This entry reminds me of a line from Annie Hall by Woody Allen – “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” The quote has also been attributed to Groucho Marx and it crystalizes some Freudian concepts (according to something I read on the internet). While the quote isn’t mine, the idea it expresses resonates.
The moment I got kicked off the Wilcox literary magazine, I wanted to get back in. Once reinstalled, I lost interest. Cathy was right when she questioned my commitment, although she should’ve done it to my face. Wanting what I’ve lost (or can’t have) wreaked havoc with my adolescent love life. Nice guys who genuinely liked me got taken for granted; I obsessed about jerks who couldn’t care less. I identified with sad songs of unrequited love, not joyful tunes about finding my soulmate.
Sad lyrics still move me more than happy ones, but today I make better choices. That said, sometimes I still treat the people closest to me worse than I treat virtual strangers, whose approval I crave. Fortunately, the people I love – who love me back – are forgiving and understanding. They deserve my best and one of these days, they’ll get it.
My father remembered that night well. In the darkness of our tent, one by one he heard sniffles from the surrounding sleeping bags. Marion Voxland was the parish worker for Hope Lutheran, my father’s church. She took care of our pets while we were in Iowa. We had a Pekinese dog, Lady, and a cat, Princess, who recently had kittens. Abner was my kitten.
These were our first pets because my parents, having grown up on Iowa farms, viewed cats and dogs as animals that belonged outside. Veterinary expenses for a pet were an unnecessary expense. Spaying and neutering wasn’t a thing yet, so canines and felines (like Princess) were constantly over-populating. My parents weren’t cruel to cats or dogs. They just didn’t consider them people.
My sisters and I felt differently, and still do. Our pets are part of the family. Science might say different, but I attribute human thoughts and feelings to them. Jealousy, joy, disdain, outrage. I see these emotions and more in my pets.
Over the years, my mother became a co-conspirator with my sisters and my efforts to welcome more animals into the house. Occasionally, she’d even drive us to the pound so we could visit them. My father couldn’t help getting attached to our pets, once he got to know them – which meant we all cried when one of them crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
It’s weird to read an entry like this when photographs of the same day tell a different story. Several explanations spring to mind.
I’m a born curmudgeon and complainer.
I suffered a hormonal imbalance.
It takes me a while to acclimate to new places.
I lost at bridge, which always puts me in a terrible mood.
No matter where I find myself, I want to be somewhere else.
All of the above.
In 1989, the answer was “all of the above.” In the ensuing decades, I’d like to think I’ve matured to the extent that I no longer yearn to be someplace else. On the contrary, I’m grateful to be exactly where I am right now.
Why did it take me so long to realize the benefits of living here and now, something most people don’t need to “learn” at all? I believe I was born this way. If you know anything about the enneagram, I identify as a #4 – people prone to melancholy nostalgia over a lost, idealized past. Not exactly the life of any party (that might be a #7).
You can’t get over being a #4 (or any other number) – we are all who we are. That doesn’t mean we can’t be a better version of ourselves.
In this case, believe the pictures – not my words.
Alana was my first best friend in Santa Clara. She lived about five houses away from me on Del Monte Street. Her family moved to San Diego in 1960 and we lost touch – for nine years.
How on earth did we reconnect without the aid of FB or the internet? Probably the old-fashioned way – in person when her family passed through. As my diary details, she visited me at UCLA. In the mid-seventies, John and I had dinner with her and her husband. After that, we lost touch again. I don’t know when – I rarely realize it’s the last time I’ll see somebody until long after it’s happened.
I’d love to talk to Alana again. Maybe she’ll read this and reach out. If this post stirs thoughts of someone on the fringes of your own life – someone you haven’t seen or spoken to lately, even though you mean to – try to make time. I wish I had.
My father founded the parish in Elgin. We lived in the parsonage, flanked by a huge asparagus field, within easy walking distance of the church. My sister Joyce was born there.
Sometimes, my father tape recorded our dinner conversations, to mine them for potential sermon illustrations. Some of those reel-to-reel tapes survived half a century. On one, I insist I want a dog because the boy next door, PF, has a dog. My dad asks me what color of dog I want. “Blue” I reply because I’m 4 years old. Janet requested a pink dog, but she was only two.
On the tapes, Janet, my dad, and I erupt in applause every time my mother lays food on the table. My father wanted to show appreciation – and teach us to do the same – for even mundane tasks like food preparation. Looking back, it was more about appreciating my mother, something he showed in so many ways, it leaves me breathless. Suffice to say, although I believe my husband and children love me, I’ve never received a standing ovation for dinner.
Children of parents deeply in love all their lives are lucky indeed. My parents treated each other with respect and kindness, no matter the circumstances. Their love wasn’t wild and dramatic, like what I saw in the movies. It was deeper and more profound. It was real. It went the distance. My sisters and I were blessed enough to bear witness.
Many people mistakenly believe they had the best dad or mom in the world. I’m one of three girls who did. My father was tall, dark, and handsome, charismatic, kind, and wise. My mother was gentle and beautiful, understanding, and insightful. They found each other and held on for 66 years of marriage. I’m sad but not surprised my mother died within a year of my father. They belong together, forever.
