“For such a smart girl, you have no common sense,” my mother told me repeatedly.
I began botching up even simple tasks early in life. Mom was a single parent. My older sister was deathly ill and garnered most of Mom’s attention. My younger sister needed her constant
supervision. I was eager to please and robust—Mom’s dependable girl. She was misguided to assume that “agreeable and healthy” meant “capable.”
I could find my way to the corner market but the return trip confused me. I’d go to the store each week with firm faith that I could find my way back home. After I’d been gone too long, the Reconnaissance Team of Little Lisa and Mommy would find me teary-eyed and the paper grocery sack crushed to my chest—my security blanket. One time I made it home with the help of an old stubble-faced man who smelled of cigarettes and beer. He held my hand, winked at me profusely, and called me “Blondie” even though I told him my full name. When he led me to my house, he kissed me on the cheek. Mom sternly lectured me about trusting strange drunk men and giving out our address.
Lisa and I took baths together. Once, when I was seven, Mom asked me to take charge of getting us both naked and into the tub. It was a small but important job. I was a jumble of emotions: honored, anxious, and giddy. Stepping into the tub, I noticed my underpants were still on. Panic set it. I felt that I had stepped into quick-drying cement and was stuck there, the pink cotton evidence of my incompetence covering my butt. I never even noticed that had Lisa jumped into the tub with her socks on.
As we became teenagers, meals were our responsibility because Mom was at work. One night I prepared dinner: frozen potpies. I heated them up in the oven on a tray so that, if they bubbled over, the oven wouldn’t get messy. I found a nice round tray perfect for the
job. I carefully placed the four potpies on the tray and in the 400-degree oven. The potpies came out perfectly. The tray didn’t. It was a collector Beatles tray with close-ups of John, Paul, George, and Ringo painted on the surface. I purposefully put one potpie over each face. When I pulled out the tray from the oven, the “Fab Four” looked like victims of chemical warfare—crinkled blackened bubbled remains of their former superstar selves. After that, I didn’t cook much.
Common sense eluded me well after youth or erratic teen hormones could be blamed for my mishaps. In the realms of the mind and heart, I’m the one you want on your team. Leave me on the bench, however, when dealing with inanimate objects or on-the-spot decision-making.
Common sense is important—it can save lives, heartache, and Beatles memorabilia. But what about something special and underappreciated among pragmatists and survivalists: uncommon sense? I have that. I just have to figure out how to minimize the inevitable collateral damage.