How’s this for a crazy way to count down the days to a significant (i.e. new decade) birthday?
Each day between now and October 20th – I will post my recollections of a year in my life. If I don’t skip any days, my life story will be completely up to date by the time I turn __ (you do the math!)
When I tell my daughter about my genealogy research and the interesting things I’ve discovered about her ancestors, she says – “that’s nice – but don’t forget to write about YOUR life too.” (Did I mention I have a very sweet daughter?)
I suppose it’s fairly common for people to think that their life is not that interesting and to wonder who would want to read about it anyway. Besides, when you’re busy living your life, it hardly seems worth stopping to write about it (leaving aside journaling which I’ve never been able to discipline myself to do on a consistent basis).
Of course, for any genealogists reading this, you know how thrilled you’d be to find something written by one of your ancestors detailing even the most mundane aspects of their life. Of course, you have to account for personal bias (it isn’t always easy to tell the truth about yourself) and perhaps verify what you’re reading with other available facts – but there’s no denying it would be a really cool find.
Now whether blogs will be around in 100 years to make what I’m about to write accessible to my descendants – that’s another question that is largely out of my control. Perhaps that is why my daughter suggested that I write about my life somewhere other than on my blog – or rather – not only on my blog.
So there you have it – my editorial calendar is set for the next few months. It feels like a bit of a challenge and I suspect I may miss a day here and there but I’ll catch up on the weekends. So without further ado . . . welcome to Year One of my life.
I was born early in the morning (5:45 am) on October 20, 1955 at the US Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. My mother, who was a very good golfer and had actually played on the Exhibition Tour (precursor to the LPGA) when still in her teens, played 27 holes of golf the day before I was born.
I was several weeks early and spent almost a month in an incubator. When I left the hospital, just before Thanksgiving, my first home was an apartment on Flower Avenue in Takoma Park Maryland. Talk about a weird coincidence – the first place I lived as a newborn and the first place I lived as a newlywed were within a mile of each other! I’m not sure why my mother didn’t mention this when I was living on Flower Avenue from 1983 – 1985 – if she did I don’t remember it. If anyone needed a nudge to write their life story while they can still verify facts with their parents – there you have it.
In early 1956, my father went to Bremerton, Washington to prepare for his sea duty on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval Aircraft Carrier. My parents met in the Navy. They were both in medical corps training in Bethesda when they met and they both pursued careers in medicine after the Navy. My arrival put an end to my mother’s naval career but in early 1956 she went to join my father in Washington State and I stayed in Cleveland, Ohio with my mother’s mother – Alice Louise Powell (Broski) Latham (Nana) and her second husband Charles Seden Latham, Jr. (Buck). My relationship with Nana and Buck taught me everything I needed to know about unconditional love.
According to Nana, when I was about 4 months old, I stopped breathing, turned blue and she and Buck rushed me to the hospital. Nana is convinced that the first “word” I ever spoke was “Buck” (when I started breathing again). My guess is that my first “word” was more like a “BAHHH . . . K” sort of a long gasping cry followed by a cough – but it makes a good story.
After 18 straight days of rain, my mother left Washington State and returned to Cleveland. She had a job in the Cleveland Clinic, doing some sort of clinical research. I think she worked for an eye doctor. Mom and I lived with Nana and Buck for most of my first year while my father set up “sick bay” and the laboratory on the Foo Dee Roo. In June the ship sailed around Cape Horn because it was too big to go through the Panama Canal. My father loved that trip around Cape Horn.
I am not sure when I walked, whether I crawled on all fours or commando crawled, what I liked to eat or any other things you might find in a baby book, but I do know I was loved. Buck gave me my first nickname – Grumps – because whenever he talked to me and tried to coax a smile (which according to my mother I readily gave her and Nana) I would give him an icy stare and a serious expression. I guess you could say I was a contemplative child.
For a long time I’ve wanted to weave my Grandfather Kingsbury’s accounts of my childhood as reported in his family letters with my recollection of events so here’s my chance. My father’s parents, JBK and Kitty left for Thailand in September 1955. JBK was a political science professor at the University of Indiana and was part of an academic mission to establish an Institute of Public Administration in Thailand. I have his letters from Thailand, which are a treasure. JBK had already been to Iran (at the end of WWII and Turkey, a year or two before he went Thailand – so working and teaching in foreign countries was a big part of his career. He stayed in Thailand for 17 months but Kitty returned to the States in May 1956. The tropics didn’t agree with her – was the official line – but in fact, her drinking had gotten out of control (an ongoing and very sad aspect of her life) and she spent several weeks at the Mayo Clinic when she returned to the States.
Toward the end of my first year of life, in September 1956, my great grandfather Thomas Greenwood Powell (Nana’s father) died in Richmond, VA. Nana and I flew to Richmond for his funeral and somewhere (not available at the moment) there’s a picture of us about to board the plane. I don’t remember anything about my first year – but pictures help. And speaking of pictures – this is the only four generation picture that I have and unfortunately, someone was NOT in the mood for a picture.