Time With My Parents Brings Back Memories


I got to spend some time with my parents this summer. You’d love my parents. Everyone does.

They’re the perfect combination of Ricky and Lucy, Rob and Laura, George and Gracie — all those icons of 1950s television but with reality thrown in for good measure. They are, in fact, their own reality sitcom.

Mom was always the pillar of our home, but I didn’t figure this out until I was about 40, when I asked her. I said, “If women have the babies, if women do better in school, if women are constantly being chased by men, how come women don’t rule the world?” I asked her.

Her answer will stick with me forever — “They do.”

That’s when I realized the true meaning of “working behind the scenes.”

Mom may have been ruling the roost, but when I was growing up, Dad was the quintessential 1950s dad — he went to work, he brought home the pay, he stepped in whenever brute force was needed, like to open a pickle jar.

He also provided the firm, stable base that allowed the rest of us — including Mom — to exercise our creative options. My brother Jim created (and rode) 16-foot-tall bicycles with inverted forks; my brother Dave built most of a Lamborghini in the basement (then realized he wouldn’t be able to drive it out); my sister Pam wrote plays (one of which was produced using Equity actors); and I, well, I do a little needlepoint.

When my parents and I are together, we like to reminisce or, as we call it, “compare notes.” For instance, they may not remember exactly which child came up with the idea of riding down the stairs in a plastic laundry basket. I do; it was Jimmy. (It was always Jimmy.)

For my part, I don’t remember the details of the time I was taken to the hospital after catching two wasps under my shirt while doing flips on the jungle gym.

“That’s because you were in shock,” my mother said, matter-of-factly. “You’re allergic to one-millionth of a sting!”

Good to know.

Once, my sister Pam came running up from the basement with a pick-up stick poking out of her eye. We’d been playing down there, and something went horribly wrong.

“Well, pull it out!” Mom chided. “You don’t want to go to the emergency room, do you?”

The threat of the emergency room always loomed large. For Mom and Dad, it was probably due to the expense. For us, it was a place known to harbor needle-waving doctors.

My best friend, Bonnie, said the only real fun she had growing up was at our house. Her parents were older, somewhat refined, and therefore less likely to put a rubber hot dog in your bun. Not Dad, although he could take a joke as well as he could dish them out.

One time, we were playing a card game on the floor. Dad bent over too far and, when he came up, there was an ace of spades stuck to his forehead. We kids laughed ourselves sick while he, perplexed, looked from one of us to the other. This summer, I finally had to let him in on the joke. After all, it has been 30 years.

Come to think of it, unraveling those mysteries may be the real reason they come to see me.