Late yesterday, we got a call from a recovery agency. We get them all the time, but they are never actually looking for me. Usually, they're looking for someone named Zakia Wilson, who supposedly has a relative named Alice. This Zakia Wilson is apparently a real deadbeat, at least based on the calls I've been getting. If I ever meet her in person, I will be sure to get her phone number, if you know what I mean. This time, however, the company not only had my name and phone number but also my real street address.
The bored-sounding woman on the other end of the line could only give us scant details about the case, except for the name of the company that had turned it over to the collection agency. Considering it was a medical expense accrued at a time when I was not dealing with any medical issues, and the company was one our insurance provider doesn't use, I was 99.99999 percent sure it was another mistake. Yet, she refused to take my phone number and address off the case, insisting -- with what sounded like a yawn -- that I had to write them a letter to dispute it.
So I did so this morning, reigning myself in to write a business-like letter, despite the imp of the perverse egging me on to "accidentally" drop said letter in the training potty, which was full of pee. Don't worry; the letter stayed dry, but the thought did reduce me to wicked laughter I refused to explain to my son.
And now with the carefully-written letter, which provides no information they didn't already know (just in case it's a phishing expedition) safely stowed in an envelope, I am watching "Drunk History" on my husband's laptop (with headphones on, of course) while my pantless son reads himself "Splat and the Cool School Trip." Because this is how we roll, when misled creditors aren't harassing us over the phone.
It's amazing how severely derailed we can become as the result of someone acting on bad information. I'm not even talking about such tragic circumstances as the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, where the killing of an unarmed teen by a police officer (also, ironically, a Wilson) has led to protestors and police being locked in a self-perpetuating crisis of miscommunication.
Lesser incidents can have an impact, too. This past Saturday, I overheard a father saying to his young daughter, a bit disdainfully, "I'm sure there will be more weeds on the way home." He placed a subtle but significant emphasis on the word "weeds."
I turned to catch a flicker of pain crossing the girl's heart-shaped face, which was framed by long brunette hair so similar to my oldest niece's. She was clutching a small bouquet of daisies, chicory flowers and Queen Anne's Lace, some of the most common Pennsylvania wildflowers.
Loud enough for them both to hear, I remarked with delight, "Oh, a chicory flower," gently emphasizing the word "flower." Because I remember when, as a child, my Pop-Pop rejected a similar bouquet from me, declaring them "weeds." Back then, my mom had saved the day, digging out a juice glass to fill with water, and declaring the bouquet "beautiful." The flowers had stayed on the kitchen table during our visit, although I suspect he dumped them soon afterwards.
I didn't realize it then, but looking back, I think I felt a fraction of how my mother must have felt when my Pop-Pop rejected her plans to study art in college, pushing her instead towards the more practical field of science. And I love her deeply for her efforts to nurture my silliest, most impractical dreams. To pay back that gift, I am striving to do the same for my son. I want my boy -- who wants to be a writer one day, a structural engineer the next, and a clown the day after that -- to learn how to convert such daily indignities into works of subtle understanding.
Like my parents, I call weeds "volunteers," explaining to my son that weeds are just plants growing where they haven't been cultivated. Because I want him to appreciate the beauty of things that do not fit into societal expectations.
Like my mother and her mother before her, I will teach him to open his mind to the possibility of faeries, ghosts, and clairvoyance. Because the world is a richer place when you believe there is more to life than what we can logically explain.
Like my parents did with me and my siblings, I ask my son in the morning, "What did you dream?" Because I know that dreams are important, as much or more so as what happens during the day.
I feel compelled to frontload him with these thoughts and observations: encouraging him to listen to the music of the world around him, to marvel at the artistic lines of a piece of crumpled paper. That way, his heart will be filled with beauty, music and compassion as he walks bravely into a world of naysayers.