Criminal Justice Consultant, now in her early 30s; grew up in several Midwestern and southern cities and towns with her parents and a younger brother; also spent a one-week summer vacation with her extended family in a Midwestern state; single, no children.
Click Here For Episode #1
Claire, Memory Episode #1
When I think of happy childhood memories, family is the first thing that comes to mind. My family moved to [a southern state], so I didn’t see a whole lot of the extended family.
[The southern state] was a bit strange because the culture there was very different. First of all, in elementary school I had to wear dresses. Then, in first [and] second grades when I was on recess, I’d want to play with the boys because I liked sports. I was a huge tomboy: I didn’t want to play hopscotch or jump rope with the girls. The school actually called my parents for a conference because they thought that I was putting myself in danger by playing with the boys. They also thought it wasn’t appropriate – that I should be playing with the girls. My mom told me she was like, “You’re kidding! You called me to come in for this?” She was really mad. (chuckles)
Claire, Momentum Episode #1
My parents were trying to teach me certain values and I was seeing something else when I went to school.
Click Here For Episode #2
Claire, Memory Episode #2
But for the Fourth of July my family would take trips up north to see my mother’s father and mother. My aunts, uncles and cousins, who lived in [nearby states], also would come to visit for a week. It felt good to be with people that had values like my parents.
My grandparents had a really good perspective on life: they cared about things then that are trendy now, like the environment and wildlife. They enjoyed being outdoors. They were also very active. Every year we’d do the Seaside Run. My grandfather was big on, “It’s not how well you do or how fast you go,” but about getting the family together to do something healthy and positive that everyone enjoyed. Those races are my happiest memories.
Claire, Momentum Episode #2
My grandparents were very healthy people and I eat healthy – I’m a vegetarian. I think a lot of that comes from just being around them. I strive to be like them, actually.
[For example,] I’m a runner now; I like to do 5K races and I run forty to fifty miles a week. And I think it all started there. It’s different running down here+; you do have nature, but you don’t get the real woods like you do up north.
Still, what means the most to me when it comes to running – why I love it so much – is that it’s community. It’s people coming to train, to talk, and do these races together. Yes, it’s about activity, but it’s about the relationships, too. That’s what I relate to; I try to find other people to race with me because it’s such a positive experience. I’m still waiting for the runner’s high. (laughs) I don’t know if it really exists. (chuckles)
Click Here For Episode #3
Claire, Memory Episode #3
My grandparents had a boat, and we’d go out on a lake water skiing and tubing. I was only like seven years old when I first tried waterskiing. When you’re that young, you’re not scared of anything; you’ll try it regardless of whether you fall on your face. (chuckles) Each time I’d fall, my parents and my grandparents would encourage me, so I kept trying. When I skied, I was all bent over. (stretches her upper torso forward and chuckles) But at least I was up and I went all the way around the lake. Exciting!
Tubing was more like a leisurely run around the lake. (sigh) But when I was like thirteen my Uncle Geoff figured I was older and could take it, so he would whip around the lake and try to cut corners to see how far he could throw me off the tubes. (chuckles) That’s my Uncle Geoff.
My grandparents’ house was right on the canal going into the lake. It was really big because they had four kids. So everybody stayed in the same house, setting up cots in the basement. But it wasn’t uncomfortable; the closeness was fun.
Throughout the day people would eat when they were hungry. We didn’t center our get-togethers around meals, it was more the activities. The family did a lot of outdoorsy things, like hike through the trails, go up to the dunes, go to the farmer’s market. The house had a sloping backyard to the canal, so we’d have picnics there and – black cherries are linked to that area – cherry-spitting contests. (laughs)
Fourth of July weekend there were a lot of community activities, so we’d go to concerts or play mini-golf. Of course, we’d go and watch fireworks, too. They’d usually have them over the lake, so we would try to get there early to get a spot, put out a blanket, sit there and watch them. One summer we attempted to use sparklers and I ended up burning my finger really bad. So, no fireworks for the kids. (chuckles)
Claire, Momentum Episode #3
Today I appreciate that week, which was so much fun. I feel like I had all those great childhood experiences and got to do a lot of things outdoors. I still do those activities, when I can.
Click Here For Episode #4
Claire, Memory Episode #4
The only time I remember being sad was the week my grandfather passed away. Everybody looked to my grandfather – his name was Pete – for advice. He was that kind of person: he made everything run smoothly. He actually was very soft spoken, just always upbeat and excited. He was tall with dark hair, dark eyes, and always smiling.
