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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Things I Grew Up With (some have gone, and some remain)

"There are places I remember,
All my life, though some have changed.
Some forever not for better,
Some have gone and some remain."
-In My Life (The Beatles)

Leaving work on Friday, I was thinking about how much of my life was shaped by how I grew up. Now I'm not sure why this particular thought crumb fell into my lap, but never the less it was there. To extend the randomness even further, I was thinking about the things I knew and experienced growing up and how they've influenced and impacted me to this date.

Growing Up (relatively) Not Well Off
I grew up in a housing project, one of four boys raised by a single parent who worked nights to support her children. We were not destitute, but we didn't have a lot either. For example, I still remember when we got our first color TV, because the first thing I remember watching was something about the funeral of Elvis Presley. I was also (relatively) ashamed of where I lived and tried my best to keep it a secret. That was the natural reaction to the peer pressure I felt at the time, I suppose, but it was incredibly wrong never the less. I had nothing to be ashamed of, and now I am very proud of where I came from. I work with plenty of people who grew up in nice middle-class surroundings who don't seem any more well adjusted than me...and in fact some seem less adjusted, truth be told.

When I was young, my brothers and I would often listed to my mother's records. This included the soundtrack to West Side Story (I can still sing "Sgt Krupki" on request) Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits and other assorted albums. What I didn't listen to, for the most part, was popular music of the period. In fact, I remember being in 7th grade and seeing a "Kiss" sticker on someones book and having to asking them what it was. We just really didn't listen to all that much radio back then, and as a result (at least I) really didn't hear much in the way of "period" music. That changed rapidly, and by the time I was earning my own money with a paper route, I was buying 8 Track Tapes and albums. Now music is something that's readily a part of my life and the lives of my children. They grew up listening to me play ABBA and the Beatles, and now they are all old enough to have their own musical preferences. I drew few lines in what they could listen to: I never wanted anything that was disrespectful to women, for example, but pretty much everything else is ok. That's not to say that I actually like listening to the 'Emo' style that my youngest daughter listens to, but hey, it's her choice.

I think my mother made about 7 different things to eat, and that was pretty much it. I think the meals fell into something of a pattern, more or less, although I'm not sure just what the pattern was all those years ago. We always had spaghetti...which I don't like now, although I do like meatballs, and my mother always made homemade meatballs. We would have pork chops....which I never eat now, ever. I just don't like pork, outside of some bacon or a piece of ham every once in a while. We would have meatloaf...and I try my best to make my mother's meatloaf to this very day; in fact, my kids actually like it when I make meatloaf. We would have things like roast beef and chicken (I can still remember my mother boiling the chicken before putting it in the oven), although my mother was very simple with the veggies (I can remember three: Lima Beans, Green Beans and Wax Beans), so to this very day I don't eat a wide variety of them.

We always had books laying around the house, including a full set of encyclopedias. I would love to take an encyclopedia volume and just open it up and read stuff. I think that's where my love of random information comes from. My mother always encouraged us to read things we liked, and there was never any pressure to read things we didn't. To this day I don't read a lot of fiction, but I think that's in part because of how I loved reading about all those random facts in the encyclopedia.

Because we were not all that well off, I would describe our clothes as simple. In fact, outside of the one good dress shirt, I really didn't own any shirts with collars for the longest time. I think I bought my own first polo shirt..,it was navy blue and I got it from Sears in the Viewmont Mall. Needless to say, we didn't grow up as members of the fashion elite. Now days I wouldn't say that I'm a "clothes horse", but I do try and pay attention to what I wear. I love stuff from Eddie Bauer...even my basic watch is from Eddie. I like earth tones and things that have a relaxed fit, although I do own a wardrobe that fits with my need to look professional at work (including the required dark grey suit).

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