Saturday, July 21, 2012

May I have this dance?

I recently began exchanging emails with my big brother about our childhoods.  Apparently, we had different parents growing up.  Bill's parents were Bill & Mary Beth and my parents were Bill & Mary Beth.  I know what you're thinking.  Same people!  They may have been in the same bodies, but they were different people!  There were 4 children in my family.  Kristie, William III, Franklin and Heidi.  Kris & Billy were born in the late 40's and Frankie & I were born in the late 50's.  Which means that their parents were 10 years younger than our parents and 10 years can make a BIG difference!  
Our emails led to his recollection of a time back in the 50's when he and my sister would go to Athens from Columbus to visit my mother's parents, Pop & Nanny.  In his words he said,

"When we would visit Pop and Nanny's Pleasant Hill (Pleasanton) farm, Dad would often accelerate over the many hills until we were momentarily airborne! I know - doesn't sound like mundane Bill,  does it? Of course - responsibly -Mom would offer up some obligatory  complaint, but I bet she was having as much fun as we."
Now I can guarantee that Frank & I never saw our father ever do anything like that!  My father, at the time, also held a pilot's license and flew Kris & Billy to many places.  He quit flying because my mother didn't like it since she always got airsick, so Frankie & I didn't even know he had the license until we were grown.  My parents often left Kris & Billy with Pop & Nanny while they worked in Dayton.  This led to a very close relationship between the kids and grandparents.  Neither Frankie nor I were ever left in Athens while my parents worked.  In fact, after we were born my mother became a stay-at-home mom.  Frankie & I didn't know our grandparents especially since my grandmother died in 1961 when I was 3 and Frankie was 5.  However, Kristie was so close to Nanny she had an identity crisis when Nanny died.  She saw Nanny as more of a "Mother" figure than she did with our mom.  It took a decade for that rift to heal.  Bill remained close to my grandfather until Pop died in 1987.  In fact, Bill was an ordained minister at the time so he.officiated Pop's funeral.
Another memory Bill related to me was about his love of music.
"I think a strong reason for my interest in rock n roll goes back to the music they started exposing us to in the early fifties when we lived at Ruhl Avenue in the Colonial Williamsburg Apartments. I vividly recall Dad bringing home a 45rpm record with Elvis's "HoundDog" on one side and "Don't Be Cruel" on the other.  What punctuated that memory was then seeing Mom and Dad "Jitterbug" to it! Mom usually initiated their dancing, but Dad jumped right in - definitely felt like someone was in love!"
NEVER in my entire life did I ever see my parents dance!!  They were in their 20's when the first 2 kids were born.  They had more energy and time to devote to playing with Kris & Bill.  In hindsight I also see how the affection between my parents had cooled somewhat.  I knew they loved each other, but outward displays of it were not demonstrated in public. To this day  I've never seen my parents hold hands, let alone dance!   
My dad has always had a fascination with all planes regardless of whether they were big, little, commercial or military.  The mere sound of an engine overhead got my dad's attention quicker than just about anything.  Ruhl Avenue is in the flight path to Port Columbus, as well as, North American Aviation(now Rockwell).  My father worked at North American as an Aeronautical/ Aerospace Engineer.  His captivation was ingrained to his core.  He and my mom were also smokers in the early days.  I find that near impossible to imagine.  Bill told me during a recent visit about an incident that occurred that combined planes and cigarettes when he was a little boy.
"Dad was looking out the window in the kitchen door. He loved (as you can imagine) to catch a glimpse of any jet flying over. This was for two reasons: we were quite close to the airport, so they were usually low overhead; also, they were usually one of the planes he actually worked on (F-86, F-100-I am sure he was very proud of that!)  In addition, in those days they were allowed to go supersonic, which afforded us with the most delicious "sonic booms" when breaking the sound barrier (another reason I came to love Rock Music!)  But I digress....So, Dad is perusing yonder aircraft whilst puffing on his cigarette. The ashtray is behind him on our little dinette table. He absentmindedly, without taking his eyes off the skies, reaches back to crush said faggot out in the tray, unaware little hands had decided said receptacle was for closer examination. As he pressed the beast hard against the ashtray, he was reasonably unconscious of my wrist being betwixt cigarette and tray!!!What happened next is blurry, I recall great pain, screaming, startlement from him, hugs, tears, more hugs, probably ice (I'm not sure.)Well, I survived, my "tatooing." For many years I thought it resembled a 3-leaf clover. Now it is barely visible."
He showed me the scar when he was here.  This memory is as clear to him as if it happened yesterday.  This single incident traumatized my parents so much, they both quit smoking if not that day, soon after.  Cold turkey.  Neither Frank nor I even knew they smoked. Some years ago I saw a picture from the 50's that was taken at a nightclub or event my parents attended.  They were seated at a table with other people and everyone had a drink and a cigarette.  I remember staring at that picture and being mesmerized by the image.  My parents smoked?  And drank liquor?  It was unfathomable!
After Frank was born they moved to Bexley, an affluent suburb of Columbus.  I had prim and proper parents who didn't smoke, drink or dance.  I'm sure it was for appearance's sake.    Most things done in Bexley are and it changes people.  I'm sure it changed my parents greatly.  It's hard work keeping up with the Jones'!  I've often wondered how different it would have been had we lived somewhere other than Bexley.  Maybe I would have seen different parents who were easy-going, less concerned about what other people thought, spent more time enjoying their kids and............danced.   

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