My father was consummate "drag the family out for some enforced fun" kind of guy. My memories of family outings were almost always some variety of yelling and fighting, and my father used to LOVE this. He'd drag us out for some event on some incredibly hot day, where I would stand for hours, staring at some lady's backside while some event would happen several depths of people away. Or it would be cold and raining, and my father parked miles away, and we'd walk all over the place to see some event, which would tired out me and my mom, and when we asked to rest, my father would laugh in that way of his, and mock us with, "Hahahaha! Complain complain! Hahaha! Oh-KAY, honey, hahahaha! Yes, you're sooo noisy! Come aahn, let's go, let's go..." It was like he sustained off our misery, or at least got a child-like joy from it. Sometimes, one of us would break that invisible line of "noisy complainer that can be safely ignored" to "threat," where he'd just lose it and threaten me with leaving us and letting us find our own way home (there were a few times my mother actually took him up on that, and man.. the cab rides from Baltimore to McLean can be STEEP). My father's laughter was always part of his anger, and if you ever met the guy, this made a lot of sense. As much as I hate to admit, I have a lot of the same trappings as my father, and mockery is a razor-sharp form of retaliation at frustration when you are trying to be superior to someone. I have no idea if we were happy and dancing along with him if he would have found something else to yell at us, or if this would have satiated him as well. We were never happy long enough to find out.
But amid all the memories of hot days, bugs, cold rains, freezing winds, and attending events that bored me at best while enduring his abuse, one memory stands out: I remember the exact day I decided I hated the circus. I must have been about 10 or 11. It was some second-rate circus on Virginia Beach or something, and a huge storm was coming in. My mother wanted us to leave before the storm hit, but my father ignored her. Well, halfway through the show, the roar outside the tent was deafening, and water was dripping from every crack in the cloth. The ringmaster said he was canceling the rest of the show due to the weather and safety of the people in the tent. My father, along with some other diehards, booed him. But out we went, and the pouring and driving rain had made the fairgrounds into a muddy trap where my mother was forced to walk with heels. At some point, my mother lost one of her earrings. She never had her ears pierced; she preferred clip-ons, and the hazards of clip-ons were they fell off a lot. My mother had dressed for something else we were doing, and trudging through mud in the driving rain was not it. This was the first time I saw my mother lose it while she was sober. She lashed out with sarcasm I had never seen her use before. "Oh, GREAT Arvid, this was such a LOVELY idea!!" she screamed, looking for her earring in the ankle-deep muck. She kept going that way, making my father angrier and angrier while the wind howled around us and the circus equipment. I was terrified. My father had that look when he beat me, I was so scared he was going to hurt her. He kept going, "Oh-KAY, Honey! Re_LAX, re-LAX! Hahahaha! Greg-gry* will find it, he's closer to the ground, hahahaha! Look for it, Greg-gry!" My mother lashed out sarcasm, my father lashed out his mockery, and I begged my mother to stop, not to go crazy. All in the howling wind and rain, struggling through the muck, looking for a flash of gold while people stared at my parents fighting.
Even though I got smacked a lot and beaten up a few times, my father never hit my mother in my presence, and I have no proof he did it when I wasn't around, either. This was no exception, and even though we never found the earring, and my father I believe DID allow her to buy a replacement set, that whole image is still burned in my head, and why I will NEVER drag my family to some place they don't want.
*My father never pronounced my name right. He always made it rhyme with "angry" or "hungry" not "greg-or-ee"