Friday, August 10, 2007

A Brief History of Me

From the suggestion bin:

A little insight into how your opinions were formed, who were the people who influenced you most in your life and some of your hopes and dreams for your future

Where to start with this one?! I couldn’t decide exactly which angle I want to attack this from, so I might just try a couple. By “opinions” one could mean political opinions, opinions on particular events or people, or even more broadly one’s worldview and how it was formed. I’ll throw in a little of everything.

I was raised by a number of strong-willed and vibrant people, and I feel blessed to this day to have so many role models in my life. I was an only child (until Emma entered the picture) and while my mom put off working in my first few years, she started work when I started kindergarten. With both parents working, my summers were spent with my grandmothers. I am still so thankful to have been able to experience these strong women in their prime. Both my dad’s mom and my mom’s grandma (my great grandma!) are still alive though neither is in the best of health. My mom’s parents are alive as well, but both worked up until only recently. So I spent a lot of time in the summers switching off between spending time with Great Grandma Irene (my mom’s grandma) and Grandma Celia (my dad’s mom). My mom and dad (and now by extension step parents) helped me shape my personal ideology the most, I really do consider my upbringing as being a collective effort on the part of many thoughtful, wonderful people. While at the time this seemed like an ad hoc alternative to daycare, it turned out to be a lifestyle that I absolutely want for my own children. These experiences I think really brought the balance into my life that allowed me to become a well-rounded individual.

Grandma Irene definitely reinforced my early interest in reading. She read like a fiend before she lost her vision. She is also incredibly curious, loves learning new things. Her curiosity, however, has a macabre side- she had me hooked on Stephen King in middle school and watching horror movies. Beyond that, she has a deep pride in her own roots. She has always been fiercely patriotic, yet enamored with her Irish and German ancestry. It is because of her that I identify not only as an American, but also as my own melting pot- a microcosm of America who mustn’t forget all the places from which I am descended as well.

My Grandma Celia is a free spirit to the highest degree. Her love of animals definitely rubbed off on me and I hope some of her pure golden heart did as well. She was a firm believer in letting kids pave their own way and nurturing their imagination. But while she always let me let me run wild (both figuratively and literally), she also played an active part in my games and silliness. She was a visionary in animal welfare- she always had stray dogs and cats living with her. She made her own dog food (which still seemed eccentric until the recent scare surrounding commercial pet food) and would sterilize any cat that crossed her path, sometimes to the dismay of the neighbors. She still has a few feral cats living in her home – the result of a “rescue mission” about a decade ago. For a long time I have meant to discuss both of these amazing women and not just when they were my grandmothers, but as women growing up and making their way in the world. They both have fascinating life stories that need more dedication than I can give in one post.

As for my parents, they instilled in me all of the moral fiber I possess. My sense of right and wrong, fairness, and the importance of equality. My mom and step dad work together in a county hospital pharmacy and they deal with the outcome and fallout of government. They see people whom government has failed. People who take advantage of the help given them. People who are trying to pull themselves up from the darkest imaginable situations and people who cannot control their own spiraling self-destruction. But mostly they see people who are trying to live the American dream, a dream that often simply consists of a modest, steady paycheck. While I am quite a ways away from those meager aspirations, my mom and step dad have always taught me to be thankful for what I have. That no matter what I’m griping about, there are people much worse off than I am, and they live in my own back yard. My mom has taught me the value of humility. Not only that, she taught me to tip well, make friends with the janitors and make new people feel welcome. Life isn’t easy for anyone, but it is easy to make someone’s day a little bit better. Oh yeah, and she taught me all about baseball at the ripe age of eight years old. (That was 1987, for those of you counting- a fortunate year to start following the Twins.)

My dad has always been the one to encourage me to explore. Both intellectually, and in life. He is responsible for getting me into playing the piano as a young child, but as an ex-professional musician he also steered me away from it as a career. He recognized that science could satiate my curiosity of the natural world. He eagerly encouraged me to experience the world beyond my small little corner. And even though my political opinions mostly align with my dad’s, it is not because he taught me to be liberal, he taught me to be an independent thinker. The political leanings came after years of reading and soul searching. Knowing how to teach oneself is a valuable tool.

So there you have it. The four people that influenced me the most growing up. Of course there were others, my mom’s parents, not to mention aunts and uncles, and family friends. Maybe some day I’ll talk about them as well (the family friends were an especially interesting group) but this has been long enough. As far as future hopes and dreams, I will just say this: I hope my own kids can enjoy their family as much as I have enjoyed mine. I hope they can spend many many years getting to know their grand parents and where they come from. I’m excited for my future, but I wouldn’t say I have any dreams. The way my life has turned out is so much better than the dreams I ever I had as a kid. I can only hope that the future keeps revealing new and different things that I haven’t even thought of yet.


Gram said...

I just loved your comments about Celia and Grandma Irene. I have to say Grandma Irene has always been my hero! Despite all the adversity she faced, she still went forward, always putting others before herself. She is my role model and I love her deeply! Gramma Pat

Mother-in-law said...

Individually and collectively they did a wonderful job!

Anonymous said...

Magnetbabe; Thanks for sharing your history with us. It seems to me that most sucessful people have a back ground that is rich with nuturing people and you are no exception. However, you also have to have your own sense of self and who you are. You are a lucky young lady to have had such great people in your life but also you need to take credit yourself for having the ambitions and dreams that you have had and the determination to follow through.

Beth said...

I thought this was absolutely lovely. If I could only get half the praise from my children when they grow up, I'd be a happy Mom indeed.

fermicat said...

I enjoyed this post, especially the parts about your grandmother and great grandmother. Nicely said. I am sure they are all very proud of how you turned out.

Scott said...

This falls in line with opinions I have already developed for your parents. I already had the sense that they brought you up right and gave you the room to think for yourself.

I loved this post. Someday I may have to pay homage to the people in my life.

Oh, and that comment you made about the little kid in my recent post: hilarious. I rarely get an out loud laugh from anything, but you nailed it!

magnetbabe said...

Thanks! At 90 years old she is still one amazing lady. I hope I can even even half her character when I'm her age!

Thank you. I know you are up to the challenge of being an wonderful and influential grandma someday.

Thanks for your kind words. Writing this helped me solidify my feelings that I want my own kids to also had what I had growing up, even if it takes some sacrificing on my part. And I'll take some of the credit offered up!

You will get praise from your kids, They'll appreciate all that you do someday, even if it takes 15 years!

Thank you and I think they are proud. Of course they similarly have a very difficult time accepting that I'm not 5 years old anymore...

Here here! Yes, my parents did an excellent job. I didn't mention it, but by implying that I still have a great grandma, you may have figured out that they started quite young (my mom was 20, my dad 24 when I was born). I couldn't imagine doing nearly that good of a job at either of those ages! As for your post, I was expecting some backlash. But I call it as I see it.