What Do You Mean You Had a Life Before Me?

07 February 2014

Several years ago, my dad gave me a photo album.  It was in a box of stuff he had kept for a million years and he wondered if I might want it.  In it, he had saved a bunch of stuff from high school, including some cards from my mom.  There are school photos and all kinds of lovey snaps of my parents and pictures of my dad playing football.  Contained within those pages, are photographs of a trip to California that I have surmised that I was potentially conceived upon.  Let’s just skip that part, shall we?

This album is fascinating to me for two reasons.  One, when I was growing up, after their divorce, my parents pretty much hated each other.  Now, they would never come right out and say that they hated each other, but I'm going out on a limb here and saying they didn't like each other very much.   Two, I get to peek into the love-sick teenaged mind of my mother, right there in her own handwriting.  It is without a doubt one of the best gifts my dad ever gave me.

My Parents 1975 

Last year, I was telling my aunt about this album because she was also on the California trip.  I have the bikini clad and blonde boyfriend pictures to prove it, but I’ll let her maintain her motherly image.  As often happens when I’m around my family, we start talking and inevitably the stories start happening and we all laugh and carry on for hours. 

I never tire of it. 

If you ever have the occasion to sit in a room with my mom and her sisters as they talk about growing up, grab yourself a large glass of wine and do it.  There was lots of subterfuge, under-age driving, rock concerts, and craziness that my Meme is happy to have been kept in the dark about.  My poor grandpa had five daughters and only one bathroom before my Meme went through ‘the change’ at age 42… that change turned out to be my Uncle Jimmy.  Because I’m in my thirties, there are very few stories that I haven’t heard them tell at least once.  Some, countless times from different perspectives, and I definitely have my favorites. 

I’m also old enough to remember my aunts as their younger selves.  My cousin, who is sixteen, was just flabbergasted that her mom, my aunt, was fun in her twenties.  She was in shock that she had a life before her, filled with fun and boyfriends and travel and an executive level career. 

She didn’t even drive a mini van.

It was about then that I realized that Finn is never going to believe there were ever any boys that adored his mother before his father.  Tate will never believe her mother did stupid things and got into trouble.  Those crazy, fun-Michelle stories they hear my sisters or my best friends howling with laughter about, they won't believe a word.

Because from the beginning of time, I was their mother.

And to my sweet P, doing teenaged things, figuring out which college will be lucky enough to have you, falling for boys, doing things you won’t share with your mom until you’re grown, laughing with friends, and conspiring with your sister…  Some day in the future, you will fight back laughter as your children don't believe you ever had a life before them either.


erin mikulak said...

Oh we could tell some stories of you. And I certainly have slowly told my mom some of my crazy antics she had no idea about. Its so interesting to see how much a mother/daughter dynamic changes over the years. One thing is for sure though- Kathy is crazy...and I can say that because I know she will not read this because she is computer illiterate. Hahahah if she somehow has figured it out, I LOVE U, MOM!

Just A Normal Mom said...

This was a pretty amazing post, Michelle. I love family stories when they flow. I think because my mom was 19 when I was born, and I was most certainly not planned (though loved greatly), I am aware my mom had a life, albeit a short one, before me. But when I hear the stories about my grandma, who is still alive and talking about it, and ALL her boyfriends way back then and things she did - absolutely blows my mind. I mean, wasn't she ALWAYS "Grandma" ???? LOL

Shari Steelsmith Duffin said...

That is an awesome photo. Glad you have it!

Jessica @ Wanting Adventure said...

It's crazy to think about what the world view of your children will be when it comes to your family. Some of the stories I've heard about my grandparents are so hard to reconcile with the image of them I have from my childhood.

Anonymous said...

I try to tell my girls how fun I used to be, and they just do not believe it.

Lynda Lippin said...

I remember telling my son that I had toured with the Grateful Dead, and then promptly zipped my mouth! Stopping by from SITS Comment Love.

Meghan Riley said...

My nephew is just realizing that my sister had a life before she married his father. He was flabbergasted to realize she had at one point been engaged to another guy. Because I knew my own mother had been married before she was married to my father, I never had that outlook. I knew there was another life before.

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