He had cancer. The family could tell that he was getting really sick, so we all went to visit. I didn’t know it was so serious until he actually passed away on the couch. My uncle didn’t get there until the [next] morning; I remember waking up and hearing him sobbing in the living room.
That was my first experience with death. I was in shock and didn’t know how to act because I’m just twelve. And I see all these adults – adult male figures, too, that I’ve never seen emotional, ever – and they’re crying. I remember that being a very difficult experience for me. (big sigh)
Since that time my family doesn’t get together like we used to. (sigh) My grandfather was the person that would encourage us to come together and do these things. He was the glue that held my family together.
Claire, Momentum Episode #4
Unfortunately, I couldn’t share with my grandfather when I graduated from school or things like that. My grandmother is much more introverted, so I have to reach out to her, where if my grandfather was still alive, I’m sure he would call and find out how I’m doing.
I [do] have memories of my grandfather. My mother tells me, “You’re like your grandfather in a lot of ways,” so I remember the similarities.
It’s really tough, when that point person goes, for the family to reorganize and communicate. Maybe that’s why I treasure those summer visits up there.
Click Here For Episode #5
Claire, Memory Episode #5
When my grandfather passed away my mom had a really tough time. I didn’t have too close of a relationship with my mom when I was growing up. But I was very close to my dad. He’s the type that, if you ask a simple question expecting like a yes or no answer, you’re not going to get it. He’s going to talk to you for twenty minutes because he knows so much. Like he minored in something – I think it was the Mongolian dynasty – that made no sense, (chuckles) just because he wanted to learn it.
My dad’s about five feet, ten inches with brownish-blond hair, blue eyes, and (laughs) he’s a solid guy – he likes to eat. Growing up, he was always so caring when it came to other people.
I remember the interactions between my mom and dad. They would get in fights, sure, but they would never call each other names. I never saw my dad tell my mother to shut up or say anything like that. Their worst fight was about money. They were yelling for maybe ten minutes and that was about it.
Claire, Momentum Episode #5
I don’t see my dad’s desire just to know in a lot of people; I’ve carried that with me as an adult.
It’s surprising for me when I spend time with other people’s families to see the way the fathers treat the mothers. My dad has allowed me to not have a biased perception of men; I know that it’s possible for a man to be nice and respectful. I’m still close to my dad.
In my own relationships I’m very respectful. I think you tend to approach relationships how you saw them growing up. But that also means that I expect the person I’m with to be the same, and that’s not always the case. (chuckles)
Click Here For Episode #6
Claire, Memory Episode #6
My dad would be the mediator between my mom and me during my adolescent years, that fun time. We’d butt heads a lot. As I matured, we became closer. We both realized that I was being difficult, but she was maybe being a little over-controlling. It wasn’t very pleasant, (chuckles) but now we can laugh about it.
So, now we’re like good friends and talk three or four times a week on the phone. We talk about day-to-day stuff and we do the same thing now – she’s a criminal justice consultant, as well – so we have a lot in common. My mom used to work for the ASPCA* doing cruelty investigations, and growing up, we used to foster animals and rescue cats and dogs.
My mom has short, black hair, green eyes and is about my height, five feet, two inches, but she’s lost a lot of weight. Two years ago she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She’s managing the disease OK.
I have a lot of positive memories as far as spending time with my mom and my dad. Both my parents are very caring, very sensitive people. Then, memories of all the trips up north – always a great time. The heart of it was my grandfather getting the family together.
*American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Claire, Momentum Episode #6
When my mom tells me things like, “I have tremors,” that’s tough for me to hear. I don’t know what to do or to say because I don’t understand multiple sclerosis very well and it’s my mother.
+Claire currently lives in a large, southern city
Retired Air Force Pilot and Computer Programmer, now in his early 80s; as a child lived in a New England medium-sized city and small town with his parents and on a farm with his grandparents; now a widower with 4 children.
Click Here For Episode #1
Gordon, Memory Episode #1
My first environment was playing with boys my age in the city. In grammar school – I was maybe ten years old – we would play in the schoolyard. The girls would be on one side, the boys on the other, and we boys would have a few fights. With the neighborhood boys I would play football in the middle of the street, as long as the cars would let us.
