Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Things I didn't know about my parents

My family is very open. We have long family dinners and long conversations, and though we're not confess-your-every-thought open, but we certainly do not lie to one another. Apparently, however, we do occasionally leave out crucial information.

Yesterday, as I was doing research for my paper on the Weathermen, I was reading about culture in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I was musing to my dad about the March on Washington, and he idly added, “I was there, you know.” No, I did not know! After my exclamations and questions subside, he adds “And I almost went to Woodstock, but none of my friends wanted to come because the weather was going to be bad.” Oh god. Another thing to add to my list of things-I-regret-about-my- dad’s-life, which includes him getting rid of his huge record collection and him selling his apartment in NYC that used to be Washington Irving’s library. And was octagonal.

But these events, while certaily surprising, are not exactly earth-shattering; I was reminded, though, of a few months ago when… In some dinner conversation, my mom casually refers to her first husband. Wait, you were married before Dad?! “Oh, I never told you guys that?” she says, mildly surprised. “Funny, I thought you knew that.” Turns out that my dad is actually her second husband; she was married when she was in college. “How could you have never told us this before now?” us kids exclaim. “Oh, hm,” she replies, “I guess it just never came up.”

(As an afterthought, my mom also tosses in the fact that my aunt, also, used to be married. Another rather shocking revelation.)

Every few years something like this happens. My dad has a long-lost brother who severed all family connections 35 years ago. Uncle J. dropped out of high school. My grandmother used to be a truck driver. Uncle D. is an alcoholic. It’s very odd, these deep-buried family secrets that keep emerging. It really is true, then, that every family is dysfunctional--I just thought mine was the exception to the rule!

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Listening to Willy Mason’s 21st Century Boy.

I meant to include this in yesterday’s post, but a sort of typical awkward-T.C.-moment occurred on Monday when I was taking my driver’s test. I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and after filling out all the proper forms and sitting in complete nervousness for about ten minutes, I take the astonishingly easy test: back up in a straight line, three-point turn, wham bam thank you ma’am. Minutes later, I’m happily showing my dad the big PASS stamped on my learner’s permit. You would think that all was well; but you know me better than that!

I’m routed to another counter for the last of the paperwork; here, a rather pinched-looking old woman takes my picture and gives me a paper license, informing me that the real thing will come in the mail soon. “Remember,” she says, “come back as soon as you turn 21 so we can make sure your license is always up-to-date and correct.” She gives me a stern look. “Oh right,” I deadpan, “when I have the proper license, I can go out and get drunk! And then drive.” Judging from the scandalized look on the woman’s face, this was not the proper sort of joke that a girl makes at the DMV. Especially right after said girl has just gotten her license. I let out a weak sort of chuckle to indicate that it’s alright, I was just joking, I promise I won’t really drink and drive--but alas, I think all chances of cultivating a deep friendship with this woman are dashed, for she proceeds to ignore me entirely. My dad just raises an eyebrow, a smile quirking at his lips. You can bet I get out of there as fast as I can. Oh my.

Listening to David Bowie’s song 1984.

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Top 10 names in literature:

1. Humbert Humbert (I read about half of Lolita before I couldn’t go on because Humbert was so perverted. I couldn’t stand those descriptions of his “gagged, bursting beast and the beauty of her dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock”--ugh.)

2. The Vengeance (Madame Defarge's ruthless accomplice in A Tale of Two Cities, she's “the short, rather plump wife of a starved grocer, and the mother of two children withal…”)

3. Peter Lake (from A Winter's Tale; there’s just something perfect about this…)

4. Oedipa Maas / Benny Profane (two Pynchon characters from The Crying of Lot 49 and V., respectively. They're tied.)

5. Montana Wildhack (Slaughterhouse-Five)

6. Curley’s wife (her character in Of Mice and Men is famously nameless; in freshman year, one question on an English test asked “What is the name of Curley’s wife and what is its significance?” Of course we were supposed to say she had no name and which represents yada yada yada, but this boy K. felt sure she had had a name, and since he couldn’t think of it, he’d might as well just guess. Samantha Dandelion, he guessed. Ah, our class had quite a laugh over that one.)

7. Sal Paradise (from On the Road. But seriously, Salvador Paradise?--quite a name to give your alter-ego, Jack.)

8. Moll Flanders

9. Ragged Dick (we read that last year in English…there were so many times when Mr. M. would say, “Okay, everybody pull out your Ragged Dicks!” which amused us endlessly.)

10. Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

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"According to all of the known laws of science, this should not have happened--but it did. And it kept on happening." Intrigued? Read this. (But I'm not sure I buy it.)

How is it not Friday yet?


Blogger VI said...

I have always been amused at how children don't realize that their parents had a life before they came along.
It sounds like they weren't secrets at all - as much as just not information you were not privy to - as it hadn't come up and wasn't really your business...
Good day. :)

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I am amazed that a 16 year old such as yourself has ability to express yourself with such wit and confidence. I tip my hat!


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