Reading is FUN-da-MENTALIf you didn't gather it from the title of the blog, I am a lover of gay men. Most of the people in my inner circle are gay men. However, a lot of the people I have come to know through this blogging world are women. Many are mothers -- SAHMs and WAHMs.
They are tremendously intelligent and complex women. They have existential crises that most people never consider -- how to balance self-fulfillment and nurturing. How to do it all. How to have it all. How to have your cake, eat it and not look like you have eaten it.
Learning about their lives has helped me consider my own mother. A tremendously intelligent and complex woman who has been a friend and an enemy to me in the span of a minute. For better or worse, I am the product of her choices as a woman. And for that, I have to be grateful.
When I was 5, my mother met with the superintendent to convince the school board that I didn't need to go through the motions of grade school. She was frustrated with American academics. In the Philippines, children only attend ten years of elementary and secondary education. Most matriculate from college by 18 or 19. She couldn't grasp the concept of pre-school or kindergarten.
Somehow, she got them to agree to evaluate me. They took me to a white building with a red door and administered a bunch of simple tests to gauge my intelligence. They asked me to identify colors, the time on several clock faces, as well as my left and right side.
Next, the asked me to do simple addition. One of the teachers wrote 2+2 on a piece of paper.
"Do you know what this is?" she chirped.
I knew it was four, but I was painfully shy and afraid. I choked out a weak answer that I'm told was a barely audible, "fff-four." In my mind, it came out like a scream.
I continued on to write out things for them on command: letters, my name, 4+5, animals. I obeyed fastidiously. Only when asked to speak did I show any sign of uncertainty. To me, the sound of my voice still echoed through the room from the last time I spoke; "four-our-our . . ."
Then, one of the teachers gave me a book. She extended her long forefinger and traced the dark orange letters of the book's title, "Can you read this?"
"Leo the Late Bloomer," I reply. I know this book. I've read this book.
My mother would often relay the rest of this story to me, but I don't remember anything after seeing the cover of that book. It's the story of a little boy lion named, Leo. His father is worried because Leo isn't reading and writing or speaking yet like the other lion kids. His mother calmly and confidently assures the father lion that Leo will bloom at his own pace.
At this point, the teachers sitting around me start to whisper. They aren't convinced, thinking perhaps I just remember this story from having it read to me. That I may even be able to recite the words from sense memory.
I don't remember that. I only remember looking at the cover of the book and being really excited because I love to read. I love to read that book. I remember looking at the picture of Leo's bright orange and black striped face hidden behind yellow and orange foliage and hoping this lady will just let me read this book.
My mother tells me that she gets tense at this point because she's worried she can't convince these people of my potential, that I will become bored with their educational system, drop out, have 25 kids and die on welfare, toothless from lack of good health insurance.
Suddenly, the room is silent. I speak again.
I say, "Leo the Late Bloomer," again. Then two words that prove to change the course of my life, if slightly. I say, "That's ironic."
The deal is settled. I can skip kindergarten and they will place me in third grade reading classes. But, they worry for my social development because I am still very shy and clingy. My mother grudgingly accepts.