** Warning: This post contains a lot of pictures & a little profanity**
Before I write this post, let me say one thing: I have led a privileged life.
I know this.
Not financially, necessarily. Especially not as a child. I’m pretty sure my parents never had more than two cents to rub together at any given time.
But I’ve been privileged in the things that matter: Time, love, experiences, education, family.
So who are the coolest people you know?
Don’t think. Answer quickly.
Who comes to mind first?
Wanna know mine?
Hands down: My Parents
Let me explain.
Have you ever had that moment when you meet someone where you think, “Holy Shit, these people are the coolest people I’ve EVER met?”
I’ve been having that moment lately. A lot. With my parents.
My Dad gave himself a Christmas gift. This is not unusual, he always gives himself gifts, he marks them from “Santa-fox” and always acts all surprised, “How did Santa-fox know?!! This is JUST what I wanted! Excellent!!”
This year, it was a slide scanner.
Slides, you know, those old fashioned photo negatives in cardboard frames that went into slide projectors and could be shown on the wall, or a sheet, or if you were lucky, a screen? This thing takes those and digitizes them. My parents have THOUSANDS of slides. Thousands. Not an exaggeration.
So, now, every day my Dad scans in a few pictures and sends them to me. Most of them are travel photos.
I’m meeting my parents again, for the first time, for the thousandth time, and I’m thinking, “These people are the coolest (insert profanity here) people I’ve ever met!” It’s happening daily. And I’m loving it. I’m actually hounding my Dad a bit relentlessly to scan more, scan faster.
For any of you who have wondered how our little family got so weird, this post might help you understand. It will certainly help you see why our kids don’t even notice that they’re doing anything off center with their childhoods.
Case in point:
WHO DOES THAT?!!
Oh wait. We did… Civitaveccia, not Palermo…whatever.
Don’t they look cool? Capital C COOL?!
This is my Dad:
This is my Mom:
This was all before I was born.
Their adventures included backpacking in Central and South America and taking a freighter from Panama to Morocco. Next, they walked across North Africa and part of Europe. Then, they bought that crappy old van and drove down into Central America. Mom got pregnant with me somewhere in northern Mexico, I was gestated on the shores of Lago de Atitlan. I think that’s why I feel so at home there.
You’d think they might settle down after that.
They did. Kind of. In their own way.
This was my first five or so years, and summers until I was 13:
As if having two babies in the bush, trapping turtles, canning porcupine and running black bear meat through a baby food grinder and washing cloth diapers by hand isn’t enough.
I turned 5 and had to go to school. Hiking the miles around the lake to get to the road… to get to a bus (probably no bus, actually) to get to school didn’t seem like a good idea to anyone. Homeschooling wasn’t legal in Canada yet, or even a reasonable consideration… so they moved to Wolfe Island. With $6000 in the bank my Dad says. And we built another house.
Out of logs we cut from a dead beaver pond the year I was four. I rode on the back of the snow machine and “helped” my Dad bring them out. No. I am not kidding. True story.
That van in the background of the below photo? Same one they drove to Central America the year I was born. We lived in it while we built our house. I got my braids stuck in fly paper hanging from the ceiling of it at least once a week. I cried.
My brother, aged 4, helped lay the sub flooring with a ball-peen hammer. I made a lot of PBJ sandwiches for the workers. I also chased cows out of the work site with my hot pink skipping rope. That was my job. Keep the house a cow-free zone.
Instead of finishing the second story of the new house, my Dad built a sailboat in it. A flat bottomed dory with a junk rigged sail (which my Mom sewed, of course… navy blue with a big red sun.)
So, the winter I was eight we dragged it behind our van (the same one in the picture above with Mom at Tikal, only painted brown with house paint and a roller brush by my Dad and with a plexi-glass window installed so Josh and I could look out the back) to Indiana for Christmas.
My parents turned left instead of right upon exiting Indiana and we ended up in Mexico for the winter. True story.
Who needs third grade anyway?
They did it again when I was 13… only without a boat.
Who needs eighth grade anyway?
My childhood wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damned close.
Anything they messed up wasn’t for lack of trying and if I do half as well with my kids it will have been a raging success.
These pictures are just the tip of the iceberg. They also:
- Let me drive a snowmobile across cracking ice at seven (okay, that was Dad, not so much Mom)
- Let me live in a chicken coop for a summer whilst building the third house (let is kind… made might be more correct, but the boys were in a tent, and there were no chickens, so it was kind of like my own cabin-let)
- Provided a steady stream of boats to sail/canoe/row around with minimal supervision
- Grew acres of veggies, grapes, apples and stuff I don’t even remember
- Made their own wine (granted, it was nicknamed Bear Claw for it’s gripping effect on the palate, but I never drank it)
- Mom made a whole church full of stained glass windows, more than one, actually.
- Dad made boats, and other weird stuff
- They read aloud to us, showed slides of their adventures and invited loads of crazy people home for dinner.
- They took us out of school before it was cool, and never acted like it was a big deal.
- They didn’t have real jobs. Thank goodness for that! It would have been hard to go adventuring if they had.
They’re kind of old now (not really old, just a little bit.)
This is my Dad:
This is my Mom:
If they were cool as parents, they have perfected COOL as grandparents:
They still travel… mostly to see us…
Here’s something else Cool about my parents:
They’ve been everywhere (except Asia.)
And they tell stories.
Can I just say that there is nothing (and I do mean nothing) cooler than overhearing the following:
“Okay boys, pay attention and look around, the ghost of young Gramps is here… last time I was here it was just Grammy and me, your Mom wasn’t a thought yet… this colosseum was still here, but the town wasn’t… Grammy rode a camel for the first time right out there…”
It’s so cool it brings tears to your eyes.
So does your littlest kid asking why YOU have a yellow bikini he’s never seen in the pictures of Guatemala Gramps is showing (slides, of course) and then realizing it’s NOT you, but Grammy 37 years ago. THAT is cool.
These are my parents.
Who gets that as the luck of the draw? Josh and me. We did. I still can’t believe it. We won the cosmic lottery.
They’re the silly people who buy paper snappy fish for the kids and bring ten times more cookies than any sensible family would eat to foreign countries for Christmas and who think nothing of camping on the Saharan sand in the freakin’ FREEZING cold so they can ride camels and eat sandy dates with their grandkids.
And here’s the kicker:
They act like it’s completely normal.
Because in our family, it is.
My parents. The coolest people I know.