A while back, I watched the movie 'Hillbilly Elegy'. It was okay, and as I watched I thought, 'I know people like this.' I was happy to see the little boy grow into a successful man, overcoming many disadvantages to get there, with the help of his fiercely loving 'Mamaw'.
The other day, I was looking at used books, and I saw that they had the book, and for $1.29, I bought 'Hillbilly Elegy'.
I am dumbfounded by it.
What the movie could never pull together was all the background, the things that explained 'how' and 'why'. Life in Kentucky seeps into life in Ohio, and we accept that without ever really understanding how or why that happened.
Yorkshire Pudding touched upon heredity in a recent blog post, and I must say that really, I was perhaps a bit more dismissive than I should have been. You see, I am quite different from my parents, and I've always been that way. I remember being a small child in the middle of a livingroom. I have no idea how old I was, but I was not yet in school, It was just my sister and I, so I was not yet four. My parents were fighting, and my father slugged my mother who sailed across the room and crashed into the television. She leapt to her feet and ran to the bedroom, slamming the door and crying loudly.
And I remember sitting in the middle of the floor with my toy and thinking distinctly, "This is wrong." Where did that come from at such a young age? I couldn't tell you. I can tell you that it was the first time that I remember it. It was not the last time.
So the one thing that I know is that I think quite differently than my parents did. I paid a pretty heavy price for that in my relationship with them. Differences were not tolerated. There was right, and there was wrong. They were always right thinking. I was always wrong headed, That was their opinion anyway.
I remember once, I was home from on leave from the Army, and I had arrived home in time for supper. My father began to rant about the Equal Rights Amendment. I said, "But Dad, all that is saying is that if a woman does the same job as a man, she should get paid the same. It's just fair."
My dad looked at me in wide eyed rage. "You sound like a goddamn feminist!"
And I said, "My God! You're just figuring that out? I'm wearing combat boots!" It struck me as so funny that I burst out laughing.
My father was so outraged that he left the table. My mother was outraged that I would be so disrespectful of my father in his house.
That's how it was. You could never disagree without being wrong and so we just were not close.
So I am reading Hillbilly Elegy, and as I said, when I watched the movie, I thought, "I know people like that." Reading the book, however, is a whole 'nuther experience. I realize that I come from people like that. My husband comes from people like that. I see our siblings. I see him. Most humbling, I also see myself.
I can change myself, but I will also always be a product of my upbringing as well. There will always be a deep seated stubbornness, a refusal to yield. There will be always be wariness. A strong streak of avoidance. A fierce pride and a knee jerk rejection of assistance These things are not necessarily bad, but they also not are not necessarily good, Sometimes they can be both.
I am seeing myself in an unflattering way,
This book packs a powerful punch (no pun intended). As I read on, I begin to understand our nation a bit better as well.