Friday, October 20, 2006

Order the Pancakes

When I was little, I was very little. And very talkative.

I always got in trouble in the kindergarten classroom for chatting, never my friends, because anyone who knows me will tell you my voice carries and it carries far. I’d like to think it wasn’t because I was bad per se, yet somehow I was always the one caught whispering during the lecture or nap time. I went on and on inquiring about my parents’ days so much through dinner that I had to be reminded of taking a bite of chicken and green beans every few sentences. I talked to my teddy bear, Rosie, until we both fell asleep. I was fearless with strangers. I talked to them instead of cowering and if one got too close or too weird, I knew I held a blood-curdling scream that would make any shadowy figure run off in search of an easier victim.

On weekends, I dressed up in pink shorts and long strands of coated beads, striped hair bands and fuzzy leggings. I rode around on my red trike like that in patent leather sandals, up and down the level sidewalk in front of our Colorado condo. I’d sing under my breath, because even at that young age I knew my voice was too loud and too often and not meant for song, and so I’d choreograph dances and try to ride bareback on the dog as though he was a horse when my mom wasn’t looking. Then I'd be called inside with exasperation for my chores.

Afterwards, if my newly-cleaned room passed inspection, my dad would take me to my favorite breakfast place in the world: McDonald’s. My mom would never join us (in her words: “How can you eat that junk?”) so it was just our thing and ours alone and I loved it, riding in the Buick and pulling into the blacktop parking lot. We’d saunter up to the counter where a bored teenager popped gum and my dad strongly and I remember, very adult-ly, ordered what he always ordered: a sausage McMuffin and a black coffee. Then he nudged me, indicating it was my turn to speak, just like him, to the cashier.

That’s where the trouble started.

I would try to order what I always wanted: the pancakes. But when I was up there, tiptoeing to peer over the counter into the confusing abyss of workers, tongs and heating surfaces, the girl would never see me. She’d look past me, above me. Sometimes people behind us would take the opportunity to order instead, and I was left there with my lip trembling, tugging on my dad’s shirt, ashamed at not beeing counted and begging him to please, please say something. Anything. Couldn’t he just order for me? Even then I knew that he wanted me to act like I was a big kid. Even then I knew that I was not.

He never did the hard stuff for me. Not once. Instead he would crouch down and say, “K, you can do this. Just go ahead.”

And I would try again, barely getting out the words at an audible volume, “Please may I have the pancakes?” I heard the hungry patrons behind me grumble as a strange mouse voice that I did not recognize squeaked from my usually confident mouth.

The girl never heard me, of course.

So one more time, I would feel my dad’s big hand on my shoulder and I would finally look the girl in the eyes and say it again and say it loud. “I would like the pancakes, please.”

Once I got over ordering, probably about a year after that, it became a running joke in our family. When I was nervous before going to college, when I expressed indecision over moving to the city, when I wanted to leave my first job because they paid poorly and treated me even worse, he said it to me.

“K, just order the pancakes.” It's his version of the "get off the pot" saying. It's all about me and it works.

Any time I am afraid of the next chapter and any time I hesitate, I hear those words, either from my dad or in my own head.

They make me think about then. I’ll remember back to when I actually was small, and didn’t just feel small, when the most daunting task of my life was placing my hands on the orange counter, looking a seventeen year old in the eye, and ordering something that I wanted. Perspectives change. What was once debilitating is now commonplace and easy. Funny how that works.

It reminds me that I can get what I want, what I feel I must get, even if someone doesn’t think I should, or doesn’t notice me, it doesn’t matter. I deserved the pancakes as much as the man behind me deserved a breakfast burrito and after a while and many scared times, I learned that being quiet at the exact moment when you really need to be loud just does not work. It doesn’t get your order in, it doesn’t get you what you need. That’s why my dad never ordered for me. I needed to learn that on my own. And I still need to learn it, and am, every single day, that ordering the pancakes seems silly and stupid now, as I’m facing far greater dangers in the world (like a broken spirit or loss of self), but strangely enough, that act is a metaphor for my life and for solidarity.

Today, I’m ordering the pancakes with a strong voice. Because everyone deserves to be heard. Even me.


Pink Lemonade Diva said...

go get you some pancakes, girl. I love it!

Another twentysomething said...

Oh, good for you, K! And welcome back to the writng style we all love to read. :)

Anonymous said...

Your voice especially should be heard!!

Frannie Farmer said...

Ab-so-lute-ly! Go get 'em. YOu deserve the chocolate chip pancakes!
Love you blog!

Anonymous said...

Loved this post K. Love, SB

GeminiWisdom said...

Hey! I love pancakes, too. Never thought it would be a metaphor for life, though.

brooke alexandra said...

I'm quite new to your blog, but I'm loving it so far. I hear you loud and clear...I'll have to remember to order pancakes next time. Thanks.

David said...

Oooh, girl, you get yo self some pancakes and you order with extra syrup! but in all seriousness, I loved how you were able to incorporate an early life lesson into your present life because it shows that we never really lose whats most important to us. So whatever you're going through, I really hope your pancake order does get through...

debo said...

Great posting. This reminds me of Malcolm X's autobiography, when he reminisces how he learned at an early age that if you want something, you have to make yourself heard. Though in his case, he learned this lesson at the dinner table, not at SweatDoanlds.

Anonymous said...

Go get those pancakes K!

Anonymous said...

My favorite post yet.

Anonymous said...