“Mom, were you ever like me?”
It’s the end of a summer’s day, after a long summer that was preceded by a long summer. It’s just the two of us in the house, which seems odd because there are five of us. But, for much of this summer, circumstances have meant the band is rarely together, and it’s quiet, except for the snoring of the dog and the rush of traffic on I-81 that you can hear from the window. One of my kids poses the above question, and at first, I laugh. Then, I think about it. Are we alike? More than I planned.
I often wonder what it was like to be my parents when I struggle with the tall task of raising young people in a world of uncertainty. And yet, I can relate.
In the early 80s, my mom and dad had two college tuitions to pay, and that’s what they wanted. There was never a question of attending college at our house and I didn’t even consider any other option, except for the time when I saw women on a television commercial serving their country and suggested that might be an option for me. The option was college, I learned.
And, so it was college. I only applied to one _ King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. I contemplated Marywood, but never even submitted the application. King’s College had a radio station, WRKC, and that was my goal. I had many record albums and was enamored with people on the radio. One of them is Louis Tarone, now my colleague at WILK. Another was a guy named Bosco, who’s still around somewhere.
My other goal was to read. I read for hours when I was a kid. I loved Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, J.D. Salinger (who doesn’t?), Flannery O’Connor and many plays. I was in the “Play of the Month” Book Club, which sounds much geekier than it really was. Some of those plays were pretty heavy. It was my love of reading that made me love writing.
In 1983, I set my bags down in East Hall at King’s College, where I took to life as a college student with a great deal of trepidation and excitement.
It so it began, my humble and tiny steps into the world of academia, a place no woman in my family had ever tread successfully before. I got my education following directions from Professor John Ennis, who gave me a grade I would have been ashamed to earn in high school on my first paper. You see, you have to pay attention in college. I learned broadcasting from a group of dedicated students and from Father Tom Carten, the "radio priest." I'm pleased to say I still know a lot of my mentors to this day, thankfully.
I learned about Shakespeare, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Marshall McLuhan and Socrates at King's. I worked in commercial radio beginning in April of my freshman year and eventually stayed up all night in the control room of WILK, where I worked part-time and lived around the corner in a building known as Burke House, which was later razed to build the McGowan School of Business. Although I miss that place, I know the memories are safe in my mind.
On the day when the opening question of this entry was asked, one of my children told me he was reading the works of Flannery O’Connor. In this summer of the query, the opening riff of “What Difference Does It Make?” by The Smiths has blared through the hallway of our house. And, last week, the second generation of Henrys casually hosted a radio show on WRKC, stating the skill comes naturally. It should. That’s where his parents met.
Some days, I feel disconnected from the next generation as they lounge in their Sperrys and peck away on their smart phones . Then, there’s a Ramones t-shirt in the dryer and a King’s College schedule for the fall of 2011 on the dining room table. No, I guess we’re not so different after all. And, as much as I can, I understand what it’s like to be them.