Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Final Answers!

Bringing this year's iteration of Ask Me Anything! to a close, we have a cluster of queries again from Roger. He put these all into a single bloc, but I'm breaking them up to make them more manageable.

OK, it occurred to me that I don't know that much about your childhood. If you've blogged about it, it was before I found your corner of the Internet.

Well, while it would be nicely poetic if I could claim a childhood full of traumas and hardships, that just wasn't the case. It wasn't a remarkable childhood at all.

So: how many people were in your household growing up? What was the birth order of you and your sibs, and age differentials? What jobs did your father and mother have outside the home? What were your parents' names, and what did you call them? Did you get along with your sibs?

The Main Family Unit included four people: Father, Mother, Older Sister, and Me. Not a huge family, so I can't complain that I was lost in the shuffle of all those kids. No "middle child", Jan Brady-esque histrionics for me. Likewise, no only-child psychological baggage to carry around. Alas.

My sister was six years and change older than me. (Actually, that's not likely to change, is it? That should be present tense.) So, we were far enough apart in age so as not to be close in all particulars, especially since when I was starting to find my own personality and such, she was entering her teen years. One difficult thing in growing up was my failure, understandable though it might have been, to comprehend the degree to which her interests at twelve years of age would differ from mine at six. All things considered, she and I got along fairly well. There were fights and arguments, and moments when I was utterly convinced that everything always went her way; I'm sure there were moments when she thought, "Jeez, Mom, you sure coddle that twit brother of mine" as well.

My sister is now a professor and a Shakespearean scholar in Colorado. She's freakishly smart, way smarter than me. Oh well.

My parents were both teachers, with my father teaching on the collegiate level (except for two years when he worked as a programmer, I think, with a computer company outside Portland, OR), and my mother at the elementary level (although she eventually left the classroom and became a school librarian). I called them Mom and Dad, although (embarrassing admission warning) I'm told that as a very small child, I fancied myself being Batman, which made my mother Robin. I have no memory of this, thankfully.

Both of my parents are still alive and in good health. I got my liberal politics from them, among many other gifts that I didn't realize were gifts at the time.

Did you all have dinner together? Who sat where? Was the table square, rectangular or round? (This may seem like a peculiar question, but I've seen it, in person, be quite revealing.)

We had dinner together more often when I was younger than when we were older, if memory truly serves. We were never the Happy Days style of family, with us-as-the-Cunninghams all sitting down to the meal Mother had made at the same time every night, but we did eat together fairly frequently. My mother is a good cook, although a standing joke is her tendency to cook in larger quantities than our family size would have seemed to warrant; my father terms this as her need to feed the entire Russian army. We also ate out together a lot. I remember my father occasionally making a stew in the crockpot, and he'd also put together an impressively gigantic salad that would sit in the fridge in a wooden bowl for several days afterward while we grazed at it.

Funny food story: my mother attempted making homemade pita bread once. Apparently the procedure involved putting the individual flatbreads on a table, beneath a towel, while the gases inside forced the bread to form a cavity inside. Well, there's a rule of nature that states that given a soft surface freshly laid down, a cat will lay down upon it. So the cat laid down on the towel with the flatbreads beneath, causing the pockets in the pocket bread to fuse shut. Oops. (That cat had a habit of sitting on things he wasn't supposed to, to a degree unusual even for cats, who as a species love to sit on things. A few years later the SOB sat on the box containing my birthday cake.)

We also once lived in a house where the oven's actual temperature was about 125 degree lower than the temperature displayed on the knob, so that year, our Thanksgiving dinner took place at something like 8:30 pm. I remember that night we ended up going to a park in nearby Beaverton (this was when we lived in Hillsboro, OR), where a trail wound around a lake. We'd often go there for my parents to jog on the trail while my sister and I would walk and do whatever; often we'd take bread to feed to the ducks who lived there. Well, there we were, at this park on Thanksgiving Day at 6:00 pm, because at home our turkey was just starting to cook.

(And thanks to the magic of Google, I found that very park!

View Larger Map

I wonder if SDB knows where it is? I think he lives in those parts these days.)

Dining room table shapes? We'd have a rectangular table for a few years, then get a round table, then back to rectangular, and so on. The table they have now is rectangular. "Grace" was almost never said, except on holidays, although we now say it before every meal ever since The Daughter got in the habit of doing so. (No "improvised" prayers, we just say what is apparently for Lutherans called the "Common table prayer". For the longest time I was pretty uncomfortable with the concept of prayer before meals.)

(Our own table, by the way, is rectangular. The Wife usually sits at the "head" of the table, when we eat at the table at all. Lots of times we just dish up food and head to the living room to eat. A bad habit, maybe, but eating takeout at the table feels wrong somehow. A particularly pleasant ritual is to get takeout and eat in the living room in front of the teevee while we watch a movie together.)

On the playground, were you a bully, were you bullied, or did you manage to stay out of the fray? What were your best and worst subjects in school?

Was I bullied? Occasionally, but really, not that often. I never got my ass kicked, although I came close a few times, and I must now admit that my own mouth was often a factor in whatever incidents of possible bullying I may have found myself enmeshed within. I didn't bully, either, although there were times when the temptation was somewhat strong, I must admit. For the most part, I avoided that whole fray, although there were rare instances of fisticuffs.

There was one incident of clear-cut bullying that resulted in me having a broken bone for a chunk of summer; that sucked. Oddly, though, I didn't rat the kid out. In retrospect, I should have, but in my school, there was this odd stigma attached to being a tattletale (or a 'narc' as they called it).

I think I'm done now.

Thank goodness!

And with that, Ask Me Anything! 2008 comes to a close. Thanks to those who asked questions. For reference, here are the questions asked (albeit rephrased slightly) and answered previously, with the links to the posts involved:

Go ahead! Rant about the Patriots! You know you want to! All the cool kids are!

Chrysler Building or Cheops's Pyramid: which was bigger? What fantasy world would you want to live in? Where's the list of beautiful women I post from time to time?

How's your faith journey going? Does rooting for the Giants over the Bills make me a bad person? What's a pie in the face among friends?

Of these two fictional characters from books you haven't read, which one kicks more ass? What time of day are you at your best? Where's that posting series of satellite pictures of places on Earth?

Why didn't you just name this blog Jaquandor's Blog?