When it came to Halloween time, we went to a party; for the first time, I experienced playing spin the bottle. A girl with dark hair I knew from school spun the bottle and it pointed at me. Of course, she came over and kissed me. Then she took me to [a place] where there was some hay and kissed me a couple more times. She sure knew a hell of a lot more about kissing than I did! (chuckles) I didn’t like girls particularly, but it was a happy experience: kissing was fun.
Gordon, Momentum Episode #1
I realized I preferred to go out with a girl myself, not go in a crowd.
Click Here For Episode #2
Gordon, Memory Episode #2
Around twelve or fourteen, the boys and I would stand on the corner. But better than hanging out was disengaging the trolley car. We had not too much of a love affair with trolley cars: from four o’clock in the morning to midnight they went underneath the window where I slept, and I wasn’t alone. So, some of the boys and I would run and pull on the chain that held the rod up on the electrical wire to disengage the car. Then the conductor would have to get out and put it back on. When he’d start up, we’d disengage it again.
We also used to ride on the back of the trolley cars. They had a little bumper and we would hang on there. The conductor would yell at us and try to knock us off. Then he’d get the policeman to chase us down. The city was full of three-decker houses that were very close together; we would get behind them because there weren’t many fences to stop us from running yard to yard. If the policeman saw us, he could tell who we were a block away. But if he didn’t see us, we could get away with it.
Later, when I started going to high school, we moved to [a nearby town]. I was new in town, so all the junior and senior girls had to find out what I was about. (laughs) I used to get all these dates: girls would want to go out with me, or they’d invite me to their houses and teach me how to dance.
Weekends I’d be working at the dairy. It was just across the road from the house my father, mother, and I lived in. I’d go over and help them. At first I’d just unload empty bottles; later on I would help them load filled bottles, work in the refrigerator, and clean up. Or I would go over to the garage, when they started to have trucks, and mess around on the motors with the mechanics. Also, when the milk came in, they had to take a sample to figure out the butterfat and get a bacterial count for that particular farmer.
Gordon, Momentum Episode #2
I learned how to take the samples, getting into bacteriology a little bit. That was interesting
Click Here For Episode #3
Gordon, Memory Episode #3
When I was older, I used to put the bottles in the bottle washer to go through this lye solution. Then they’d come up and would go over to be filled. Well, there was this man: every time he came in the dairy, he’d put his cigar down close to me on my machine, then do whatever he came to do. Maybe an hour or two hours later, he’d come back, take his cigar, and go outside. One time I took his cigar and stuffed it down into a bottle, stuffed paper and everything that I could in that bottle, and ran it through the washing machine. When it came up, I grabbed the bottle off the conveyer, took his cigar out, and put it back on my machine. (laughs) Apparently it had dried out enough; after he had picked it up and had gone out to smoke, he came back in and said, “God, that cigar tasted terrible!” (laughs) He had no idea what I had done.
Oh, I loved the dairy! I enjoyed doing something that somebody appreciated. I also learned some new skills, but they weren’t all that involved. And, (chuckles) a man at the dairy mixed chocolate syrup for the chocolate milk.
Gordon, Momentum Episode #3
The dairy put me in an environment where I was accustomed to doing work. The work aspect became part of my life. I didn’t want to be loafing around when I went to work; I wanted to work! (laughs) And, I loved that chocolate milk!
Click Here For Episode #4
Gordon, Memory Episode #4
While I was there, the size of the dairy doubled. My father supervised the delivery operation and my uncle supervised the dairy itself. I was proud of the fact that it was the biggest dairy, (laughs) but I didn’t really feel a part of it.
Gordon, Momentum Episode #4
What [the dairy] did, it gave me an idea of what to take in college: dairy industry. I wanted to start an ice cream place, like Dairy Queen, after I graduated. My uncle could finance it, but I had a rule: (chuckles) he could not interfere. In other words, he could give me the money, and I’d give him a certain percentage of the profit, but he could not supervise my operation. He couldn’t stand that. I said, “Well, forget it! I’ll go in the Army.” (laughs)
Click Here For Episode #5
Gordon, Memory Episode #5
A third environment was my grandfather’s farm in [a neighboring state], where I was taken every summer. About June fifteenth my father and mother would load me in the car, and I would stay there until school started in September. I figured they wanted to get me out from under my mother’s feet. Up there I learned how to milk cows, cut grass, and operate on the farm. My grandmother never got a stove, so I [also] had to keep the wood box full.
