Want to know someone well? Spend time with his parents. I am a product of my parents and a reaction to them.
I have my Father’s love of industry. We spend our free time building. He saws oak and cherry wood in the basement to make bookcases, chairs, tables, and lamps. I solder, sew, and code upstairs to make light-up hats and sculptures. We both are compelled to create alone.
Dad does not communicate directly. He makes jokes. Alluding to my mother’s inaugural meeting with the Wellesley garden club, Dad announced that Mom had returned from her marijuana growing society. He could have just said that Mom is home, yet he must add the funny dig.
Father and son don’t talk about life. He rehashes the news he reads. He commented recently on a New York Times story about economic stagnation. Predicted slow growth could dampen my future.
I react taciturn and forthright. If Dad spouts jokes to be funny, I can conserve words to be honest and understood.
He hoards. From almost every trip, he returns home with a box of cookies or a new dessert. He minds little whether the refrigerator is already full. They are always spaces into which more can be shoved.
I react by skipping dessert. As I am not regularly exercising, I do not want to be complicit in his cookie-buying sprees. Back in San Francisco, I pare my possessions smaller and throw out excess. My empty refrigerator stores a few bottles of condiments. Friends wonder why I’m such a minimalist. Blame my Father.
I have my Mother’s energy. She rises early most mornings, moving constantly until she serves her main meal of dinner. I, too, rarely rest.
She pries under peoples’ rocks with not only a nefarious desire to know what is underneath, but also a compassionate hope that everyone participates. Reacting to her voluble prying, I’m learning how to leave Greg alone. I can focus instead on my own life.
Mother suffers from more anxiety than I remembered. The car will always run out of gas. The driver will always get lost. The further the destination, the more that could go wrong. Home, then, is where we stay. It is most familiar and under control.
I quell my own incessant anxiety monologue. I push myself to new places, new continents, and new languages. Previous victories may calm future worries and prevent hill anxiety, or fear over what could wrong on the way up the next hill.