Now, they tell you that rich people don't have the same problems as poor people, and I have to tell you, they didn't need the label "redneck" to have their share of personal problems. My mother wasn't the only alcoholic, and most of my friends were victims of divorces. Drug use was common, but not overwhelming. And then, when you peeked under the perfect cover of a clean suburban home, you met some characters that you'll never forget.
There were a lot of weird dads. One of my friends in grammar school had a dad that wanted to be kissed all the time. He didn't fondle us or do anything else that was that weird, but it makes you wonder. Another required his kids to call him "master," as in "Yes, master," and "No, master," and "Mo' biscuits, massah?" [just kidding about the last one]. There were the share of armchair sportsmen who relived their college football days and forced their kids into sports. There were a lot of henpecked Asian fathers, too. Nervous laughing people who seemed friendly, but slightly scared of their wives.
Another friend of mine had a dad who was a scoutmaster, and this guy was from Jolly Olde England, and wore the 1940s scout uniform all the time. Maybe that's not so weird, except it was a sharply-pressed shirt, Bermuda shorts with a crease, knee-high socks, dress shoes, and a wide-brimmed hat. Even while hiking. Other scoutmasters dressed in normal clothes, or only wore the scout shirt. They certainly never wanted us Cub Scouts to wear those high polyester count shirts while hiking in the summer heat. He required his troop to do so, and while hiking they sung cadence marches about "England's mountain green," the heather fields, Yorkshire pudding, and so forth. You could hear them all over the valley.
Some of my friends didn't have live-at-home fathers. Terms like, "my biological father" were common, and "mom's third marriage" was said by at least two of my friends growing up. I watched several of my friends struggle through messy divorces, go through lots of "mom's new boyfriend," and some who resorted to getting what they needed by nearly pimping out their mom to get stuff. For example, one of my friends knew that his mom often relied on him for opinions on her dates, and he used this to get stuff from boyfriends in the form of bribes. Others just got "hush money" to go away while he "got busy." The bigger the gift, the more they'd be left alone.
My dad was very antisocial, and so everyone at first assumed he worked for the CIA (Langley is almost a mile away from where I grew up). Later, they just assumed he was a jerk.
Moms were pretty normal as moms went, but there seemed to be three types of mothers. The "normal mom" who was a housewife who stayed in the background with a supportive smile, the older mom who was burned out and too tired to care what her youngest did, and then there were those odd moms who tried to hard to be a modern 70s gal. One that summarizes that last type was someone's mom, I forgot who, but who caught the "shutterbug craze" that was sweeping the craft industry at the time. You'd see her at all her kid's recitals. But unlike the armchair photographer who measured light levels with some $2000 meter and used words like "wide angle lens" and "amber half-filter," she must have studied under the Paparazzi. Not content with the normal front-to-front face photographs, she dove, swooped, and made totally obnoxious Ninja-like moves to get what I could only imagine came out as blurred streaks as she launched her torso across some aisle, taking a 50 millisecond photo of her sprogling onstage, only to spring back from the edge of imbalance to vanish into the crowd that barely knew what flashed past them. Yes, people talked to her, but even more talked ABOUT her without doing much than making a clucking disapproval amid their gossipy selves.