They’ve Only Just Begun

“I was perfectly content before I was born,” film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “and I think of death as the same state.”

Early Life1Therefore, this is a tale told by a zygote.

Perhaps a discontented zygote, even, since the precise circumstances surrounding its creation will probably remain a mystery.

That is, I’d ask my parents but they’ve already passed away.

After Dad returned from Korea in 1955, he dated Mom and they married on Dec. 21, 1957. I was born in late Nov. 1959, so I could’ve been conceived in their first home on Indianapolis’ East 64th Street (pictured above).

Or heck, maybe it was in the backseat of Dad’s car. Hard to say.

Anyway, those 4 or 5 years prior to my birth piqued my curiosity after I’d discovered the following photos from the time.

The questions these pictures raise speak to something I’ve had on my mind for some time now: how our inner lives are shaped by our interactions with the outer world, and vice versa.

What brings two people together at all?

What part does the zeitgeist play in their meeting and how it affects their inner lives?

My folks were Depression Era babies. If you grew up during the Great Depression, you learned to save everything because you might really need it someday. You acquired things to get you further down the road to success: establishing your career, starting a family, or living in a particular community.

For Pop it all took off after 1965, when he was hired as project manager for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

Mom used her nursing degree to work the night shift at Montgomery County General Hospital.EarlyLife2

Their original community was small-town Indiana, centered largely around Mom’s parents, but after we’d moved to Minnesota it became the lakeshore neighborhood on Casco Point. My parents’ outer world, then, always dictated domesticity and stability.

Once they’d found each other, they were inseparable. As Pop once told me, their favorite date night was over pizza, beer, and cigarettes at some joint, likely in Indianapolis. That, he said, was a magic time for them.

And once this zygote got the green light about nine months prior to the end of 1959—voila!well lookie here!—you had a brand-spankin’ new Family Project on your hands.

But what about their inner lives? What were they thinking and feeling? How did they navigate the emotions that grow out of living under one roof together, sharing duties, and managing expectations?

Perhaps our inner lives are hard-wired early on. Everyone, I believe, carries a personal mythology from early childhood, for good or bad.

For Mom, that likely included how she felt as a girl with her cousin Lois at the beach. She was happiest with Lois, who was essentially the sister she never had, and it showed every time they were together.

Dad’s boyish temerity was right at the core of how he saw himself, along with the certainty that hard work won the day in any endeavor.

I’d wager the social norms of the time made it easier, since you just took your cues from the way the world operated: men went to work during the day, paid the bills; women stayed at home and raised the children.

EarlyLife3And this zygote?

Born into the 1960s—Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kennedys, and The Beatles ending with Altamont, Nixon, and the counterculture—my world was fundamentally different from the generation before. Steeped in advertising, television, and space travel, that world never seemed more filled with possibilities. We were encouraged to do more, learn more, and in turn raise our families.

My brother easily fell into that groove; I did not. I struggled with relationships and, for the longest time, my career. My inner life—much, I suspect, like Mom’s—has always been rich.

When I was younger I felt the pain of loneliness, but now blissfully crave solitude. How I’d be able to negotiate all that with a potential life partner at this point in my life is anyone’s guess.

And I’m running out of time.

In 20 years I’ll be exactly the age at which Mom passed away.EarlyLifeFinal

So, when I discovered the photo at right, I was startled. It’s such a gift to me—a window into Mom’s early inner life.

In her 20s, she collapses at her parents’ kitchen table, exhausted, cigarette in hand, and still wearing her nurse’s uniform.

The little girl playing at the beach is now a young woman. She’s just met a man with whom she’ll spend the rest of her life.

For Dad’s part, he’ll have to say goodbye to his tricycle, slingshot, and boyhood dog.

He’ll need to make some money if this Family Project is to get off the ground.

They’ve only just begun.

~ by completelyinthedark on May 3, 2013.

One Response to “They’ve Only Just Begun”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Plugging away at job searching has eaten into my new writing time. So here’s a oldie but goodie until next Friday! Cheers, MM


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