Oh, I loved being on the farm! When we came back in from milking in the morning, my grandmother would ask me if I wanted some biscuits. If I did, she’d cook them. Since I was the first grandson, I was special. (laughs)
My grandmother loved to cook dandelions and make dandelion tea. So, about the first thing I would do when I got up there was I’d go around and cut all the dandelions out of the lawn. I hated dandelions; I would just throw them away. She used to fuss at me, but I said, “Well, they’re just weeds. [Now] you can have a good-looking lawn!” (chuckles)
I always asked my grandmother to fluff the featherbed up when it was cold. Then I’d try to jump up and down, so that I was covered up with feathers. That didn’t always work, but that’s what I would try to do. They had an outhouse, and when I was small, I did not like going to it. I was afraid I’d fall in because my bottom didn’t cover the hole. (laughs)
My grandmother would make me popcorn and put it in one of those big Quaker Oats cardboard containers. I’d take that and go behind the barn, beyond a field, up into a pine tree, and sit at the top, overlooking the valley, which I loved to do. Also, at night I’d lay out on the lawn and watch the stars. During World War II I learned Morse Code, so I’d lay with my flashlight. When a plane would go by, I’d Morse Code, “Hi, you!” Once in a while, they’d respond back.
Gordon, Momentum Episode #5
The farm appealed to me. I found the activities enjoyable; I didn’t like sitting around and reading – that bored me. I was more interested in being physically active. My father used to gripe because my grandfather would take me fishing all the time or would take me deer hunting. People would come up there from [states] to hunt with him. I enjoyed the fishing more than the hunting because I really didn’t like to kill a deer. (laughs)
Click Here For Episode #6
Gordon, Memory Episode #6
Every year I got a personal calf that I would hook to the wagon to pull me around. When I got older, the animal had to be slaughtered in the fall. I was told to kill the animal and slice its throat. I hit the animal with a hammer, but I couldn’t kill it. It isn’t a happy memory, but it’s a memory that this is what life is about – definitely more than what I experienced living at home.
My home life with my father and mother was a very quiet situation. We came in, we sat down, we ate, we got up, and we went out. There was hardly any conversation unless something bad had gone on: then I heard about it. But my grandfather talked all the time, my grandmother the same way.
Gordon, Momentum Episode #6
There was no hiding things; my grandmother taught me that you need to tell people what you’re doing. And they were always honest, so what you said better be correct. (laughs)
I know my grandparents loved me. Their whole demeanor helped me develop as an individual: (laughs) how to be self-confident and care for people and animals, how to be correct in my feelings and live my life.
The farm experience also taught me not to mind working. I never did.
Hospital Researcher specializing in women’s reproductive issues, now in her mid-30s; grew up near Guatemala’s coast with both parents and in a West Coast city with her mother and one brother and one sister, both much younger; married, with 2 young sons.
Click Here For Episode #1
Fiona, Memory Episode #1
I’m a native Guatemalan and my father, my mother, and I used to live in a small town that was very close to the ocean. They made it a point that every weekend we went to the beach, and always to the same spot.
I can recall as early as six years old getting in the car and driving; then we used to get on a boat and go along a canal to the back of a little restaurant. The beach was in the front. There was a distinct smell on approaching it: the smell of fish and food. The restaurant was hidden and wasn’t for tourists. Because my father used to provide a lot of free health care to the people, they told him about this place.
I remember the restaurant was a wooden structure, high up [above the sand]. Because of the ocean, it was dark, like a dirty wood. The tables had a plastic cover on them with lime and salt in the middle, and the chairs were plastic. There was maybe a couple of people, not that many, in the restaurant.
Because we were considered high class, my parents made it a point for me to play with street kids, local kids who were less fortunate. [Their] parents had this respect for me – my father was a doctor – and let their kids, both boys and girls, hang out with me. I was happy because, even though I had no siblings, I always had kids around me.
A lot of the kids just wore underwear. I always had a bathing suit, and I used to tell my mom that I wanted to take the top off to be like them. Most of them [also] were barefoot, even though the sand was hot, so I used to share my flip-flops with them. [Once] we were playing in the ocean, and one of my green flip-flops was taken away. The little girl was crying: she thought she was going to get in trouble. I told her it was OK, but she was frantic. She went in the restaurant to get my father, and he eventually got the flip-flop out of the ocean.
