I wasnít going to do another landmark thread.
But then Ralphie and Morbo had to go and mention it. So here we are.
I was born in California. My dad was a college student at USC, going to school on a GI Bill. My dad has a genius for getting other people to pay for things he wants. He met my mother at a dance in Oregon, and she is fond of telling me about the yellow sweater he was wearing when she first saw him. I think for her, it was love at first sight.
They werenít what youíd call an obvious match, except perhaps by looks. Both my parents are short. I canít call it anything other than short, even though my mother likes to say that sheís not overweight, sheís undertall. They gave birth to short children, who despite all efforts to the contrary, never did get very tall. Their differences, outside of sharing shortness, were many.
My fatherís family moved. A Lot. Sometimes at night, with all the lights out, so the creditors wouldnít notice. Dadís dad, who we called Big Daddy, was a big man in every sense of the word. He was larger than life, which was saying a lot, since he was well over 6 feet tall and weighed a good 300lbs. He had Get-Rich-Quick-itis, which ultimately proved terminal for his marriage to my grandmother, whom we call Nanny. Big Daddy had a degree from Harvard in, if you can believe it, French Horn. As far as I know, he never made any money from his gift for playing the French Horn. He did, however, make and lose a lot of money at lots of other things, including television production of a variety show when television wasnít common. He had wonderful, grand ideas for money making ventures, many of which were actually pretty good. He was, however, a terrible businessman, and had a loose grasp of ethics when it came to money. As a result, they moved a lot, sometimes more than once a year. Frequently it meant leaving everything behind, so that my father learned not to be attached to things or places.
My motherís family never went very far from their home on Front Street in Albany, Oregon. The house they bought for $1,500 in the 1930s still stands, and remained my grandmotherís property until just a few years ago. Well into her 80ís, Grandma kept her house and was known to climb on the roof to clear out the gutters. It took no small amount of talking to persuade her that perhaps she was a little too old to be climbing on the roof. My mother said that she could just see her falling off, landing with a poof of dust. Grandma is 93 now, and in failing health. We figure weíll only have her a few more months at most. But I imagine that sheís eager to be reunited with her husband of over 50 years. He passed on in the early 90s, just shy of turning 100. My mother lived in that same house until she moved out to be married to my Dad.
So my mother, the homebody, married Dad, the vagabond gypsy with grand ideas (for he is truly his fatherís son) and together, they had two kids. They planned all along to have a daughter first and then a son. Iím not sure how they wrangled that, but they got what theyíd planned for.
We moved all over, as families must when they are Air Force. I think it was hard on my mother, though she often said she liked the adventure. The truth is, however, that sheís never taken change well, and spent a lot of her marriage battling depression. She was hospitalized for it several times through my childhood. I spent a lot of my 20ís worrying that I would succumb to her illness. It was almost as if I was waiting for a tsunami to hit me, totally unavoidable. But so far, so good. At 35, Iím quite a lot older than she was when she was first hospitalized. I donít worry about it anymore.
My parents proposed divorce at least three times through my childhood, usually in connection to Momís depression, and finally made it stick when my brother was grown and out of the house. My mother has lived with me most of the time since then.
I have great memories of my folks, when I was a kid. They were strict, but loving. They had high expectations, but great humor and a sense of fun.
Mom is an artist, so we always had lots of creativity around us. Mom makes beauty wherever she is. A plain banana stand is not part of the kitchen until sheís tied a ribbon around it. Mom loved to make costumes, and we loved to wear them. Over the years, we collected quite a large box of dress up clothes, which we continued to play with until well into our teens. It was not uncommon to sit down to dinner with a wolf on one end of the table and a duck on the other. Or a leprechaun and a frog. Every holiday, birthday, and occasion was celebrated with a big sign, at least a small party, and some goofy dancing, largely due to my motherís gift for taking small things and making them big and wonderful.
My mother is dyslexic in a generation when it wasnít understood. She grew up thinking she was stupid because she couldnít read well. One of her teachers told her she would never go far with her education. The teacher got that one wrong. My entire life, sheís gone to school. She has at least four degrees from various universities around the country, only one of which has any practical use. Despite her difficulty reading, she loves books. Loves them to the point that she goes to thrift stores and frequently finds books that must be rescued from their desperate situation. When she and I first moved in together after our divorces, I moved in with 40 boxes total. She moved in with many, many more than that, just in books.
My mother was creative fun. Dad was mischievous fun. I remember Dad teaching us how to blow things up with various incendiary devices. He taught us how to explode ketchup packets with our hands, while sitting in the booth at the very back of a Burger King. On a family trip to Mexico, he showed us how, as a kid, he had built little rockets out of the waxed paper matchsticks they use in that country. Built right, they will shoot straight up, melting the wax, so that when it hits the ceiling, it will stick. He used to do this in school the year he lived in Mexico City.
