Barbara in 1956, 17 years old and looking for trouble. I’ve been scanning in my grandmothers’ photo albums again. It’s so hard to imagine what our parents were like when they were young, when they were kids. My mother was a kid when she married, 18 years old; my father was 21. I only get bits and pieces of what their lives were then; it’s so hard to picture them as they were, without that parental authority. We grow up thinking our parents know what they’re doing, but who in their 20s knows what they’re doing? When they met, she worked the lunch counter at Wallace’s Department Store, he parked cars in the store’s tiny parking lot. She says that her mother tried to get them together. There’s another picture of them both at my mother’s 16th birthday party, so they knew each other for a while before they got married. But I don’t have any real sense of what those early years of their marriage were like (I came along three years later). I don’t know what they did, who their friends were; I don’t even remember where they lived before they moved to Scotia, though when I was young my mother showed me the apartment building in Schenectady a few times. But even knowing that doesn’t really tell me who they were. She was just a kid. What was she like? What was he like?
I try to tell my kids about who we were and what we did before they came along. After all, we had been married 9 years before Hannah was born. I’ve shown them where I grew up (easy enough, it was Grandma Barbara’s house until a couple of years ago), the school I went to, the river I played in, where we went to college, and all that. But it’s still hard for them to believe there was a world before them: the other night Rebekah was looking at a line of First Night buttons on the bulletin board and saw one from 1992 and said, “Wait a minute! That’s before Hannah was born!” Yes, we had a life before you little princesses came along.