America, American Indian, ancestry, Austria-Hungary, automatic reset, Black, blank slate, boundary, clock radio, computer chip, Continental Divide, conversation, Daylight Savings Time, discussions, father, food preparation, Gender Identity, German, Germany, Great Divide Basin, Hungarian, Hungary, melting pot, Mixed Race, mother, Northern European, One drop of black blood, parents, personality, quantum, racial classification, racial identity, Richmond Hill, role model, taciturn, talkative, White
My clock radio didn’t know what time it was this morning. The reason was because of Daylight Savings Time. Wait a minute, you might be saying. Doesn’t Daylight Savings Time end next weekend?
That is correct. It is now observed in most of the United States before the first Sunday in November. And that is where the problem arose.
A few years ago, my clock radio died. The new one I bought had some great features my old one lacked. First of all, if there is a loss of power, when electricity is restored, the time resets.
The second feature had been excellent, but now it is a problem. The clock is programmed to automatically reset itself according to the start and end of Daylight Savings Time.
However, I bought the clock in 2006. The program chip has the dates for the old method of starting and ending Daylight Savings Time. For one year, the feature was a blessing. But then the starting and ending dates were changed. Had I bought a clock without this feature, I would have to keep track of those two dates manually. But now, I have to keep track of four dates: when it starts, when it would have started, when it would have ended and when it actually ends. I’m twice as inconvenienced than I would have been had I bought a clock without this feature.
There is a workaround. Had I remembered that the clock was going to set the time back an hour last night, I could have changed the clock to the Atlantic Time Zone. But I forgot, so I suddenly was very rushed getting for church this morning, having an hour less time than I thought I had. Next Saturday night before going to bed, I need to set the clock back on Eastern Time. Otherwise, I might be an hour early to church.
Unlike jumps in time because of Daylight Savings, time and most things in life generally happen in linear fashion. We progress grade by grade in school. Careers progress through a series of promotions. Temperatures rise and fall one degree at a time. These are but a few examples, and for much of our life, whether our daily schedule or our life story, we simplify our lives with the assumption that most things work this way.
I have been fascinated when things don’t work that way. Sometimes, it is a matter of a boundary condition. Other times, it is a quantum jump from one state to the next.
I became interested in such phenomenon at an early age. The first examples I remember had to do with the street on which I was born. My side of the street was considered to be Richmond Hill with a corresponding post office. The other side of the street was called Ozone Park, and had a different post office. And one summer day, the boundary was highlighted by nature. A weather system was positioned for a few minutes such that it was sunny on the Ozone Park side, while our side was getting a summer shower.
This type of situation increased my interest in geography. Instead of a gradual transition, when you cross a body of water or even a line drawn on a map, you might go from one state to another or one country to another. Within Turkey, on one side of the Bosphorus is Europe and the other side is Asia. Play twister on the right spot where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah come together, you could have one limb in each state. Not far from there, if you pour some water directly over the Continental Divide, some of the water will end up in the Atlantic Ocean and the rest will end up in the Pacific.
But then you have anomalies. For example in part of Wyoming, the Continental Divide splits into two lines, defining the Great Divide Basin. If I pour out my water there, it can’t flow into either ocean. It either stays in the ground or evaporates back into the air. In the boundaries between countries, I have seen maps that include disputed boundaries, countries separated by a strip of “no man’s land” rather than a line, and imprecise boundaries on older maps before the lands were actually explored.
As time passed, I began to notice that different classifications of people could occur in one person. Over thirty years ago, for less than a year, I was married to a person of mixed race. One of her parents was a Caucasian from Northern Europe while the other parent was mostly Black with some American Indian added to the mix. Is she white because the plurality of race in her is white and she has blue eyes? Is she black because she grew up in a black neighborhood, her skin tone is the color of café au lait and her facial features are closer to those typical of a black person (although in some poses, she more closely resembles someone of her father’s nationality)? Does she have the right to decide what race she is, or is it imposed on her by law or society?
