Why is it that, at a young age, we find ourselves unable to view our parents through the lens that the outside world uses? It just seems impossible that these people who provide not only life blood, but meals and snacks at somewhat regular intervals, interspersed with discipline and direction when needed, could actually have had friends who knew their innermost thoughts and thus possibly believed they were in need of some guidance of their own.
I remember as a teenager, my father telling me not to be so shocked – he was young once also. As I stared at this man, who seemed always two seconds away from conducting a business meeting, I saw a side to him that I had never imagined. I tried to wash my brain of any such nonsense, but photos keep no prisoners. There he was, as a teenager, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, looking the part of James Dean to a number of girls who did not appear to be rehearsing to be Annette Funicello’s stand in on the Mouseketeers. Truth be told, this was a young man who would catch my eye – looking a little comical with a large dash of dangerous on the side.
This was the man that I was always closest to and these pictures cemented the question of the century – what did he ever see in my straight laced mother. The photo albums from her youth told a very different story. Church camp and choir uniforms. Many girlfriends in sensible swimsuits at the shore. It made it easy to see the woman who stood before me as an adult. The same uptight, no nonsense, stickler to the rules that I knew and loved. This was always the voice of reason in our home. In her mind, only problems happened when a group of people varied from the set upon course. Let’s just say, there was not a tremendous amount of “flying by the seat of our pants” going on in our family.
So, needless to say, what an eye opening experience it was to peruse some never before seen photo albums that my father sent to me shortly after her death. At the age of 26, I was amazed to see this new side of the woman looking back at me. The dates on lots of them shocked me more. In some of these photos, she had already had her family and was still having quite a life. Go figure! On a hunch, I asked my Dad if he would mind sending me his albums from his teenage years. I had to tell him where they were because it seems that my Mother was the “keeper of the keys”. When they arrived, I carefully went through it with a trained eye. I knew I remembered a few photos of him looking at one of those “crazy” girls, and I had to get a better look. After carefully freeing the corners from their holders, I saw what I had expected…in a handwriting that I had become used to reading on most of my childhood lunch bags. “Eddie & Me – Summer 1942”.
Go figure – my mother was Clark Kent.