We lived in a lot of places when I was a kid. The Depression was heavy on everyone’s back and men like my father went wherever there was a chance to earn some money. Sometimes I stayed somewhere else while my father and mother scuffled around looking for a place to live and work. When things got better and he had steady work he also got promotions – and that meant we moved some more. All that came home to me this Sunday when I went up to the local Strawberry Festival to see what was going on. Our middle son, Conn, joined me. I had the dog Terrible along on her leash and at one point we stopped at the town center park to watch a lion dance and do some professional level people-watching. (Writers are inveterate observers. Non-writers ignore this at their peril.) A young woman passing by stopped to get acquainted with the dog. She had on a t-shirt that said Woodland Park Zoo and a couple of stickers from the same place. I mentioned I’d volunteered there years ago. We talked zoo stuff and then she mentioned she’d worked at the Pacific Science Center prior to her present job. That’s where Conn and his wife worked for several years. Now Conn and the lady (Heather Teagarden – as we’d learned by this time) talked jobs and mutual friends, plus the fact that Conn’s son works there presently.
That sort of constancy is so alien to my own growing up it dizzies me. I hear my grandchildren – all adults now – talk about friends from elementary school. I can remember the names of the towns where I went to school. That’s pretty much it. Conn’s wife, Betsy, still visits with ladies she knew as a grade-schooler. The point I’m making is that, as a family, we’ve found our balance early on and hung onto it. As individuals. No one went to classes on How To Be Family. It worked out, that’s all. I don’t regret the way things got fragmented when I was a kid. Those were the times. People did their best and sometimes the odds were just wrong. Still, when I see the stability and love that abounds around the old man today, I sometimes wish things could have been different. But if they had been, maybe I wouldn’t realize how lucky I am.