Monday, April 30, 2012

How It All Began

I decided to go ahead and start writing my story from the beginning, since I don't feel like discussing anything current at the moment.

My mom was raised Southern Baptist in the hills of West Virginia. Her father was a minister, and at different times a coal miner, delivery truck driver, and glassworker. I love the big chunks of glass she still has that he brought home from the factory. They were part of the runoff. She used to put them in the garden as decorations. Her mother raised 6 children in poverty, and no one was better at stretching a dollar and keeping up appearances than my grandmother. She was an excellent seamstress, and made them each a new outfit every year when it was time for their doctor visit, so the doctor wouldn't know how poor they were. They had one pair of shoes a year, and wore them only to church and school. (My mom had me in shoes practically from birth, hehe. I guess it was important to her that she could afford shoes for me; but I can't go barefoot at all now and I have very poor balance. I encourage my children to go barefoot.) Her father resigned his pastorate after years of dissension with her mother, who was very controlling and would stand up in the church and argue with him.

I've never fully understood my grandparents' relationship. My grandfather adored my grandmother, and would bend over backwards for her. But she was extremely jealous of him. Although she raised his children in the face of hardship, with amazing perseverance and endurance, she seemed later in life to carry bitterness and resentment towards him for not doing enough for her. She recently passed away, and I hope I can finally have a chance to get to know him without her constant interference. One of my aunts expressed the same feelings.

My mother is a very private person. She comes from a private family. I don't know the details of her relationship with her mother. Only that there was a great deal of conflict as far back as I can remember, and apparently farther. My mother and one of her sisters left home after graduation to attend college in another state. My mom made dresses for the wealthier girls and worked part time at a newspaper to pay her tuition and rent. She is very smart on the IQ level, and an amazing pianist. She majored in music.

My dad came from California. I know very little about his childhood except from pictures. From what I know it sounds like a very typical, all-American childhood. His parents lived most of their lives in the San Fransisco Bay Area, and he attended public school there. He had one sister, 7 years younger. My grandparents were atheist, but encouraged their kids to look into religion as a healthy and productive thing. They vacationed every year to Lake Tahoe. My dad was often accused of being the actor from Dennis the Menace and people would request his autograph. His dad ran a printshop, and when my father was old enough, he worked there as well. His school years sound quite normal; he pestered the girls mercilessly, pulled jackass stunts on occasion with his friends, had two escape artist dogs that kept his dad busy trying to improve their fencing, and loathed cats. Still does.

After graduation he went on to CalPoly and earned a degree in engineering. I don't know the exact name of the degree. When he graduated college, he joined the U.S. Navy as an officer and began to fly helicopters. A romantic interest became an engagement, but fell through. He was sent to Florida and stationed at the naval base near Pensacola. When he left, his mother told him, "Don't marry a Christian. Don't marry a Southern girl."

Meanwhile, my mother and her sister were in the market for a car. They found one that would suit their needs. The couple selling the car invited them to visit and became close friends. More specifically, the woman became close to my mother. She was about twenty years older, from an interesting background. She had become a Methodist/Nazarene, wrote poetry, and played music very well. Her husband was a dental technician; he made dentures and false teeth to order. They had common interests with their musical talents and love for old-fashioned religion (or so they perceive it).

My mother graduated and began to look for a teaching job. She found one in Pensacola, FL at a Christian school, teaching second grade. Her new friends paid her moving costs and helped her to get settled. She attended the chapel there on Sundays.

My dad looked around for a church to attend and discovered the same chapel. He attended for a short while before my mom's boss (I think it was the principal, not sure) set them up for a date. My dad started dropping by her classroom and hiding behind the door at the end of the school day, making faces and silly animal noises to disrupt the kids. Hehe. They dated for about four months and got married on a short vacation to Georgia, at the home of a friend, a Nazarene minister who performed the ceremony. My mother's family attended, and so did her new friends from Tennessee. My father's sister came also. His parents did not. And his mother was very angry that he had not heeded her instructions.

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