01 January 2009

When I'm 65 Part I



Today we will warm up the time machine because my children have been demanding an autobiography for years. Fortunately, there is one whale of a soundtrack. In all fairness I have to tell you about my ultimately self-destructive but wonderful parents and the unusual almost parents, keepers, and volunteers. I was actually, for the most part, kind of given a home by four people with additional add-ons as necessary. As a result, this is going to be a multiple day post.

Mama was born in 1918 in Oklahoma. She lived during the dust bowl as the middle of nine children and made the trek to California. Her father the light of her life died when she was 15. There was an older very strange brother that the family doesn't discuss, but she had younger sisters who adored her for defending them even though they knew she was a victim.
She had a brain that made her valedictorian of her 1936 graduation class. The love of her life in high school was Armenian. In Central California of the 1930s that would be the equivalent of black/white so she was forced into an "acceptable" marriage at 18 to a man who tried to kill her. Was she "wild" after this ... darn right she was. She sang better than Judy. She danced better than Ginger, there wasn't an event that wasn't made better by her telling the story with embroidered notes and gestures, and for a second husband when she was 24 (ignoring the lover in between the official alliances which wasn't done then) she married a man born in Scotland because she was a rebel who wanted different ... and that ended up being:

Daddy who was born in Scotland in 1918. His father saw the "Great Strike" of 1926 coming and he and his brothers and sisters crossed the pond in shifts to take up residence in California. As a result my dad, his brothers, and all of the Scottish cousins ended up in a Los Angeles enclave in the late 20s and early 30s just in time for the depression from which they would disperse throughout the state.
Daddy as the eldest and most responsible at age 8 and protector of his younger brothers, made that 6,000 mile trek with his adored mother and watched over the youngsters while his father worked 16 hour days at the rubber plant. His mother died only a few years later when he was 16 just six months before his HS graduation. It was a date he would mourn by being drunk for the next 40 years and which created a gulf between him and his father for decades.
Was he smart? ... he was doing Trigonometry when he was 13. He graduated HS at 16 in 1934, the year his mother died. He went to work at the railroad as a full charge accountant to escape home and with Pearl Harbor he joined the Army as a Warrant Officer. They fatefully sent him to Fresno, California. Could he dance? God daddy could dance. My earliest memory is standing on his feet to learn how the Fox Trot felt. Could he sing? Not a note. Bullfrogs sounded better, but as a storyteller he was unmatched except by mama.

Between them they told tales, invented escapades that may have been true, and tumbled head long into their future. Side note: They both smoked Pall Malls (Prophetic and pronounced pell mell elsewhere). Their Song was Whispering. It was recorded in 1920 by Paul Whiting and his orchestra and was the first song to ever sell one million copies. As such it has been played and sung by darn near everyone including Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Les Paul, making it the first song in the soundtrack that provides background to my life.




Whispering while you cuddle near me
Whispering so no one can hear me
Each little whisper seems to cheer me
I know its true dear....there's no one but you

Whispering why you'll never leave me
Whispering why you'll never grieve me
Whisper and say that you believe me
Whispering that I love you

Whispering while you cuddle near me
Whispering so no one can hear me
Each little whisper seems to cheer me
Just whispering that I love you

So these two beautiful, brilliant, talented, and damaged people heading towards their versions of ruin met in Fresno in the Spring of 1942 where they married on Independence day. Look up above. You see where his arm is resting over her belly in the autumn of 1943. That bulge is me. Between them either together or separately with step parents, I would actually live with them off and on for a total of maybe seven or eight (It's hard to add up months) of the next 17 years.

To be Continued with the almost parents, the results, and most of all the music ... The first 30 years are the hardest.

5 comments:

carol g said...

You write so well. Thank you so much for opening your life to us. When I turned 60 last summer, all of a sudden I felt a real need to find some of my past life. I have often thought about writing an autobiography just for my family. Then I wonder if I should open that can of worms. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Is it your Mom you resemble? I would say yes, I see a similarity there in your faces. I love poring over old photos for family resemblances...they can appear in the most surprising places!

Ivy Green

Travis said...

That's some great history. Thanks for sharing it.

Lois Grebowski said...

I can't wait to hear the rest of the story...

This Eclectic Life said...

OMG. I love when you tell your family tales. No wonder you can keep us spellbound. You are the child of two storytellers!