family

April18, 1992

April 18, 1992

Happy Birthday John
 
A lot changed between J’s surprise 30th birthday party and this one. When he turned thirty, we both smoked and drank (he quit smoking forever the following day; I didn’t wise up for a few years). By his 40th, neither of us smoked and we hadn’t had a drink for almost seven years.

J with future law partner Jack Denove
J with future law partner Jack Denove

I’m slightly older than J, so I had to face the formidable fortieth birthday first. Birthdays that usher in new decades feel so much more significant than regular birthdays. Gail Sheehy’s Passages, originally written in the 70s but since updated, offers a road map for the stages of adult life broken down by decades. My summary is an extreme simplification of her work.

Me with J's law school pal Anne Kurrasch.
Me with J’s law school pal Anne Kurrasch.

The twenties are about finding your path in life – do you please your parents or please yourself? Typically, people feel the pressure of a deadline in their thirties. They redefine their priorities as well as their expectations.  The early forties frequently bring a sense of stagnation – is that all there is?  It sounds depressing, but opens the door to self-discovery – what Carl Jung would call “individuation.” We are who we are, and that’s okay.

Bennett Traub, another law school pal, in bg.
Bennett Traub, another law school pal, in bg.

Sheehy includes a quote from Willa Cather: “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

Over the Hill

 

April 1, 1966

April 1, 1966

Believe it or not - there is a Snow Cone Emoji - so I guess people are still craving them.
Believe it or not – there is a Snow Cone Emoji – so I guess people are still craving them.

Funny, how the only test I identified – mechanical reasoning – was the one I tanked. It’s a safe bet my high scores were in English or another humanities/social science subject where vocabulary and reading skills can conceal a vast lack of knowledge. On the other hand, since mechanical reasoning didn’t appear in Santa Clara Unified’s 6th grade curriculum, perhaps they were testing something other than what we learned in school. Who knows what areas they were testing and why?  And – half a century later – does it really matter?

My family circa 1966
My family circa 1966

The phrasing in this entry – “I remember back in the fifth grade” – makes it sound as if this happened eons ago, not a year and a half.  Eighteen months was a lifetime, then. A moment, now. I haven’t been to Santa Clara – or driven down the El Camino Real – in at least a decade. Is it still a street or is it an expressway? Is the Moonlite Center still there?

The Moonlight Center as I remember it with the big iconic "M" sign.
The Moonlight Center as I remember it with the big iconic “M” sign.

Is April Fool’s Day still a big deal?

All dressed up - but not going to the Jr. Prom
All dressed up – but not going to the Jr. Prom

 

March 30, 1986

March 30, 1986

With my always above and beyond the call of duty parents
With my always above and beyond the call of duty parents

“I feel a little guilty – like I manipulated her” – seriously? Is there a manipulative tactic I didn’t employ? Easter was my father’s favorite holiday and one of the busiest days of his year.  Monday was his day off and I stole this one without a second thought.

Two arms full of love
Two arms full of love

That said, part of me doesn’t feel guilty – because every minute my children spent with their grandparents was blessed – and I’m pretty sure my parents treasured those times too. They were young grandparents, age. I’m not sure I was ready to be a grandparent when I was their age.

Special moments with their grandchildren
Special moments with their grandchildren

However, more than a decade later, I am so ready I have baby fever. Facebook friends post adorable pictures of their grandchildren and I ache and think, “I want that!” I see cute babies in restaurants and think, “I want that!” I have quite the opposite reaction on airplanes, when an infant breaks the sound barrier for the entire flight. When that happens, I shudder and think, “Thank God that’s not my problem.”

At the end of the day
At the end of the day

But I kind of secretly wish it was.

So nice having a baby
How nice it would be!

March 23, 1973

March 23, 1973 Plan B

Leaving Melnitz Hall
Leaving Melnitz Hall

I knew what I did not want to do – don a cap and gown and endure an excruciating graduation ceremony. My own Jr. High and high school extravaganzas were torture. What about those magical moments, watching my own children graduate? Don’t you just want to smile all over? Uh, no.

S's High School Graduation
S’s High School Graduation

Slow-roasting in bleachers without shade, surrounded by delirious parents straining to spot their spawn in a sea of black-robes several zip codes to the south – made home schooling appear an attractive option. For the record, the only things I dread more than rituals like graduation are parades and colonoscopies.

A at his graduation
A at his college graduation

Flash forward to my son CD, valedictorian for his UCLA film and television class. Two surprises awaited me, one pleasant and one not so much. The good news was, only film and TV students participated, making it more like a party than spectacle. Lulled into a false sense of security, I thought, “this is almost a perfect day.”

