Before you formulate your arguments about why you feel YOUR parents are the weirdest, let me have my chance to explain. I promise to keep it simple.
- grew up impoverished in Ash Creek, California, a tiny town close to the Oregon border.
- was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
- drove truck for decades.
- is obsessed with guns, has owned God-knows-how-many, has designed his own, is a card-carrying member of the NRA and would pay for my contact lenses by creating custom rifle butts from rough cut wood. It's a fascinating process to watch and he is an artist.
- is literally an artist. When I was seven, I found beautifully sketched nudes of my mother in the trash. She was offended and had thrown them out. Even at seven, I knew they were gorgeous. He can draw someone's face accurately within minutes and it looks like da Vinci threw it down...Generally, he sketches guns and bullets, though.
- can whistle like no one else and is offended by poor whistling skills in others. He can also sing and would entertain me by singing into the c.b. radio while I traveled in his truck with him. He yodels quite well, too.
- can blow the alto sax with the best of them. He might be a country boy, but the man has the soul of a black man from the Mississippi delta when he has a saxophone in his hands. I was always in awe as a kid and practiced every day hoping to make the instrument sound like he did. My grandmother knew he had talent and managed to get him a sax, though it was a hardship (there's a story of a sold cow...and a pissed off grandfather).
- cooks like no one else. Maybe it was growing up poor - he learned to make do - or maybe it was bunking with a chef from New Orleans during Vietnam. I grew up knowing the hotness of Cajun food. My dad and I would have Sunday brunch together (while my mom and brother slept) and he would show off. We would also have pepper-eating contests in the back garden, but that's another post.
- has the greenest thumb on the planet and was organic before it was a buzzword.
- taught me to read when I was three years old. He hates the education system, doesn't believe school is necessary, pulled me out of kindergarten because "it was useless," and taught me early algebra skills in third grade. I laughed watching Good Will Hunting, because my dad always said, "All you need is a library card and you'll know everything you need to know."
- comes across sort of simple when you first meet him. He wears suspenders and a short pompadour and talks like the backwoods boy that he is. Lingering underneath all of that is a genius.
- grew up impoverished in the Philippines - until her mother inherited a bunch of money and property. Then she lived the rest of her young days with servants, going to private Catholic schools, and having clothes designed just for her based on pictures she ripped out of American magazines. She still owns beachfront property there.
- is a terrible cook, but doesn't know it. Seriously, I thought Filipino food sucked until high school when one of her friends came to visit and insisted on cooking. My mom cooks all meat until it looks like a bowl. An earthenware bowl...
- loves pop music and sings karaoke four to five times a week with her friends. She has a very expensive Japanese karaoke system that she'll bring to Boise once-in-a-while, just so she can make me sing. [Note: With my mom and daughter, I can really rock the mike.]
- was an incredible dancer and will shake it with my daughter when she comes to visit. Okay, I shake it, too...
- has O.C.D. that has never been treated. While growing up, my brother and I brushed and flossed before leaving the house - before EACH TIME we left the house. She carried a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol for our hands and the doors of public restrooms. My brother and I were always sick, since we weren't allowed an immune system.
- told me I could start wearing makeup when I was nine. I answered by saying,"I'm NINE!" She also always bought me mini skirts and tight dresses. (sigh) She loves all things girly and is delighted that Rhiannon is such a girly-girl, since I wasn't interested in clothes and all that until the fifth grade. [Note: I made up for that later.]
- has a college education and once thought she'd teach high school. She knows four languages and many Filipino dialects. She's a whiz at math - I think that's part of the O.C.D. - and never needs a calculator to add a bunch of prices together quickly and accurately, decimals included.
- got her first job in the States the summer before I started fifth grade so that she could buy me all the latest styles, pay for me to start having my hair professionally done and for dance and cheer. She was high society in the Philippines, but she worked as a motel maid here, because her education meant nothing. She worked a menial job so that I could fit in, and I appreciate her every day for that. She taught me that looks do matter and, instead of being angry about it and getting political, one should just embrace it and have fun. Get crazy with fashion, make it theatre, and you'll mock the mockers. She allowed me to be brave that way. Every season, she bought me new clothes. Every season means FOUR TIMES A YEAR, by the way.
- was never all that impressed by my academic prowess, but bragged to her friends about cheer and dance. She just sort of took it for granted I'd do well in school, so what was the big deal? She came to every game and every performance...and decorates her house with pictures of me in uniforms and costumes from all of it.
- drives me crazy most days and I have to bite my tongue a lot with her, but she always supported the artist in me and welcomed my friends with pizza and movies. She's flirty and odd and dyes her hair shades of red & orange that should never be on someone olive-complected, but she's also hilarious and fun and enjoys her grand-daughter in a way no one else can.
So, yeah, they're weird. They also think I can do no wrong most days. I used to always say I could go on a killing spree and they would just tell reporters, "She must've had her reasons." They never treated me like a child, even when I was one. I always had a say and my opinion still matters to them.
Who could ask for more than that?