Who Are You, Who Who, Who Who? (I Really Wanna Know)

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Has it ever occurred to you that your parents were people before you were born? Have you ever heard anything about them when they were your age or younger that made you understand better who they used to be?

-- Kymm Zuckert (hedgehog@hedgehog.net), July 28, 2000


When my father was a drama/journalism student in college, he had a horrible stammer. He chose to deal with it by getting a job as a disk jockey at a rock station; he was quite popular, because he would just play records continuously when he was unable to speak, and would often play half-hour or hour-long uninterrupted music sets while he sat in his studio gasping for breath.

He went from college to the Air Force, where he was the editor of the base newspaper. The air force, at that time, had a program called the "bond-a-month" program, where airmen would automatically get a bond deducted from their paycheck every month. He wrote a story for the paper about a hard-of-hearing NCO who showed up at the office, looking for his blond... The base commander's wife saw the story and was so outraged that she insisted he be shipped to another base. He was two weeks short, recently married to my mother, who had two kids from another marriage, and moving would have been a royal pain, so they shipped him out the front gate, snuck him in the back, and he lived over the PX for his last two weeks.

When he was working on his master's at SF State, he was once again on the school newspaper. SF State's music department had always had a very stuffy attitude; they were very orchestrally-oriented, and not band-oriented. Whenever interest in the school newspaper flagged, he would write an editorial on the subject: What we really need is a marching band! He'd get letters from outraged music majors, which would spawn letters from jocks and wiseasses.

-- Colin (ethilrist@prodigy.net), July 28, 2000.

My parents were older when I was born (Mom, 42; Dad, 50) so by the time I was old enough to remember, they had already lived most of their lives. My mom died when I was young and Dad never talked in specifics about anything that happened the first nine years of their marriage, when they were in their 30's and just married, before having any children. After my dad died I found a bunch of letters he'd written to his mother and sister when he was overseas in the army during WWII. And I found several carousels of slides taken during those "lost years" when they were first married. As I read the letters that first described boot camp and the excitement of seeing new places during basic training and later what it was like to sleep in mud and advance under enemy fire in France, I began to get to know my dad when he was a young man. The slides are priceless - who knew my dad limboed?! Like you, Kymm, I was surprised to glimpse the life my parents had before they had kids and to learn how much different they were during those years than they were later. So save your journal entries! Someday they'll mean a lot to someone who didn't know you when.

-- Marcia (synergy30@hotmail.com), July 28, 2000.

[Quick note to Kymm: the link on today's entry that's supposed to go here goes to the hair thread instead.]

I had the "explosion in my head" about my mom when I was still quite young, in elementary school. I was holding a piece of paper in my hand that had her signature on it -- it was a note to my teacher, or a check for school pictures, or something -- and I was staring at her name when it suddenly hit me that I knew and lived with this person who was a complete individual with a childhood and thoughts and purpose of her own, not just my mother. It took me years to grok this because she's not a storyteller and never speaks of her past, except weird little anecdotes such as "My father always had a lemon wedge on his dinner plate, and when he was finished eating he'd rub it across his teeth to keep them white." Seriously, this is all I know about my maternal grandfather, who died when I was in the second grade and don't remember at all.

For some reason my mother has no photographs of herself before she was married, so it wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I could relate to any image I had of her. Four years ago I put together a baby book for myself, since I didn't have one (just a bunch of pictures thrown out-of-order into a plastic "magnetic" album, which was gradually eating the emulsion off the prints), and my paternal grandmother gave me a file of pictures of my youthful parents that I'd never seen before. That was another eye-opener, seeing my mother younger than I am now, holding baby me and looking up at the camera unsmiling with a creased forehead, overwhelmed. Or [seriously] posing next to her new blender as if it were a new sedan or a puppy.

Finding out anything about my parents has always involved amateur detective work. Neither of them ever wants to talk about anything important, so I end up having these surreptitous conversations with my mom's old sorority sisters, or my dad's brothers. After I saw _Platoon_ and _Full Metal Jacket_ as a teenager I tried to talk to my dad about his experiences in Vietnam and he changed the subject, something at which he is so deft that you don't realize until later that you've been blown off. I've actually done things like taken his old patches and brass and tried to figure out what his rank was and what he did.

(Captain, OCS Branch Gunnery, '67 and '68.)

-- Kim Rollins (kimrollins@yahoo.com), July 28, 2000.

My parents were so young when they had me that as I was growing up I heard all the stories about them from there siblings.

Mom had just turned 17, Dad had just turned 21 when I was born. I was not an accidental pregnancy I was planned. In fact they got pregnant with me so they could get married. My grandparents wouldn't sign the papers.

I was just like my Mom as a teenager, wild and wanting to do my own thing. Dad was more laidback and stable although there are many stories of him torturing his siblings (he was number 5 of 6).

-- Suzy (suzy@cyberbabies.com), July 30, 2000.

There is a solution to this problem:

Take Photos Write Everyting Down Keep Every little Keepsake, Mememto, Trinket, etc

That way, when you are old and grey, and eventually, dead, there will be a little bit of you left for those you leave behind.

I realised that I don't know a thing about my parent's history, and so I decided to do these things- now I have so many mememtos of my life that I have no room in my bedroom anymore! But it's the only way to let people know that you really lived...

-- Grant Leis (thelastgoony@hotmail.com), January 15, 2002.

My father stole his best friend's girl who ended up being my mother. Also. when he was a boy he found my grandfather's poor report card and confronted him with it when He himself got bad grades. Grnadfather gave my father the same thing for his bad report card the gramps himsefl had got. a good butt whooping.

-- Ray Watkins (rayadj67@hotmail.com), January 16, 2002.

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