CD's graduation UCLA
CD’s graduation UCLA

CD took the microphone. He singled out his wife and his father – 100% USC Trojan, undergrad and law school. He thanked them for their inspiration. No mention of his mother and fellow UCLA film and TV alum. You know, the one who introduced him to Melnitz hall and UCLA’s campus.

CD and classmates at UCLA graduation

Amazingly, I recovered from this ego-shattering blow as well as a carrot that caused me to barf at the reception. Something deep and primal superseded my lifelong distaste for graduations, parades and vomit.  So what if CD forgot to thank me? I could not have been any prouder of him. I still am.

March 19, 2016

March 19, 2016 

A and his cousin Conner wait to speak
A and his cousin Conner wait to speak

As a Lutheran pastor, my father officiated at hundreds of weddings and funerals. Based on his experiences, in the aftermath of a loved one’s death, intense guilt – usually about things the bereaved intended to do, but didn’t – is a universal reaction.

A speaks
A speaks

My father said, don’t go there.  What you did or didn’t do doesn’t matter. The love you give – like the love I feel for you – is enough, it always has been and always will be.

CD speaks
CD speaks

Still, regrets linger.  I failed to grasp the void their absence would leave until they were gone. I grossly undervalued hours and minutes we might’ve shared, if I hadn’t been busy with meaningless things.

Janet and I at the gravesite
Janet and I at the gravesite

Don’t postpone a visit because work’s been crazy but should calm down. Life never settles down. Choices must be made. Some choices won’t be available tomorrow. Forget the fantasy there’s a perfect moment to express how much someone means to you. There is only one perfect moment – now. Nobody’s guaranteed the next one. If you love someone, say it. What’ve you got to lose?

Grave Markers

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 26, 1971

February 26, 1971

Project One Films

The first time I saw a commercial for a phone that shot photos, it looked absurd. Cameras were for taking pictures, phones were for talking. The combination could only weaken them both.

As close as I can come to a photo of a vintage Vivitar Super-8.
As close as I can come to a photo of a vintage Vivitar Super-8.

Obviously, I was wrong – so very wrong. Today, even though I have a good digital camera, I shoot photos with my phone.  However, this brave new world was far in the future when I unwrapped my second-hand Vivitar. To me, it was state of the art; I couldn’t imagine asking more of any device.

In San Diego with the family around '71.
In San Diego with the family around ’71.

As it turns out, there’s no end to things I couldn’t imagine then but take for granted today. Remote controls. Microwaves. Cheap calculators. Smart phones. Cars that come with screens and GPS. Watches that keep track of my steps, my heartbeat, my minutes of REM sleep.

And, of course, the unsettling reality that unknown corporations, foreign and domestic, know more about me than the people in my life. The amount of data that potentially could be harvested from this blog is scary. Why keep doing it?

A selfie taken with my phone today - unimaginable in 1971,
A selfie taken with my phone today – unimaginable in 1971,

Realistically, I can’t stuff the genie back in the battle. What hits the net, lives there forever. And I kind of love it that after I’m gone, bits of my life will live in cyberspace.

 

February 23, 1999

February 23, 1999

Citizen Kane

Growing up, there was one centrally located television set (without a remote) in our house and we watched TV as a family. “Leave it to Beaver” and “the Flintstones” were early favorites. My sisters and I weren’t allowed to watch the Three Stooges (my father disapproved of the cruelty in their humor) or cheap horror movies. (“If you want to see that kind of thing when you’re older, that’s your choice, but you will not be watching it here.”)

S'n'A around this time.
S’n’A around this time.

In my home today, there’s at least one TV (and remote!) for everybody, including the pets. Zelda barks her head off at any dog or four-legged creature who dares to make an appearance. J can watch football, S can watch anime and I can binge on a Netflix series simultaneously without crossing paths.

Zelda goes berserk at the sight of a dog on TV.
Zelda goes berserk at the sight of a dog on TV.And she watches carefully all the time.

For me, watching a program together is a far superior option but sometimes no one else is interested. That’s why I was so thrilled when S and A expressed interest in AFI’s list of the 100 greatest American films. (AFI’s 100 top films)

At fourteen, I knew nothing about classic films. If they screened in Santa Clara, no one told me. After UCLA opened my eyes to that world, I wanted to share it but some people just weren’t interested. (Their cultural loss, IMHO). I love sharing great entertainment with S and A even though some TV shows that looked hip and brilliant in the 80s (hello, Miami Vice) didn’t age gracefully.