Dad wasnít a good fisherman, but he did his best to make sure that we took advantage of living in Alaska, where we landed after Dad got out of the Air Force. I caught my first and only King Salmon at age 12 while drifting down the Russian River in the Kenai Peninsula. Dad wasnít a great skier, but many winters, we took the train out into the middle of nowhere to cross-country ski for the day, then take the train back to town. My brother and I would walk through the party car, where the air was heavy with cigarette and pot smoke, and get a coke. This was the highlight of the trip for us, as we felt so cosmopolitan and grownup. Some Sundays, we would pile into the car for church, and instead of taking us to church, Dad would ďmistakenly miss the exitĒ and drive us out to the ski lodge in Girdwood, where we would sip hot chocolate and watch the skiers fall down the mountain.
My brother and I knew one thing above all other things: we were loved. Sometimes Momís depression hung like a black cloud over our family. Sometimes Dadís zeal for a ďsure thingĒ resulted in a sudden loss of large amounts of the family savings. And sometimes, my brother and I fought like only siblings close in age can. We had our bad moments. But we had our great moments too, and for the most part, thatís what I choose to remember about those years.
When I was 7, my parents met a couple of sister missionaries. Sister Pace and Sister Wright. I think I still have a Book of Mormon around here somewhere from the two of them. Mom and Dad converted and were baptized when I was 8. I know that for my fatherís part, the conversion was more a matter of doing whatever it took to be a part of the organization than from a genuine discovery of faith. He had been raised as a Christian Scientist, and as I understand it, his grandmother was a fairly well known practitioner in her day. His belief in God is, as far as I know, mostly a matter of pragmatism for wanting to hang around with people who espouse values he philosophically agrees with. He can belt out good, eloquent prayers when he puts his mind to it though, and I figure that God probably hears it even if Dadís not sure heís praying for any other purpose than the audience he can see.
I donít really understand my motherís conversion. I know that at the time, she was simply following her husband in the belief that going to church would be good for the kids. Today, Iím fairly sure sheís not tied to specifically Mormon beliefs, but likes the LDS church for its predictability and low-key steadiness. As I mentioned, she doesnít really handle change well. I think she likes the idea of no Hell, which would make the LDS particular attractive. Unfortunately, as a single woman by divorce, and not seeking to remarry, it hasnít been a comfortable church for her to return to, so sheís stayed away from churches in general for the past number of years. Over all, I think for her, faith is simply not something to talk about. For her, itís almost more intensely private than sex, and not nearly as funny. I suspect, however, that she supports gay marriage and is pro-choice. We manage to live happily in the same house and have a moderate amount of fun despite this.
I have very fond memories of being a Mormon kid. Being LDS was so good for our family on so many different levels, ultimately, Iím glad my parents made the decision they did. It took some years to really appreciate it, but I think I really do, now.
You know, I sometimes wonder what my kids would say about me in a Landmark thread.
Looking over my life so far, I can see lots of highs. And lots of lows. Some good decisions, and lots of bad ones. But I think I like my life right now the best of all. I have a great husband, much better than I deserve, who is a fantastic father, not just to my son, but to our daughter as well. I have more genuine friends than I have ever had, and they are good friends -- the sort who are there for you in the tough times, celebrate with you in the good times, and always believe the best in you even when youíre not being your best. And theyíre the sort to tell me Iím being a butthead when I need to hear it. Thatís love. And ultimately, thatís what itís all about: loving and being loved. Not much else matters.
Posts: 5947 | Registered: Jun 2001
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quote:good friends -- the sort who are there for you in the tough times, celebrate with you in the good times, and always believe the best in you even when youíre not being your best. And theyíre the sort to tell me Iím being a butthead when I need to hear it. Thatís love.
Damien, I do math the way they teach in 3rd and 4th grade now: guess.
celia, it's a common history, isn't it? Doesn't feel like it at the time, though. It took being pregnant for me to start to understand what my mother went through and learn a little compassion. I do think that her marriage had a lot to do with the severity of her depression. Dad viewed it as her problem, one she should solve and then get back to him. Not exactly the most supportive environment. It is telling that she hasn't had any significant problems with it since the divorce.
Zan, I'll stop being a butthead just as soon as you do. And we'll be back in Orlando before too long. We go every couple of years so Christian can see his dad, who lives in Tampa. The bonus to waiting is that I'll get to see baby Ryan, hopefully.
Ralphie, closer to 5 hours, but you're right, we ought to have another PacNW get-together. Long overdue! The next two months are jammed for me. We're speaking at a conference next month, then I'm going to Denver for a week for some classes. Right after that, our lamaze class is having a reunion. Hmmmm...I'd love to come down sometime in November and get some of no-sales-tax Christmas shopping done. Sound good?
Posts: 5947 | Registered: Jun 2001
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If you're shooting for November, you should consider trying to work an OSC signing in somewhere, so yours can be the only non-Endercon gathering where OSC actually attended (willingly or not).
Posts: 6173 | Registered: May 2001
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quote:My brother and I knew one thing above all other things: we were loved. Sometimes Mom?s depression hung like a black cloud over our family. Sometimes Dad?s zeal for a ?sure thing? resulted in a sudden loss of large amounts of the family savings. And sometimes, my brother and I fought like only siblings close in age can. We had our bad moments. But we had our great moments too, and for the most part, that?s what I choose to remember about those years.
On read and reread, I find that this quote says a lot about you, in a lot of different ways.