Fiona, Momentum Episode #1
I remember that day because my mom commented, “It was just a sandal. It will come back; if not, we’ll get another.” Material things like flip-flops weren’t a big deal in my childhood. I thank my parents for that because it’s made me the adult I am now.
My husband and I both try not to put much emphasis on materialistic stuff. Even though my kids have toys we say, “You can do other things.” Often times they go outside and get little rocks or wooden stuff and start playing with them. I didn’t have to have toys and I was happy!
Click Here For Episode #2
Fiona, Memory Episode #2
My parents always told me, “Be free, go! Just be careful.” But I knew that they were watching me. We would be running around, swimming, and digging holes. The sand at the ocean was almost black and very coarse. And, even though there was no wind, the ocean in Guatemala had a lot of waves and was very dark. I couldn’t see the bottom, but I would jump in the water like nothing. I wouldn’t do that now; I’d be scared. (chuckles)
In the back, where the canal was, there was a little pond. We used to pretend to fish with cups that we would find. And I used to take tadpoles home because I thought they were so cute: black and little with wiggly tales. The kids would help me: they used to give me a little bag, and I would put in water and about ten tadpoles. Of course, in a couple of days they would all be dead, but each weekend I’d try to get some.
We also used to get sea turtle eggs and hide them in the sand. In Guatemala we actually ate turtle eggs, but the kids used to tell me that, if you hide them under the sand, they will hatch in a couple of days. I remember taking eggs from the table – my parents knew what I was doing – so we could hide them in big holes. But I never saw a turtle come out (chuckles) because they were already dead.
The sun was very hot, so we used to play under the structure of the restaurant, in the shade. We didn’t need toys: if we found a bottle or a piece of wood from the back, we used it. If not, it was just us. I remember playing for hours, digging holes. Sometimes we buried ourselves, sometimes just our feet.
Fiona, Momentum Episode #2
Even now just putting my feet into the sand takes me back and feels so good. My oldest son loves to do that, too.
Click Here For Episode #3
Fiona, Memory Episode #3
There was a really shy girl, and every time we used to play – there were maybe three or four of us – this little girl would hide behind something. She didn’t want to come near us. When my parents came close by, I told them that she didn’t want to play, so my father approached her. She had a cleft lip and, I guess, she didn’t want to be seen.
Fiona, Momentum Episode #3
This girl became a good friend of mine because I pulled her out from being shy; she wasn’t any different from the other kids. [Later] we went back [to Guatemala]. My father actually did surgery on the girl that had the cleft lip. Every time she would see him, she would go up and hug him, but she wouldn’t say “Hi” to me anymore – I remember that.
Click Here For Episode #4
Fiona, Memory Episode #4
The kids looked up to me in a way that I liked and I didn’t like. A lot of these kids weren’t going to school, so I used to teach them the ABCs. But everything I said would go, even though my parents made sure I wasn’t any different from them. I was always the one skipping the rocks, jumping in the water, and they would just follow me. I didn’t know why I was different until I grew up. But they knew: they used to call me “the doctor’s daughter,” and I was only there on the weekends.
My parents and I used to get there at seven in the morning and didn’t leave till five o’clock in the afternoon. We ate turtle eggs, oysters, anything seafood the whole day. The owner wouldn’t let the kids come in the restaurant, so sometimes I would have to hide the food, take it down, and eat somewhere else.
Fiona, Momentum Episode #4
I’m a seafood lover, (chuckles) I think, because of that. And going to this place on the weekend made my life happy. Even though I had the routine of school and doing things during the week, just knowing that I was going to be there made everything good. When I’m going through tough times in my life, I just close my eyes and I’m there.
We left Guatemala when I was eight for political reasons, and it was one of the things that I missed the most. Now I wish I could take my kids: “This is where I used to play when I was your age.” But it’s been so many years, and things have changed there.
My husband is from the Dominican Republic. The first time we went out, I was like, “Let’s go to the beach.” And we were at the beach when my oldest son crawled to the water and said his first word, “Agua.”*
About two years ago we moved to [a southern coastal state] because I wanted my kids to feel the same way about the beach that I did. And, when I need to get away, I go to the beach (chuckles) and just sit there. Even if it’s cold, the beach relaxes me.
Like I tell my husband, when I retire – if we’re together, you never know – I want a shack in front of the beach. I want to be able to wake up and jump in the water. I think the beach has always been part of my life.
* Spanish for “water”