Published in the Rains County Leader on August 29, 2017:
The first time I read Gone with the Wind, I wanted to be just like Scarlett O’Hara. I conveniently overlooked the needy and manipulative parts of her personality and focused instead on her strengths. To me she was a brave southern woman who stood tall and strong in the face of all adversities and enemies. Compared to her, I had very little adversity and even fewer enemies, but I knew that, if the occasion ever arose, I would be just as brave and fierce as she was as she stared down war, poverty, and more. I was wrong.
As a young adult, I remember two incidents during which I could have been brave – but I wasn’t. One occurred in the laundry room of the small apartment complex where I lived. Three washing machines and two dryers occupied a tiny shed in the back of the parking lot, and I frequently did my laundry late at night in order to find empty machines. One evening, while I was putting my wet clothes in the dryer, a man appeared in the doorway wearing a ski mask and very little else. Instead of being brave and throwing bleach in his face, I drew up into a fetal position – or as much of one as I could achieve standing up – and I screamed bloody murder. My screeching must have been effective, because although no one came to see what was going on, the man was gone when I opened my eyes. Of course, I was relieved, but I had to admit that I was not super hero material.
The second incident happened a decade or so later and wasn’t quite as dramatic as the earlier encounter. After an afternoon of running errands, I made one last stop at the Rexall Drug Store near my home. When I walked in the door, I sensed that something was wrong. My first clue was the cashier who was crouched under her register clutching a baseball bat. The second was the disembodied voice that normally announced the deals of the day or called for a clean up on aisle five. That day it shouted “He’s back by the pharmacy!” I saw the blue peak of a policeman’s cap moving toward the back of the store, and since cell phones videos and Facebook hadn’t been invented, I turned around and walked back out the door. It was one more blow to my self image, but I was becoming okay with that.
My life has been pretty safe since the pharmacy episode, especially since I now have
David to hide behind. However, Sunday morning I was reminded once again what a coward I really am. I went into the kitchen to make coffee in our one-cup-at-a-time brewer. I put the cups on the counter and splashed a little French vanilla creamer in each one. Then, I turned to the island to get a spoon while the unit heated. Suddenly, I heard a crash and the sound of breaking glass, and something hit my foot. I’d like to say that I was calm and cool – and brave, but I wasn’t. My hands flew to my face, and I froze in place, waiting for the next shot from the drive-by shooter or the explosion from the Molotov cocktail that had been thrown through the kitchen window.
When neither of those things happened right away, I peeked between my fingers and saw what had really happened. A two-liter bottle of soda had vibrated off the top of the refrigerator and hit the cabinet right in the middle of my coffee preparations. A bruise was already visible on the top of my foot where a bottle of cinnamon oil had landed, pieces of my favorite cup were scattered all over the floor, and creamer was splattered on the floor, the island, and the wall. On the positive side, my foot cushioned the fall of the cinnamon oil, so it didn’t break, and the creamer was sugar-free, so it wasn’t sticky. On the other hand, I could no longer pretend, even to myself, that I’m a brave person, especially in the face of possible violence.
Several months ago, I was talking with a friend about Gone with the Wind which had recently aired on TV. She commented that I reminded her of Melanie. There was a time when I would have been offended at being compared with the woman Scarlett considered to be pale and wimpy, but after watching the movie again, I’ve reconsidered. Melanie had an inner strength that was much more attractive in the long run than Scarlett’s flamboyance, and she didn’t have to be brave when the shooting started!