Remember Who You Are
The small, hand-painted plaque oddly situated over the garage door of a neighboring house first surprised me with mild delight in its ambiguity but, now it just bugs me, a lot, whenever I pass by it I simply cannot keep myself from staring at it. What does it mean? Who do these people think they are to obliquely imply that I’ve forgotten who I am?
Look, I even snapped a picture with my phone because I thought it was such an unusual sign to have on the outside of one’s house above the garage. Since taking the picture, I’ve tried to delete it from my photos, even throw out this story draft but something stops me.
Perhaps it’s curiosity.
I want to know the story behind the sign. Who placed it there and why? Is it supposed to remind the occupant of some identifying nomenclature he must remember as he backs his car out of the drive everyday and heads out into the world only to be swallowed up by the mundane and superfluous flow of humanity trying scratch out a ‘decent’ living?
It feels both ominous and playfully philosophical and I wonder, am I the only one in the neighborhood who notices it? Do hippies, relics of an incomplete revolution, reside there? In all other respects it looks like such a plain, perspicuous, and un-bohemian home on the exterior, but then, there is the incongruence of that sign.
Houses are a bit like people and still waters, there’s always more beyond the surface of things, don’t you think?
We ramble around the neighborhood of my youth
my dog’s toenails clack and scratch
a new rhythm
on the old concrete sidewalks
the very same
to which I signed my name a hundred times
in chalk and blood drawn
from my knees and elbows
and as we walk
they start to tingle and itch
with the memory of who I am
The bellwether state
We are in my homestate of Ohio, a modest lower middle class (if there is still such a thing as ‘middle class’) neighborhood where I’m reminded of Indiana native, John Mellancamp’s 1983 single “Pink Houses” in a genre someone dubbed “Heartland rock” which I assume is rock and roll music specifically fashioned by and for those who live in what is considered the Heartland of America. From the perspective of a US citizen, the word ‘Heart- land’ usually refers to the Midwest, an area which includes the north-central states of the United States of America, specifically Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. But for the people of the midwest it means much more than borders and political boundaries, it means actually embracing and being proud of hardworking values and ethics which have been manipulated so that midwesterners expect to be and accept being on the bottom rung of our society in perpetual struggle to feed our families and educate them so they might have the opportunity to improve their social circumstances.
Now, it seems to me if anyone needs reminding of ‘who they are’ it’s folks living in the Midwest and specifically in Ohio which naively swung right for Trump in 2016, continuing a streak of accurately picking the winner of the presidential elections since 1964, which earned it the distinction of being a bellwether state.
Being a bellwether state is not exactly something to tout, as if you’d won the Stanley Cup of predicting presidential elections when you’re nothing more than a political puck to be slap-shot by campaign strategists spewing propaganda and empty promises. The term bellwether is based on a 13th Century term for the lead sheep in a flock, usually a male fixed with a bell. It is not genuine leadership, it is mindless following. Oh, did I mention the bellwether is a male sheep who has been castrated to enhance docility?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
In my estimation, Midwesterners and Ohioans specifically, completely missed the gist of Mellancamp’s song, Pink Houses, which only triggered an upward sales trend in pink house paint in 1983 rather than thoughtful debate about the shifting balance of power away from the people and toward corporate governing on the heels of “Reganomics”.
I’m certain I’ll never know what this sign means to the owners of it unless I go knock on their door and ask them but, I doubt I will do such a thing.
I will probably continue to let it inspire my musings about the imperilment of our collective humanity and the vital need for us to wake up and remember once and for all who we are. And most importantly, I should hate to find out it means anything to the contrary.
It’s no wonder this sign bedevils me so.
© S Lynn Knight, 2017