The whole family, circa 1999.
The whole family, circa 1999.

Occasionally, J gives me a hard time about calling TV viewing “quality time” but I can’t think of a more pleasurable way to imbibe history, culture, art and the principles of storytelling than watching and discussing the boob tube.

 

February 9, 1964

February 9, 1964

When dinosaurs roamed the Earth, if you missed Sullivan the first night he featured the Beatles, you were out of luck. No internet, no streaming, no DVDs, VHS or Beta. Today, when virtually any entertainment is a click away, it’s hard to recall when missing a show meant never seeing it, unless you caught it on summer reruns.

My sisters and I around '64
My sisters and I around ’64

Since then, I’ve seen this performance many times. Even if I didn’t own the DVD, it’s widely available.  While still entertaining, it can’t possibly match the excitement of watching the event unfold in real time, live.

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan

Do people born post-Beatles fully comprehend their impact. I write about them because they were that important. There’s “before” the Beatles and there’s “after.” How many entertainers – heck, how many people – can you say that about, on a worldwide basis? Their music was the soundtrack of my adolescence, their existence colored my world.

Around '64 again - a very different world.
Around ’64 again – a very different world.

When I listen closely, I still shiver with excitement. More than fifty years later, they still sound fresh. Different. Thrilling. Electric. She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, oooooo. I think I’ll watch that tape again.

January 29, 1986

January 29, 1986

J and I had CD when we were (relatively) young. None of our friends had children (yet) so we had no frame of reference. In retrospect, we assumed CD would be like us – that he’d want the same things, behave the same way. He was and is a lot like us – sometimes I read him so clearly, it’s as if we have mental telepathy. More often, though, he baffled us, especially when it came to education.

CD & me at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco
CD & me at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

I walked into my very first parent-teacher conference fully expecting to hear he was the smartest kid in the class.  His kindergarten teacher said, “I don’t know any other way to put this. He’s a space cadet.” Her exact words. J and I never doubted CD’s intellect but he refused to show it at school.

CD & me on the Golden Gate Bridge
CD & me on the Golden Gate Bridge

The Hillside Learning Center was one of many attempts to figure out what was going on. They confirmed he was gifted, particularly in verbal ability. This was a relief because I feared I might be over-estimating his brilliance due to maternal bias. And yes, I probably did, because what parent doesn’t? Still, he did “blow the top” off one of their tests.

Hillside 1

But he wasn’t the eager-to-please student I was at nine and never would be. He gripped his pencil in an unwieldy way and reversed d’s and b’s. We found solutions for those problems, but not the deeper issues that stopped him from fulfilling his “potential.”  I vividly recall him angrily telling me, “I hate the word potential!”

CD & me overlooking San Francisco Bay - perhaps from Alcatraz Island
CD & me overlooking San Francisco Bay – perhaps from Alcatraz Island

This story has a happy ending. Despite dropping out of high school as a sophomore, eventually he graduated valedictorian of his class as a film student at UCLA. Bottom line, he performed when he wanted to perform – J and I couldn’t force him. Our efforts had the opposite effect.

Another shot of us on the bridge during our 1986 San Francisco trip
Another shot of us on the bridge during our 1986 San Francisco trip

These were difficult times but we learned a lot. CD wasn’t – and never will be – a mini-me or mini-J and that’s great. Learning to lighten up and let go of expectations was excellent practice for parenting our other two children.

 

January 22, 1978

January 22, 1978

While combing my diaries for a suitable blog entry, if I find a snippet about CD, I usually send it to the adult CD just to give him some idea of his life as a two-year-old.  Since he has no conscious memories of his infancy, he can’t enlighten me about what actually ran through his mind.

CD at the park 1

A child psychiatrist might hazard an informed guess about which cognitive skills were in development but no one will ever know for sure. Odds are, my instincts were right and what amused him involved repetition.

CD at the park 2

As my diaries suggest, by nature I wrote down almost everything that happened, no matter how apparently trivial. I’m glad I did, now, since some of the things that seemed mundane – even then – acquired significance in the ensuing years. I forgot almost everything I failed to record for posterity.

CD at the park 3

As my firstborn, CD was the beneficiary – or the victim, depending on your point of view – of my meticulous record keeping. Sometimes, in bursts of energy, he’d run races with himself, up and down the family room, shouting “Go!”  a few seconds after he started. We could guarantee a smile by throwing a towel over his head, asking “Where’s CD?” and yanking it off. Hilarious! Two-year-old’s – the best audience ever.

J & CD at the park

 

 

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