Since the start of this blog, in September 2012, I’ve shared a lot of things about me and my family, including the time I got bitten by a lion.
Still, there are many more things I haven’t revealed yet, like the fact that I also once kissed a giraffe on the head.
Today, then, I’ve assembled a list of 19 things that I haven’t told you about me and my family. I hope you enjoy this personal peek into the past and present. (And in a comment below the post, I’d love to hear something fun or interesting about you and your family!)
1. My sister was adopted from Korea. My father served in the Korean War, and this was the inspiration for my parents to adopt a little girl from Korea when she was 3. I was 5 at the time, so I grew up with this “multicultural” influence, which no doubt helped open my eyes to the wider world.
2. My grandparents were bilingual. My mother’s parents were born in the U.S., but their parents came from Finland, so my grandparents could speak Finnish and English. In fact, my mother was bilingual as a child, too, but didn’t continue to use Finnish as an adult. The only Finnish I know are a few swear words. (See “I Spoke Both Finnish and English”: I Interview My Mother on Her Bilingual Childhood.)
3. I cry when I read aloud books. My kids and students make fun of me, but I can’t help it—and, to tell the truth, I don’t want to help it. I want to feel something when I read a story. Still, when I come to a moving scene, and my voice starts cracking and my eyes well with tears, I sometimes have to consciously tell myself, “Okay, Adam, keep it together.”
4. My kids and I are kind of crazy. The truth is, I’m still a playful child at heart and I love to do silly things with my kids. My wife, who’s a lot more reserved, just shakes her head when the three of us are romping madly about our little house.
5. My wife is very talented at crafts. Before our kids were born, she had a small candle-making business that was pretty successful. Eventually, I started making candles, too, and we had a lot of fun together. Lately, I’ve been looking back at that time because I think some of our happiest moments as a couple have involved opportunities where we can be creative together. With our kids getting a bit older, I’m pondering a new opportunity to team up creatively.
6. I can’t live without my pillow. I’ve had the same thin, drool-stained pillow for years and I can’t sleep well without it. In fact, I stuff it into our suitcase on every trip we take, even on our recent trip to the U.S. The funny thing is, my wife and my kids don’t even sleep with a pillow! They’re barbarians!
7. We live near wild boar. Our house sits below some small mountains, which are fun to hike, but it’s true that wild boar roam the forests. I haven’t seen one yet, but when my kids attended our local preschool, wild boar would sometimes come onto the grounds at night and dig up the garden.
8. I see animals outside my window. I don’t have much of a view out the window of my office here at home: just a low wall made of cement blocks, a brown fence on top of that, and then the wall of the house next door. But for some reason animals are constantly peeking in at me from the cement wall and fence. Insects and birds are typical visitors, but I regularly see blue-tailed lizards, too, and even a weasel every now and then.
9. My kids are fast runners. My wife and I were both fast in younger days, so Lulu and Roy seem to have inherited speedy legs. Lulu, in fact, is faster than all the boys in her grade, too. Being fast as a child is kind of a funny thing, because although it’s hardly important, children who are fast (and I bet this is true everywhere in the world) are somehow admired by their peers.
10. I love picking blueberries. I have fond memories of picking blueberries with my mother when I was little, and I’ve been able to recreate that experience for my own kids. Every summer, since they were very small, we visit a blueberry patch in the countryside and spend the day picking blueberries.
11. My first experience learning another language was a failure. I studied French for many years, starting in fifth grade, but never really made much progress. In fact, my strongest memory of French in elementary school was the time I sat down on a sharpened pencil point that a classmate held under me like a spear.
12. When I was 19, I dropped out of college. My freshman year of college was a fiasco. I was a film major, with visions of directing movies, but I had no discipline at all and the school (the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut) wasn’t a good fit for me. Thinking I would transfer to another school, but not sure where to go, I spent the next year living in a trailer park with a friend and working at night, making donuts from midnight to six o’clock in the morning.
13. I tried painting with a hamster. After I transferred to a new college (Sarah Lawrence College in New York), I took a painting class and I had the idea of putting the image of a cage on the canvas and then applying paint to the bottom of a hamster’s feet. I planned to let it run around, making little footprints over the cage. I’m not sure what this was meant to symbolize—“freedom from oppression”?—but I had trouble getting the hamster to cooperate (he bit me) and so I never did finish the painting.
14. I did a lot of foolish things in my youth. I was troubled and reckless through my teens and twenties and did some very stupid things that I now regret. (Much worse than painting with a hamster.) I won’t list them all here, but honestly, I think I’m lucky I even survived that time. Above all, I wasted so much opportunity and potential, and I feel like I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.
15. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Czech Republic. I taught English and American Literature at the University of West Bohemia in the city of Plzen. I loved the two years I spent there, and my Czech got pretty good, too. In fact, that was the first time I had any success at learning another language.
16. I’m not attached to possessions. If our house went up in flames, and everything turned to ash, the only things that would stir a real sense of loss would be family photos, memorable items from my children’s lives, and the digital records of my writing. (And my pillow, I guess.) One of those “memorable items” is a little stuffed creature that my daughter sewed for me by hand, for Father’s Day, when she was 7.
17. I finished my first novel not long ago. I had wanted to write a novel for years, but could never sustain the motivation to complete such a large writing project. This time, though, I was determined to see it through to the very end. The result might not be everyone’s cup of tea—it’s a wild comic romp, in the spirit of Roald Dahl—but I’m really pleased with it. It’s the book I wanted to write.
18. I sometimes laugh at the wrong times. I see humor in almost everything—my radar for the absurdities of life is always turning—and so I laugh a lot. Sometimes, though, things strike me as absurd and funny and I laugh…but others around me don’t see the humor. In fact, I even inadvertently offend people, who think I’m laughing at them, when I’m really laughing at the situation itself.
19. I have deep, deep faith in the mystery of life. It’s true, I have plenty of day-to-day worries and fears, but the deepest part of me—the part that I try to hold in mind as continuously as I can—has nothing but trust for life, death, and this whole miracle of existence.