Eliza was based.  Edwards’ research for this book was incredibly in-depth and gave the story a factual foundation that lent it authenticity.  Adding to the authenticity is the fact that Edwards, himself, is a descendant of both the family alleged in his book to have owned Eliza and some of the people who actually helped Eliza escape from Ohio to Canada.

Wound into the tale are historic figures including Ulysses S. Grant, Daniel Boone, Chief Donwattout of the Wyandot tribe, and Colonel George Edwards who fought in the war of 1812.  In the course of telling Eliza’s adventures, Edwards also provides descriptions of actual battles, the origins of the Quakers in America, and the interesting details of how the Underground Railroad operated.

All of this serves as the backdrop to the story of how in 1838 Eliza takes her baby Harry, crosses the icy Ohio River from Kentucky to Ohio to embark upon a harrowing journey to freedom in the Promised Land of Canada.  Eliza’s spirit, as she faces sexual assault, the death of two children, her husband being literally “sold downriver,” and potential lynching, is truly indomitable, as is that of the people who aid her, in particular Uncle George.

The tale is well-conceived, and Edwards’ writing style is smooth; however, the book is light on character development.  For instance, there is insufficient impetus described for the complete and immediate  character change of Eliza’s master Reason Downing, and no reason given at all for the reversal of his wife’s personality and point of view at the end of the book.  Also, some dialogue was off for the characters and the time period, and there was a smattering of editing issues. 

Still, I couldn’t put the book down – I had to know if Eliza and her child made it to freedom, and beyond that, whether she got the happy-ever-after I hoped for her!  (Spoiler alert:  the ending is very satisfying.) In addition, I learned a lot about America’s history and the excuses slave owners made for the atrocity of slavery.  Consequently, I believe Indomitable is very worth a read!

Short Story: Anything but Rush

Mark came in from the patio to find his 15-year old grandson, Zack, sitting on the couch bobbing to whatever music was playing in his ears.  He walked over and from the back of the couch tousled Zack’s hair. Zack turned and smiled up at his grandfather, removed his earbuds and said, “Hey, Gramps!”

“Hey, champ,” Mark replied. “Whadya doin’?”

Zack smiled broadly.  “I’m listening to this classic rock jam Jeremy turned me on to.  It rocks!”

“Classic rock, eh?”  Mark said, walking around to sit on the couch with Zack.  “What band?”

“Sugartooth. . .did you like them back in the day?”

Mark knit his eyebrows together and shook his head.  “Never heard of ‘em,” he said.

Zack swiped and tapped his phone and then said, “Here . . .here’s the song I was listening to, ‘Sold My Fortune.’” 

Their heads were close together – Mark’s with close-cropped silver and white hair and a seriously receded hairline, and Zack’s with a full head of thick brown hair curling over his ears – as they watched the screen on Zack’s phone.  For almost 20 seconds there was nothing but the sound of air, and then driving grunge guitars rang out.  As a rhythmic repeating riff broke through, Zack’s head started bopping to it. 

“This ain’t classic rock,” Mark said.  “Don’t get me wrong—I’m not sayin’ it’s bad, but it’s not classic rock.”

“Sure, it is,” Zack said.  “It came out in the mid-90s.”

Mark laughed and shook his head.  Grinning at the grandson who had his icy blue eyes, he said, “Champ, mid-90s was like yesterday.  Classic rock is like 50s and 60s – okay and maybe early 70s.”

At the moment, from behind them, Zack’s dad Jeff, said, “Sugartooth!  I haven’t heard them in years!  I saw them live once – they opened up for Soundgarden.”

Mark pointed at him and said, “Okay Soundgarden I know.  Would you say they’re classic rock?”

Simultaneously, Zack emphatically said, “Yes,” and Jeff just as emphatically said, “No.”

Mark clapped Zack on the shoulder and said, “Two against one, kiddo, Sugartooth and Soundgarden are not classic rock.”

Jeff added, “That’s right!  They’re grunge, or I guess people refer to them as 90s Rock, like it’s its own category.  Although, just to be clear, Soundtooth – I mean Sugartooth – is not n the same league as Soundgarden  They’re a one-hit-wonder – the only reason they have that one hit is because it was on a Beavis and Butt-Head episode.”

Mark chuckled, “Beavis and Butt-Head.  Are they still around?”  To Jeff, he said, “It used to make your mom crazy when I’d talk like them.”

“You watched Beavis and Butt-Head?” Zack and Jeff both asked.

“Sometimes,” Mark replied. “It was –”

Zack interjected, “There’s gonna be a new Beavis and Butt-Head movie later this year!  I think it’s supposed to be them all grown up.”

Mark replied, “I can’t even imagine.  There’s no way they’re contributing members of society.”

“Hey,” Jeff said.  “We should go see it when it comes out – it’ll be epic – three generations of Simmons men bonding over Beavis and Butt-Head!”

About thar time, the opening riff for  “Come as You Are” played from Zack’s phone.  “There’s another Classic Rock song,”  he said, grinning.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” yelled Jeff.

Zack yelled back, “Dad, it’s more than thirty years old!”

Mark interjected, “Turn that off, and I’ll put on some true classic rock.”

Zack rolled his eyes, and his father good-naturedly smacked the back of his head.  When he stopped the music comic from his phone, Mark said, “Alexa, play Led Zepelin.”

Alexa obliged by immediately queuing up “Ramble On.” 

“Oh, yeah!” Jeff yelled.

Zack wasn’t much impressed until the prelude to the first chorus at which point his grandfather suddenly started beating air drums.  His father danced around the room shaking his mostly bald head like it had rock and roll hair.  Zack started grinning and bopping his head, too.   They continued their Alexis-sponsored tour of Led Zeppelin, Mark and Jeff enjoying a couple of cold brews,  and by the time “Rock and Roll” blared through the speakers (Jeff had ordered the volume increase) all three men were on their feet jumping and playing their air instruments and yelling what lyrics they knew. 

Then Mark said, “Alexa, play Rush “Big Money.”  Turning to Zack, still on his feet, he said, “Listen to the baseline on this one.  He played that while singing lead!”

Jeff brought back beers for him and Mark, telling Zack, “Sorry, dude!” 

They were all happily bobbing their heads to “Fly by Night” when the wives, Gloria and Andrea, came in from the pool. 

Gloria groaned and said to Andrea, “Oh dear God, anything but Rush.”  To Mark, she yelled, turn that down!”

Mark pretended he couldn’t hear her, and the men all laughed.  Gloria yelled, “Alexa, lower volume!”

Alexa, always accommodating, lowered the volume.

Zack, having a great time with his dad and granddad, said exuberantly, “Hey, we’re going to see the Beavis and Butt-Head movie when it comes out!”  Mark started laughing like Butt-Head, and Jeff tried his best to imitate Beavis’ laugh. 

Zack said, “No, Dad, it’s like this,” and added his own impression of Beavis laughing.

Gloria turned to Andrea and said, “Rush and Beavis and Butt-Head.  I’m in hell.”