The year was 1969. It was an era of free love, mass consumerism, cheap housing and plentiful jobs. It was the year after my parents were married. It was the year I was born.
My parents met on a Saturday night street cruise. My mom was a straight-A student and my dad was a bad boy. He was an army brat stationed at Fort Clift after a tour, as he describes it, drinking a whole lot of beer in Korea. After wooing my mom, carousing, getting caught and wooing her some more, my dad eventually brought my mom back to live near his family in Northern California.
Things went pretty well for them in that first few months of marriage. She was 19, he was 21 and they were both popular kids. Photos from back then suggest they spent a lot of time with friends enjoying their newfound freedom from parental restrictions.
My first memory of my mother was when I was 3. She was petite, wore glasses and an almost black Mary Tyler Moore flip. We stood face-to-face, my mother’s hands on my sides keeping me safe where I stood, leaning off the edge of the couch to touch her shoulders. She was smiling. She smiled into me, down to my soul. That smile made me feel connected, important, safe and loved.
“Go get your Snuffleupagus toy, honey.” My mother said gently, setting me down to toddle off to my room. When I got there, I opened the squishy red lid of the toy box my father made for me and I reached for my stuffed Sesame Street toy. Just before my hand touched its nose, I heard a low, angry growl.
I froze. Did Snuffleupagus just growl at me?
My eyes narrowed as I cautiously reached for him again. “Grrrrr…..” The growl was louder this time and I turned to run.
“Ouch!” I smacked face-first directly into my dad’s leg.
“Whoa! Where are you going?” My dad asked.
“Snuffleupagus is mad! He’s growling at me.” I said, contorting to look up at my dad while pointing behind me, somewhere in the vicinity of the toy box.
“Oh, I don’t think he’s mad. Maybe he’s just hungry.” My dad said, shooting me a sly wink.
That’s all I remember from that day, but I have many later memories of growling things that turned out to be my dad thinking he was pretty darned funny. Gotta love those dad jokes.
(Continued in chapter 1B – click here)