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Who I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) am

Frig Lattice.jpgFrig White.gif

This is going to be a bit complicated and the pictures are not the best but they are the best I could find and they will have to do because the point I intend to make is crucial: I wish to demonstrate that the "intelligence", "talents", "giftedness" or whatever one wishes to call it that I had as a child was not the kind of thing that is measured on standardized tests, nor, probably, anything comprehensible to adults who rate children on the basis of standardized tests. I wish to argue that I was different, that I was an exception, and that I merited special sentivite, nurturing treatment which my childrearers were not capable of providing.

So what on earth, you, my reader, may ask, does such arrogant presumption have to do with 1958 refrigerator advertisements? Answer: My relationship with those advertisements and the products shown in them is my litmus test evidence for my claim to being so special. I will also adduce a couple other pieces of evidence, but this one exhibit I intend to be dispositive. The reason I have little evidence is that my childrearers hindered -- more precisely: crippled me from producing it.

In 1958, when I was 11 years old going on 12, my parents moved from a lovely house in Richmond Virginia to a split level they could not afford and which was a much worse place to live, but I was stuck where they went. I was going to have to repeat the first half of 7th grade because the Headmaster of the self-styled "preparatory school" I was being sentenced to adjudicated that it would be good for my "social development" (I forget his exact words but they were something like that and had nothing to do with anything intellectual or cultural in an honorific sense). So far so bad.

My parents were not very savvy; they wanted the American dream because they had come from nothing and were working very hard to get into the middle class so their child would -- well, whatever they were socially conditioned to ideate was good for me (the road to hell...). As said, they bought a house they could not afford and wanted al sorts of special features which meant the square footage was significantly reduced and on top of that the building contractor was not the best etcetera and so forth so they ended up with an almost unsaleable house that finally a man who was not quite as messed up as them but who had a beloved daughter bought (of all things, he owned a small business outfitting prep school lacrosse teams).

One of the special features they bought was one of the first frost-free refrigerators. I have no idea what it cost but it had to be expensive. Somehow I must have seen some pictures in magazines. The one they bought was either the 2nd or 3rd year Frigidaire made them. What the got was like the picture above left. Plese note the lattice design on part of the door panels!

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The previous years' model had undecorated doors, as in the picture above right. The design I liked was like the one top right but in black, right. I emphatially did not like the lattice decoration on the model my parents bought. I really liked the plain, undecorated black previous year's model (right). That little detail made a big differnece to me, even at the time (but still, now 60 years later, also today; my esthetic judgment rarely needs correction -- like I did my math assignments in indelible ink, see below).

How many 12 year old boys in 1958 who grew up in ahome that didn't have any books (we did get Popular Scinece magazing and G-rated comic books for me, Better Homes and Gardens for my mother, and my father got the Amerian Legion magazine; his boss had probably by then given us, i.e., me a subscription to National Geographic magazine. The was no culture in the house; our house had no Bauhaus in it whatever. But I was extremely sensitive to such a little esthetiuc detail. Was that worth anything? Could it be assessed on a standardized test? I rest my case.

Now for the ther two items of supporting evidence:

Exhibit #1. One day my parents wer dragging me through Miller and Rhodes Department Store (Richmond Virginia's high quality department store). As always, I was not particularly enjoying it. But going theough the jewelry department, I espied some Rolex wristwatches in a display case. I had never had any interst in having a wristwatch or in time, either. But the quality of the design triggered me to want one. No not any watch: A Rolex. Absoutely no precedent in my life for such an esthetic judgment. How many 12 year old boys from homes without any culture have that esthetic sensitivity?

Exhiblt #2. One evening, by surprise, my father's brother, Charles, and his wife visited you in the split level. they came in an entry model gray 1961 Porsche. I was immediately enamored of that graceful, beautiful little car. I asked Charles for a ride (he had only one arm and drove the car with its stick shift in road rallies). I was particularly taken with the carpet on part of the inside door panels (no carpet on the floor), and that he told me the doors were fitted to the body by filling the gap with lead and then taking a special heated tool to cut the lead to make the gap have precisely uniform width all around. That car, for me, was like from a different and better place than where I lived. 60 years later I'd love to have one to cherish. It was not a vroom, vroom car. It was a little two seater coupe. The first experience in my life of less is more, and that appealed to me at once. Again, how many 12 year old boys from homes with no culture in them have such an esthetic sensitivity?