To add another twist to the scenario, she has a son from a previous marriage. (She and I had no children together. I don’t know if I could have produced children.) His father was also from a Caucasian, Northern European ancestry. Her son has no Black features at all. She raised him to think of himself as white, to match his appearance. She did not subscribe to the “one drop of black blood” theory of racial identity. And yet depending on year and location, he might have been classified as white, black, free to decide for himself, or possibly even American Indian.
The first divide I was aware of in my own life was not gender. It was ancestry. My father is German and my mother is Hungarian. The disparity between the two is further complicated by the fact that the Hungarian people resulted from a melting pot of Central Europe and include influences from Huns (of mysterious origin, but likely Asiatic), Uralic tribes (some of whom migrated to Finland and Estonia), Tartars and Turks, Bulgars, Serbo-Croatians, Slavs, Romanians (why gypsies are associated with Hungarians), Slovaks and even Germans. When my mother’s parents entered the United States through Ellis Island at the beginning of the 20th century, their country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Even so, my parents demonstrated some of the personality traits of their respective ancestries.
My parents did not compete with each other to steer me or my brother towards their way of doing things in areas where those ways were different. While my parents are of a generation that embraced ethnic stereotypes to simplify their view of life, they also embraced the idea of the American melting pot taking the best of each culture and creating a stronger whole than found in the rest of the world. And they valued the concept of American individualism. They would have seen themselves and their children as individuals with individual personalities that they influenced but didn’t instill. My mother as the primary homemaker and caregiver would have been especially aware of differences in personality between my brother and me from the time we were babies. She knew we were not born as “blank slates”.
Both were proud of their heritage and its various examples in music, food, dance and so on. But they could also enjoy each other’s to a certain extent: my mom being more willing to accommodate my dad’s tastes than the other way around. They were proud most of all to be Americans, and saw themselves as Americans of a particular background, not German-Americans or Hungarian-Americans.
There is something that annoyed me when I was growing up, and it annoys me when I see it being done to this day. That is when an adult thinks it is fun to tease a child in a way that puts that child on the spot when that child is not capable of handling that situation. In this regard, I remember when an adult other than one of my parents would ask me whether I was German or Hungarian. Sure, put me in a situation where no matter which I choose, it will probably upset one of my parents! Depending upon my mood or perhaps who I felt closer to at the moment, I answered differently over the years until such questions no longer were directed to me (ironically just about the time I would have been better able to handle them). Afterwards, I would be upset over appearing to choose between them in this way.
What I can tell you is that I always felt closer to my mother. She was my primary role model. Yes, I can see traits I inherited or adopted from my dad, but many more from my mom (while my brother inherited or adopted more from my dad). I could look at my mom, and even if she wasn’t saying a word I could tell what she was thinking. But if I was looking at my dad (and he didn’t say much anyway), I had no idea what he was thinking.
In fact, if there was one area where I disappointed my dad (who was generally proud of me), it was my talkativeness. He called me “Silent Cal” (in his ironic manner) and I’m sure he was pleased when I became more taciturn as I got older. (My mom called him a “closed-mouthed German sometimes in frustration.) Little did either of them know that my reticence was due to the shell I had formed to keep people from seeing my gender secret.
But with my mom, I could have animated discussions and even disagree with her as long as I respected the fact that she was my mother. She once shared with me that it upset my brother to hear us go at it sometimes. But when the discussion ended, usually there were no hard feelings and we went on to the next part of our day. As I got older, she also would tell people that she would rather work in the kitchen with me than anyone else. I loved watching my mom prepare food. Soon I began to pick up her techniques, learn her rhythms, acquire her habits and skills. I started to anticipate when she would need a spoon or a measuring cup. I knew when to move out of the way so she could move to the stove or work area. Most of the time our conversation was about anything but what we were preparing, but we operated as a team. Some of my warmest memories are of the times we made Christmas cookies, yeast cakes, salads for the invited guests to our backyard picnics, or holiday dinners.
All these things helped me be more aware of my gender identity and its disparity with the body in which I was housed. Your core identity, including gender identity, comes from your mind, not your shell. The same is true for me.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. – Luke 16:25-26
And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. – Mark 15:37-39