Monday, April 25, 2011

I'm History

In the fall of 1989, I began matriculating at Winona State. Not feeling that the past summer was enough of a reprieve from the grind, I opted to take two classes instead of the usual four. It was, I felt, a way to ease into college, to dip my foot in the water first, you could say.

Since I had no fookin idea what my major was going to be, I took two generals: Psychology and American History. I was nothing, if not prompt, for my Psych class. Set in a huge classroom (which seated at least 65 people), I was frequently the second one there and chose a seat that should be no surprise to those who are familiar with my personality: way in the back, in the corner, next to the door. If I got woozy, it would be no sweat to just get up and head to the head.

There was a lady who typically got there before me. A little better than average-looking, with dark hair, she reminded me of Michael J. Fox's love interest in "Teen Wolf".

Her seat of choice was right smack-dab in the middle of the classroom. We frequently talked for a number of minutes before other classmates arrived. In my eyes, she was just the kind of girl I'd like to marry one day. I was too shy, at that point, however, to make any moves. One of the terms I learned during the class and which has stuck with me to this day is homeostasis.

Getting to my other class, American History, was more of a challenge as Winona State was now offering some of its classes at the site of a college that had recently closed, Saint Theresa's. Located about a mile and a half from WSU, most students needed to take a bus to get to it. My teacher's last name was Harrison. He was a fifty-something whose laid-back demeanor I grew to enjoy.

I also sat near the door for this class, but since the door was located closest to the front, I actually sat in the first row. Not typical for me, but I guess that door represented freedom and I wanted to be as close to it as possible. There was a girl who sat near me and who I helped explain from time to time what she had missed; she, for some reason, couldn't make every class.

The first assignment Harrison gave us was to write a biography of our lives. Since we were dealing with history, he figured that we should get an idea of how our own lives represent history in the making. Here is what I wrote:

"Thomas D--- was born on November --, 197-. His father was in the Air Force at the time and was stationed on the island of Crete located on the Mediterranean. His mother also lived there on Crete with her husband. Because of certain regulations and preferences, Tom's father and mother were to have their child in Wiesbaden, Germany. And so, on the ---- day of the eleventh month of 197-, their first son was born.

One and a half years later, they would have a second child, a daughter, borne to them. She was also given Wiesbaden, Germany to be her birthplace.

After having served approximately four years in the Air Force, the family packed up and returned to America. The two children had never been to America. All their life had been spent on a small island in Europe. They took a plane and returned to Winona, Minnesota.

The group lived in several apartments in and around Winona. Around 1975, they moved into their first home and they had two more sons. Tom's father was now a seasoned accountant and the family was thriving.

In 1978, looking for a larger home, the family headed elsewhere to live. They moved to Rollingstone, population 528, located seven miles from Winona. There their fifth and final child, a son, would be born, the last three children being delivered at Winona's Community Memorial Hospital.

The years dragged on. The father worked hard. The mother cared for the children. The children loved their semi-country, semi-city environment. Tom's family was perfect. To try and better one's life then would have been impossible. They had great friends, hot summers, cool winters, and electrical nights.

And then, it collapsed. The change was as swift as throwing away the day's trash. It was over. And any shades of happiness were a brilliant memory still shining a million miles away. It was there that love died, never to return. It was the setting of the sun, the end of a millennium.

The next few years went by quietly, mercifully and the divorce became a reality and its purpose, life's purpose, faded like a shooting star swallowed by the night.

Today, the family still lives. Separate, yet still together somehow, as if the brilliance of those former years will never pass away from the hearts and minds of those who lived it so many years and years ago.

The family's first son, Tom, still lives, but he stands apart, haunted, perhaps, by knowledge few others can ever share. He is still not alone."

Friday, April 15, 2011


I was at Target a few days ago looking for birthday presents for a friend when I stumbled upon a Lexmark printer/copier/scanner for $45.oo (it had been marked down 30%). After some careful thought (our printer had had it), I opted to purchase it. Before I even tried the printer, I gave the scanner a test run and boy, am I impressed. Being able to post pictures from the pre-digital era is a Godsend. Here are some of the ones I've posted to my Facebook account.

This was taken in July of 1976 on our way to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming. The girl to my left was part of another family that we were traveling with:

The following pic was taken at the top of Sugar Loaf mountain in 1989; note the Members Only jacket that I'm rocking:

This is an outtake from my wife-to-be and mine's engagement photos:

The below pic was taken almost exactly 11 years ago at my workplace. As you can see by my screensaver, I was eagerly awaiting the release of "Scream 3". I'm planning to go to Part 4 in the next few days.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Girls

After having five children, my parents divorced in 1984. Thankfully, they were able to find replacement marriage partners within the next couple of years. My mom met her husband-to-be while working at the switchboard for a company called Fiberite; he was employed as a salesman there.

At first, I didn't like the idea of having a stepdad, but there were a number of perks. He made plenty of money, so took my mom and me to Disneyland in 1986. They convinced me to get in line with them for Space Mountain. I was coaster-phobic at that time, but they made it sound like it wouldn't be that bad. I kept inquiring about all the warnings that had been posted in the queue. They reassured me that things would be fine. I wasn't convinced, so turned around and told them I'd meet them on the other side.

The highlight for me was seeing Michael Jackson's 3-D movie, "Captain Eo".

