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51 Birch Street


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"Soul-jarring yet heartwarming... though it charts one individual journey, the light it sheds spills over onto the entire post-World War II generation."

– Diane Werts, NEWSDAY

Bill Cammack (age 38)

The breakthroughs I’ve had with my parents have really been the results from my experiencing other people’s relationships with their children or parents, then being able to view my parents in a new light by comparison.

Growing up, it’s tough to tell what’s going on relative to anyone else’s life, because you only have one set of parents.  It’s not like you get to change parents every few years and compare. :D By getting to know other people and their parents, or even by seeing people relating to their children in the streets or in stores, I began to see things that I took for granted.

I remember standing outside a pizza shop, and a woman was pushing a small child in a stroller.  She was yelling and screaming at the baby, trying to get him to comply with her wishes.  It was as if she thought the baby was a peer of hers, and she had exhausted all rational means of communication.  She looked like a complete idiot, and as I attempted to empathize with the baby, I realized that I couldn’t.  I realized that never in my entire life had my parents screamed at me.  It was something that I took for granted as ‘regular parental behavior’, but I understood, by example, that things could have been quite different during my upbringing, and that my personality would be totally different if I had been raised by lunatics like this woman in front of me.

Having two parents was another thing that I took for granted.  Eventually, I met a lot of people whose parents were separated, or even worse… that had no idea who their father was at all.  I met people whose parents threw punches at them out of anger or a misguided attempt at discipline.  I met people whose parents weren’t taking care of themselves financially… much less their kids.  I met kids that had jobs after school, while I was ‘living’ off of allowance.  I met kids that didn’t have their own room.  I met students whose parents didn’t put them through college.  I met kids whose parents were consistently on welfare, as opposed to my mother, who retired after 30 years of dedicated service as a teacher and assistant principal.

My understanding of my parents evolved during my learning about the lifestyles of other people.  I’ve never been rich, but I’ve always had more money than I was going to spend.  I’ve never ever worried about having food or a roof over my head or education or protection.  My parents created the environment for me that has allowed me to become the person I am today.  I respect that completely, and I’m grateful. :D

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