My sisters and I loved these bi-annual trips to Iowa to see our relatives – we loved everything about it, except the. heat, humidity and mosquitos. We spent most of our time in the coolest part of everyone’s house – always, the basement. Even there, you could break a sweat lying still and reading in bed. In the sixties, everybody had fans but nobody had air-conditioning.
My grandfather wasn’t a man to disagree with. My sister Joyce didn’t like candy corn. On one of our Iowa visits, I noticed her eating it. “I thought you didn’t like candy corn,” I said. “If Grandpa says you like candy corn, you like candy corn,” she replied.
Grandpa said we’d like fishing, so there we were – not liking it, which he didn’t like. He didn’t like our queasiness about worms or how we squealed at the sight of a hooked fish flopping around the bottom of the boat. We might have been born Midwesterners, but by 1966 all three of us were California city girls, through and through.
This is one of those entries in which nothing significant happens – but I’m so glad I wrote it down! Thirty-five years later, these are the entries I love to discover – and I do mean discover – because I have no conscious memory of any of it.
Far too many of my diary entries describe phone calls I made or received, the writing I did or didn’t accomplish, the bill from a run to the Price Club (Costco), my weight and what I ate that I wish I hadn’t – all of it meaningless now. Instead, I should have documented those precious, fleeting moments with my children.
It all went by so quickly. Sure, I’ve got pictures – lots of them. They illustrate exactly what 2-almost-3-year-old Tata and one-year-old Anni looked like, but they’re only glimpses, frozen in time. The funny things they said and did, the emergence of their unique personalities, the way the two of them interacted – unless I wrote it down, all of that is lost forever. Videos could have preserved some of it, but home movies in 1986 were beyond my area of expertise – and my budget.
Anni tried to copy Tata, even when he hadn’t a clue what she was doing. She’d place one hand on her back, one on her tummy, and bow deeply to each corner of the room. Where did that come from? Tata copied Anni too, notably by joining what would become his signature arm-in-the-air salute (two-arms, for extra emphasis).
Still, even in infancy, distinct differences between their two personalities emerged. Tata mobbed her crib with plush animals. Anni methodically tossed every one of them out. Tata fearlessly jammed her mouth with marbles, pennies, anything handy and lethal. Nothing entered Anni’s mouth without scrutiny and informed consent. Tears streamed down his cheeks when I made him taste chicken.
I thought these day-to-day moments weren’t important. I thought I’d remember them all. How could I be so wrong? Thank God for the times I wrote these things down.
Today I wonder if I read the situation and reacted appropriately. I was barely eighteen. I assumed Bob’s invitation to dinner and a movie was a date; perhaps it was. In any case on the following day, I told him I couldn’t go. He looked hurt which made me feel as awful as I expected. After that, he avoided the store when I was working.
Writing this, I’m older than Bob was when he asked me out. That hasn’t kept me from forming friendships with some of my former millennial students. Maybe all Bob wanted was somebody sympathetic to talk to. There’s no way to read someone’s intentions, especially fifty years after the fact.
So, if my eighteen-year-old self had another chance to respond to this invitation – given today’s accumulated wisdom and experience – would I react the same way? Probably. I wish I could claim I’d have the self-awareness and courage to explain myself instead of saying “yes” then backing out at the last minute. The sad truth is, I still say “yes” to far too many invitations knowing I won’t follow through – proof one can grow old without becoming wise.
What made these particular incidents so traumatic was feeling publicly humiliated. I didn’t realize nobody paid the slightest attention to me or my embarrassment. I took myself far too seriously. I still do, but not to this deranged degree.
The other thing that anchors this entry in 1964 is the reference to a “Jonah” day. Growing up PK, we play-acted Bible stories like the Good Samaritan or the Israelites discovering “manna” (cookie dough). Biblical names were part of our language. “Jonah day” isn’t a term I’d use today but it’s familiar – I know what I meant even though some details are hazy. It involved Jonah in the belly of a whale which – I learned much later – is one of many universal myths, variations on Carl Jung’s “dark night of the soul.” The symbolism in many Bible stories ran deeper than my adolescent imagination could comprehend. I was lucky to be exposed to them.
As so often happens when I review old diary entries, events I considered tragic in 1964 seem merely amusing today. This gives me hope that today’s disasters will – someday – be revealed as trivial, forgettable.
A spoiled 13-year-old wrote this. Reading it today, I realize how incredibly lucky I was to be my father’s daughter even though as a PK (Preacher’s Kid), I felt pressured to be an “example” to others. The pressure didn’t come from my father. If anything, he urged me to be exactly who I was. Don’t act religious to please him. Don’t go Satanic to rebel. Listen to your own voice.
I didn’t get any static when I chose UCLA instead of a Lutheran college. He made no effort to direct me toward a more practical major than film writing. He was even fine when I married a Catholic.
I think the idea that PK’s should be held to a higher standard is a commonly held, rarely challenged belief. That’s why a casual observer like Jane’s mother could say, “Somehow, we thought the pastor’s daughter would be different.” It’s why Dusty Springfield sang about being despoiled by “the son of a preacher man,” not “the son of a plumber.” It’s just the way it is.
Growing up PK was a challenge I didn’t choose but in retrospect it was a privilege. I wouldn’t trade a minute of being Pastor Vance’s daughter to be anyone else.