He hadn't released an album since '82's "Thriller", so being able to hear new music from him was extremely welcome.

It was during this California vacation that I first got the inkling that my mother was up for having another child. Her last had been born in 1978. In '86, she was 36 years old. It should be noted that I was the only sibling living with my mom. One afternoon, during that trip, while I sat in the backseat, my stepdad touched my mom's belly and made some kind of comment insinuating that he sought to create a baby with her. My mom shushed him a bit, but I'd heard. I should also mention that he was 19 years older than my mom. My dad wound up marrying a woman who was more than 20 years older than him.

I didn't hear any more baby talk for a number of months and gradually forgot about it. In the late summer of '87, however, they announced that she was with child. I wasn't sure how to feel. At the age of 16, I was soon to have a half-sibling, one I would be living with until I graduated high school. My younger siblings were excited and seemed to prefer a girl as my mom already had had four boys and just one girl.

One afternoon, Mom and my stepfather came back from her clinic appointment with an additional announcement. My siblings were present for this as well. They said they were having twins. Twin girls! My eyes widened. Twins ran in the family as one of my mom's sisters had had twin boys in the early 80's.

Now, there was no way that Fiberite's top company salesman was gonna raise twin girls in the apartment we were living at, so plans were made for a house to be built in a new subdivision on the edge of town. It was the biggest house I'd ever live in. It had seven bedrooms and three bathrooms. The extra bedrooms were for when my younger siblings stayed at the house. The hope was that one day one or more of them might choose to live there. We were asked what color we'd like our walls to be (I chose sky blue) as well as if we wanted a conventional bed or a waterbed (all three of my brothers chose waterbeds).

I didn't show much interest in wanting to check the house out until it was built, kinda like the groom shouldn't see the bride before the wedding. One great aspect of having such a big house is that the girls' bedroom would be on the second floor while mine would be in the basement (two floors down). That would be a good sound cushion, I thought.

The girls' due date was awfully close to February 29, 1988 (Leap Day). What a thing it would be if they were born on the 29th, only truly being able to celebrate their birthday every four years. We moved into the new house just a few days before the girls were born. They wound up coming to be on March 1st.

I saw them for the first time a couple days later. I asked my stepdad, "Is it OK to call them the Minnesota Twins?" (a nod to the Minnesota Twins winning the World Series five months prior).

I enjoyed having them around. It was nice to have younguns to coddle and laugh with. It was certainly a blessing that they had been born twins as only children can miss out on a lot. One day, I looked down at one of the girls and saw her laughing at something that appeared to be behind me. Most would say that she was laughing at nothing, but I believe babies can sometimes see things we can't. Things that they forget about by the time they're four or five. Perhaps if we could remember those things we saw as an infant, we'd be more assured that there is more out there than what is typically discerned.

When they were about two years old, I took the girls downstairs with the candy they'd collected for Halloween two days prior. They sat on the floor with their plastic jack-o-lanterns and began to chow down on the fun size chocolates and Smarties. I probably should've stopped them at some point, but didn't think to do so. My mom came down a few minutes later and said, "What are you girls doing?" and took the candy away. About ten minutes later, now upstairs, one of them said, "Mommy. My tummy hurts." My mom responded, "Well, I wonder why..."

Monday, April 04, 2011

Saturday Matinee

Browsing through my Entertainment Weekly on Friday, I was surprised to see that a new horror movie called "Insidious" was given a rating of A-. The commercials made it appear to be another one of those jump-cut fests that is only scary because of the loud noises that accompany various reveals. This one appeared to be a cut above. I went to Rotten Tomatoes where more than 50% of the reviews were positive. Being that some of my favorite films are PG-13 spookfests ("The Others", "The Ring", "The Orphanage"), I decided that I wanted to check this one out.

I woke up at around 9am on Saturday and told my wife that I planned to see Adam Sandler's new movie followed by "Insidious". She had already seen the Sandman's movie, but said it'd be OK to see it again. We arrived at the theatre and were told that there was no early showing of "Just Go With It", that a kid's movie was playing instead. I informed them that their website said that the Sandler movie was playing at the given time. They said that it was corporate which displayed the movie times and they never knew ahead of time which show was going to be replaced by the kid's movie. I gave a bit of lip, but not too much as I actually wanted to see "Insidious" more.

We got a seat way in the back as we awaited the starting of the show. My girl had a small popcorn to pass the time. As the credits rolled, a number of teenagers were yapping, so I told my girl I'd prefer to sit near the front, less distractions, you see. Usually the first 20 minutes of a scary movie are a bit boring as this time is used to establish characters, not to scare the audience. It's kinda like a first date in that there's a lot of conversation, but no touching quite yet. This film was no different.

Directed by the man who did the original "Saw", I admired some of the small touches he'd made. In an early scene, the husband puts some anti-wrinkle cream on his forehead before going to bed. Before long, the scares started coming. One clever scene involved a baby monitor. Later, a couple ghost hunters are brought in. They delivered a much needed dose of levity.

Though not the scariest thing I'd ever seen (that would be me looking at myself naked in the mirror), I was reminded again that movies need not have a lot of gore to be effective in getting one's heart racing. Almost as cool is that the film was made for a paltry one million dollars. I don't usually get scared when going to bed on the night that I've seen a horror film, but did get a bit uneasy before nodding off on Saturday, thinking about the old lady from the movie.