Did I deserve what I got in that prep school: being endlessly ass-igned and tested on one-size-fits-all standardized drivel perhaps more suitable for kids who could take a licking and keep on ticking? Even to the gross insensitivity on their part that when in 7th grade I took initiative to stop writing the at the time normative script "penmanship" and instead write all block uppercase letters with "caps" just bigger, instead of the teacher being in awe, or even just respecting my taking inititive in my life and not jus being aconformist, he put his enormous body mass in front of wimpy littleme in my little student seat, and threatened me that while I might "get away with it" in that school, I would "never be able to keep up in college". Was intimidation for not being a 2-legged sheep what I needed to develop my fragile little soul, per the above adduced evidence?

Example of my hand writing; a few words quickly "dashed off"

I do not claim to be a genius I define a genius as a peron who makes something out of nothing: a person aho has a significant idea for which there can be found no precedent in his entire social surround and experience of living. No, I was not a genius. But was I just a student-lump to be poked at with one-size-fits-all petty pedagogy? What would it have mattered if I could not do, say the math problems? As a matter of fact, I could and i frustrated them by doing them in indelible ink, not pencil (I didn't like writing with a pencil, which I propose as another piece of evidence of my superior difference). Why couldn't somebody say: "This kid is different in a rare way, like an orchid among weeds? Answer: Because they were all weeds. They could not appreciate that a child could be better than they were and help me to rise up above them (it would have e been an entirely different story, of course, had my superiority been as a lacrosse jock; then they would have worshipped me[1]). Is a mind a terrible thing to waste?

It was a nominally Christian school, but as I explain at length elsewhere, they worshipped graven images: shiny plated varsity lacrosse and tackle football team victory trophies. For me it was the sorrow and the pity, which is a reference to the title of a film about the Nazi occupation of Vichy France in World War II. Nobody helped me. Nobody ever asked me, sincerely: "How do you really feel about what is happening to you, Brad? Do you feel anybody cares about you? Is there eanything you might like, Brad? You don't have to be afraid; we won't tell your parents or the teachers. You seem so frightened; let's see if we can provide you with some safe space and get you away from all the tests and other stuff which frightens you...." Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. I got the message.

Yes, as a wimpy or, if you will: effete esthete, 12 year old boy who did not aspire to be a "boy"" (i.e., a budding young minotaur or a non-ocular "pupil")[2], a refrigerator design meant more to me that that whole school and my parents and just about everything else in my social surround → because it meant something, i.e.: something not bad. "It's no big deal, Brad." At least all my masters in that school, and even the school's Headmaster (1901-82) were mortal, thank God.

Me? I THINK I am not at all who I have been.[3]

 
 
 
 
 

+2022.06.07 v008
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Footnotes

  1. And bestowed upon me a thousand virgins to deflower, too. I got involuntary celibacy, which is another issue.
  2. Note that the word "boy" used to refer also to a negro servant. I had masters even though it was after 1863 in USA.
  3. Your Comment on A Mental Health Clinic in School? No, Thanks, Says the School Board
    The New York Times <comments@nytimes.com>
    9:10 AM (15 minutes ago) [+2022.06.06]
    Your comment has been approved!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with The New York Times community.
    Bradford McCormick | New York
    As a child I was doomed. I was a brilliant and emotionally and physically fragile child. My parents tried to brainwash and indoctrinate me with their social conditioning: the subueban middle-middle class split level mind of lawns and tailfins. My government ultimately saw me as ground meat for military conscription and tried to condition of to be patriotic. Everybody was out to use me for their purposes or else I could be roadkill. I needed parents and teachers who would gently present me with appealing things to study on a take it or leave it basis and to respect me, like you see in pictures of Jesus being offered by his mother a smal animal or crystal ball to examine, and the pedagogical treatment Jesus Christ got in Luke 2:41-52. They needed to follow Niels Bohr's instructios to his students: "Take every statement I make as a question not as an assertion". I needed to be encouraged to feel my own feelings and think my own thughts ever more authentically and deeply, not for my soul to be treated like an oncologist treats a leukemia patient's immune system: Destroy the bad one to reinstall a new good one. But they were out to destroy a good one to replace it with their bad one. "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Luke 9:58). NIMBY!



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