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Thu October 24, 2013
A 'Not Normal' Family That Knows How To Laugh At Itself
Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 9:27 am
When we first heard from Laura Greenberg and her daughter, Rebecca, in 2011, Laura recounted what it was like to grow up in a family that was, as she explained it, "not normal."
"We're yelling, and we're pinching, and we're hugging, and we're cursing, and we peed with the door open," she said about her childhood in Queens, N.Y., in the 1950s. "I didn't know this was not normal behavior. I didn't know people had secrets; you didn't tell your mother everything."
Laura recalled how her father would conduct an imaginary orchestra in front of the stereo in his boxer shorts, and when she met Carl, Rebecca's father.
"He was cute, but very, very quiet and I scared the crap out of him. The first time he kissed me he had a nosebleed all over his face he was so nervous. It was terrible," she laughed — before adding that, 35 years later, they were still married.
Now, Laura and Rebecca are back in a StoryCorps booth in Atlanta. But this time, they're not alone — now it's Carl's turn to share his side of the family story.
"So your first kiss, we heard about how you bled all over Mom," Rebecca asks him. "Do you have any different take on that story?
"That's how it happened," Carl says. "But I do have some Laura stories. We were having people over. She was going to make spaghetti, didn't have enough. So she broke the package of spaghetti in half, so she figured she had twice as much."
"And Carl had to explain to me, a pound is a pound," Laura laughs.
"He's from a New England family, and I remember we would sit at the dinner table at his house when we were dating, and no one would talk," Laura recalls. "And then I would start to giggle. I would get this psychotic hysterical laughter. So they already knew I was nuts.
"And I said, 'This is so refreshing.' They don't ask about when I'm getting my period, or how much money I make, or did I make a doody today. You know, my family was so intrusive."
Initially, quiet Carl wasn't such a hit with Laura's parents. Her mother called him by the wrong name for years, Carl laughs.
"It's so weird because our family now is the most functional of all our friends," Rebecca says. "I mean, all my friends, they would rather hang out at my house with my parents than hang out with me."
Doing a StoryCorps interview was Rebecca's idea. Laura says she thought their initial interview was too humorous to make it to air. "You know, when I listen on my way to work, I'm crying and my mascara's running," she says. "And they're very tender, you know, heartfelt stories. And I said, 'They're not ever going to play ours.'
"But we didn't do it for that," Laura adds. "We just did it to have that experience and share that moment. And have it forever."
Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.