Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hobbies and family support 1: sports and classes

I read through Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers: The Story of Success" within a week of Levitt and Dubner's "Freakonomics."  Many of the ideas in the two books complemented each other, so that there are some concepts where I am not entirely certain from which book they came.  Since they were both library books, I don't have them on a shelf to check.

Both books talked about how social class can affect talents and hobbies.  One book spoke about a child who sang at their school.  The child had talent, the potential to turn it into a career and live a different life from what her family had known.  But the family didn't think of it that way.  Music wasn't seen as a viable career that could/should be nurtured and encouraged.  Instead, it was seen as a minor hobby, just something that the child did.


That hit home, for me.  It reminded me of a conversation with one of my aunts, about how her father, my grandfather, always encouraged education, but on practical things.  I don't think it's coincidental that of his 8 children, the 6 college graduates majored in subjects like accounting and mathematics.

The children in my family fall in two groups.  The older four of us all spent several years at a Catholic elementary school in Nebraska, and all graduated from the same Catholic high school in South Bend.  The younger two are much younger, and were educated in the public schools of northern Indiana.

My sister and I did a few things when we lived in Illinois  We were in a "musical kindergarten" class at a piano store in the mall, when we were little. We had been Y members, and I took gymnastics for a short time.  I loved gymnastics, but at that age I tended to misunderstand what adults told me.  I sat out one class due to a misunderstanding, and I think my parents decided that I didn't want to do gymnastics anymore.

When we moved to Nebraska, there was something about the Y's membership terms (perhaps the cost?) that Dad didn't like.  We visited once, and never again.

Once we were in Nebraska, the older four of us did school, some school sports as we approached junior high, and either Boy or Girl Scouts.  That was it.  No dance or martial arts classes, no acting, piano, or voice lessons.  I didn't even know there was such a thing as voice lessons until I reached high school.

The family bought memberships at the zoo, the children's museum, and season tickets to WATCH plays at the Emmy Gifford Children's Theatre.  It never occurred to me to look for casting calls or try performing.  We didn't live in town, so even if I'd tried, getting to rehearsals would have been tough.

Dad worked rotating shifts.  We only had one car until I was about 12 or 14, and I'm sure that keeping up with four children was difficult even with those few activities.  Also, as they started paying tuition for a third and fourth child, the financial picture must have changed.

I begged to play soccer, but Mom & Dad wanted me to run a mile first.  School didn't have a team, so they might have worried about the cost.  I did cross country at school, two different years, probably 5th and 6th grade.

My sister and I were in Volleyball and Basketball when I was in junior high, also through the school.  Practice meant missing the school buses, so we would walk to the Base, catch the shuttle bus to the hospital near our quarters then walk home.  Once or twice, the MPs at the gate had a squad car drive us home.  I'm not clear on whether the shuttle buses were not running that day, or they just didn't like seeing us walking so far on our own.

I had to call my teammates for a ride to many of our games, which did not make us popular.  I do remember our family coming to several games, I think sometimes they brought our brothers later.  This was also the time when both of my parents had gone back to school, so they had classes & homework of their own to manage.  Our school sports teams were small, small enough that we occasionally forfeited a game for lack of players, so we were needed.