Where do they get this stuff? Some people say that you are a sum of all of your influences. For the most part, I agree with these people. I have had many influential people in my life. I believe my friends, people I have worked with, schoolmates and even television has helped mold me into who I am today, but I think the two most influential people in my life were my parents.
My mother and my father are very different. From the way they grew up, to the way they are now, they have always been quite different. My father is made from the fibers of hard work and he is a tough as nails stubborn old guy. My mother is quite the opposite. She is gentle, caring, and a deep thinker.
My father was a wild man growing up. I know a lot about his crazy youth because he never missed the chance to pull me aside and tell mea story that "you can't tell your mother I told you."
I always loved stories that began that way.
My mother also had stories about her youth, but they didn't start in the same manner as my father's. Actually, her stories were pretty wild in their own way too. She would insist on telling me these stories when we were in a heated argument. My father always worked so much that he was never around during our fights. Even so, my mom always loved to slap me with the dreaded, "I'm telling your father when he gets home!" Then she would hit me with the stories of her youth.
My father's stories showed how reckless my father had been growing up. He told me many stories about going to Florida. He said he would often pack up and go to Florida when he was about eighteen years old. He recalled a time when his friends were going and they asked him a day before if he could join them. He said he woke his father up at two o'clock in the morning and told him he was on his way to Florida. His father was mad! "You woke me up at two A.M!" he hollered, "how much money do you need?" "Nothing", my father objected. "Then don't get arrested" his father warned and rolled back over.
My mother's youth was much different. Her mother died in a car accident and her father left them. So, they went to live with her sister, who was much older and married. They were poor. My mom taught me about 'mayonnaise sandwiches', which my friends like to call 'welfare sandwiches'. It consists of two pieces of bread and a thin layer of mayonnaise. At times I have used mustard as a variation. She also told me stories about Sunday cleaning, which to me, was the real nightmare. They would all clean the house, front to back, spotless! She said they even used to clean behind the stove, behind the refrigerator, and clean out the drawers. They would spend all day, once a week, polishing and scrubbing, and dusting. Up until she was over 21, she followed this routing. My mother sometimes said they wanted company to be able to show up and the house not be a mess. I say, if company is coming they have no right looking behind the refrigerator, the stove, or in your drawers! My mother's youth reflects in the way she liked to punish me. She refused to just tell me that I could not go out for a couple of days. She showed me the way she grew up. She would make me help her with the housework! I remember the time I got suspended from school. By the time I went back to school my house was spotless. Needless to say, I was never suspended again and I actually seen something that I had never seen before. That space behind the stove! My father could care less about what was behind the stove, but that didn't stop him from giving me some good punishments. My father never got really mad at me for bad things I sometimes did. Rather, he always had a funny comment for every situation I got myself into. Like his father telling getting mad that he woke him up at two AM instead of caring that he is 18 years old and leaving for Florida late at night. My father would give a witty comment during an argument. One time he had seen my grades were slipping. He took my driving permit and held it up like he was about to rip it. "How are your grades going to be next quarter?" he asked. Again, needless to say, my grades were a lot better the next marking period. My mother's worst stories always came crying out when we got into big arguments. She told me about how her stepfather was an alcoholic. It always really got to me when she used to tell me about times like that. She would never go into detail, but I gathered that her stepfather was not pleasant when he was drunk.
Alcohol was also a big thing in my father's youth. I remember a story that really sticks out in my mind. My father told me about his friend that lived upstate farm. He said is all they did up there was just drink a lot.
One time, they went out drinking, like usual. When they returned, his mother said they are not coming home drunk anymore and kicked them out. The weather outside was 10 or 20 below. So, they decided to sleeping in the barn was there only option. After sitting in the cold barn for a while his friend built up the courage and said, "Forget this! I'm goin in my house" and stormed out of the barn. My father woke up and looked around. His friend was gone. He must have made it in the house, he thought. On his way in to show his mother who was boss, he had lost his courage and passed out outside leaning on a tractor. My father said he took one look and ran over to him. His face was blue. There was ice in his beard and my father remembered how cold he had been in the barn. He ran over to him and wondering if he was alive. My father shook him. It took a minute of shaking but he awoke and said, "Man, I'm freezing!" My father would laugh at me when I came home a little drunk or a lot late. He had a clever idea for punishment. Much like the way his friend's mother sent them back out in the cold. My father would take my keys and send me to my car for the night.
My mom's history with alcohol came out in how she talked to me about alcohol. My mom viewed alcohol as a problem. I never understood this as I was growing up. I thought of alcohol as a way to have a good time with friends, and, until recently, I never understood her hatred for everything alcoholic. Her youth taught her that alcohol could be so bad, that she wanted nothing to do with it ever again.
After hearing the stories my mother and my father have preached to me, I think I had it pretty easy growing up. Now I just wonder how I'm going to handle my kids someday. I know its going to reflect my youth, and I can only hope that I take the best of what both my parents have given me.