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  • Chapter 1: Mom, Dad, and Samuel L. Jackson

    (Part 1)

    I was born on February 14, 1986 at 3:13 am in a small midwestern town. First off, the hospital where I was born no longer exists. I’m not really sure why I just told you that but sometimes you just have to mention an enigmatic fact for mystery buffs in the audience. Here's what I will tell you:

    My parents are Kim Matthews (then Martinez) and Victor Martinez. I’m honestly not sure where my dad was born but he obviously was or I wouldn’t be here. Right? His parents are Gustavo and Eva Martinez, both of Mexican descent. My mom was born in Dallas, Texas to Ward and Emma Matthews. They were not Mexican, contrary to their ooooobviously Latino names. FYI: In case you’re not from planet earth, that's called sarcasm. If that comment offends you, come here. Yes, even you “non-huggers.” We’re going to cyber-embrace the tension away. Feel better now? Hella-good. Let’s get on with the book. Cool? I’m taking that as a yes.


    My mom, from what I’ve been told, was giddy with excitement at my being born because she had three prior miscarriages. After the third, the doctors were skeptical about her chances for having a child. When I finally came, it was like winning the lottery x eternal happiness x chocolate for her. If you knew my mom, this would be the most bizarre thing in the world to say because you would realize she already exudes energy in everything she does. She’s like a friendly lightening storm that doesn’t kill anyone; it just puts on the most insanely awesome show you’ve ever seen. It wasn’t all sunshine, roses, and unicorns though.

    She came from an ultra secretive family. Her parents were obsessive about the appearance of things. For instance, their home had a meticulous and borderline uncomfortable cleanliness to it. I remember going over there as a child and finding it stunning how eerily each of her trinkets were perfectly arranged on the shelves. When a mess was made, there was an obvious discomfort looming beneath the surface. It was like her face was smiling but some type of nervous energy was trying to burst from her skin.

    Christianity was prominent to them but it wasn’t the “relationship based” brand that infuses many of the more youthful modern-day churches. It was heavily based in a legalism that was empowered by what’s called the holiness movement. For those who don’t know, it’s basically a half-century-ish old Christian emphasis that centers on a long list of “DON’T DO THIS. THIS IS EVIL. DON’T DON’T DON’T!!!” So, cursing? Sin. Drinking? Double sin! Okay, okay how about being gay? TRIPLE SIN x HELL FIRE x DEATH! As you can see, advocates of the holiness movement are kind of intense. But let’s be fair, I’m exaggerating the intensity…for some of them.

    My grandparents are the brand who had very strong beliefs and everyone else was misguided but they didn’t exactly go all “Westboro Baptist” on anyone, just on my mom. In the comfort of their home. On more than one occasion, my “loving” grandma awakened mom during the night and beat her with hangers for no reason. Yes, I’m serious. Ol’ Emma, affectionately called Emmy, even said she didn’t want to hold my mom when she was a baby. It didn’t get much better with her dad either.

    Ward never told her that he loved her or never knew how to show any measurable compassion, except to the dog he tried to give CPR when it died. Essentially though, he was the perpetual “you’re a disappointment to me and you can never change that” guy. Needless to say, nothing my mother ever did was good enough for them.

    To distinguish between the villainy, the primary difference between my grandma and grandpa is that grams was more vocal and harsh in her disapproval. Pa was slightly more apathetic with a “well timed” explosion when necessary, just so mom wouldn’t forget who was boss. It wasn’t a pretty situation.

    They were also hard line, old school traditionalists in many ways. One time I recall coming home from a day out with grandma, who my grandpa called “mom”, and he was sitting at the dark dinner table in a silent rage because “mom” wasn’t there to make his food. My grandma would always make his meals and he wouldn’t lift a finger without her doing it. One thing he would do is be sure mom knew how unhappy he was. It wasn’t a violent berating though. The icy stare, the smug, clinched jaw, and stiffened posture said it all. The pointed “let’s eat” was just the exclamation point.

    Of course, this was all in private. Publicly, it was absolutely forbidden to give off anything other than a conservative, hard working husband and a love smitten, life is a dream wife with two children who had good grades, attractive looks, fine but unrevealing clothes, adored their parents, and so on. Appearances! ALWAYS appearances.

    In fairness to my grandparents, history didn’t begin with them and it won’t end with them. I think they, as their parents before them, are the surviving remnants of the past. The choices necessary to better themselves just never happened and dormant genetic traits better left sleeping came to life. It’s a vicious cycle if somebody doesn’t say: Enough is enough. And they didn’t.

    It’s funny to think how much is obvious and how little is perceived when we’re young. As a kid, I was blind to the emotional and mental havoc my grandparent’s upbringing wrought on my mom. I had this false belief that her mom was a boisterous angel and her dad was a quieter cherub who liked to watch birds. No, seriously, he did. Maybe that was the problem by the way. If I were talking to Samuel L. Jackson, he would probably say: THEM. MUTHA. FUCKIN. BIRDS. Sam knows best. If he could have just been my sidekick as a kid, I would have been so much smarter. Why God why?
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