367. Greener Grass

Did you ever find yourself wishing your children or parents were more like some other children or parents you’ve seen? We’re not supposed to think that way. We’re supposed to appreciate the people we’ve already got, and if we compare at all, our family is supposed to compare favorably. We’re supposed to feel lucky that we have the parents or children we have, and maybe even feel sorry for other people, whose parents or children aren’t as great.
As a child, I had to deal with the image of Leonard Solomon’s son, who got perfect grades in school. My grades weren’t perfect. Leonard Solomon was my father’s business partner. I never met his son; for all I knew, he didn’t even have a son – the kid could have been a standard my father made up to motivate me. It didn’t work. In fact, I might even have tried a little harder if it hadn’t been for the specter of Leonard Solomon’s son; as good as I could have been, I was pretty sure I couldn’t be perfect. Not like you-know-who.
It turns out that my father wasn’t valedictorian of his class, either. In fact, as much as he loved to read and think, he never got a bachelor’s degree. He took some college courses about business, and then he went into business. He did well. Well enough to be able to provide a comfortable home in the suburbs for his family and send us to college. He was the son of immigrants, and he worked to make it possible for his children to become successful members of society. That was not easy. My last name is Blue, not Blustein. For a long time, I thought there was something wrong with that – that it was cowardly to hide our heritage that way. But now, I think my parents’ decision to change their last name had a lot to do with protecting their children from bigotry. They didn’t want our lives to be any harder than necessary.
In college, I met people who sounded as if their parents accepted them for who they were. I envied them. I think I came home during vacations and described those parents to my parents. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I think I was creating my own version of Leonard Solomon’s son. I was telling my parents they didn’t measure up – that they really needed to work harder if they wanted to be as good as the parents I’d heard about. Revenge. Not as sweet as some people say it is.
It took me a long time, but I finally got so I was glad to be who I was, with no reservations. I was not the valedictorian of my high school or college class, but the valedictorians weren’t me, either. Neither was the Solomon kid. I hope they all coped all right with not being me. I, personally, would have had a lot of trouble with it, and I’m really glad I didn’t have to deal with it.

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