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A 'Not Normal' Family That Knows How To Laugh At Itself

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A 'Not Normal' Family That Knows How To Laugh At Itself

A 'Not Normal' Family That Knows How To Laugh At Itself

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

StoryCorps opened its first recording booth 10 years ago. Many of the stories we've heard made us cry. Lots of them also made us laugh. That was true when Laura Greenberg sat down with her daughter Rebecca, to remember growing up in Queens, New York, during the 1950s.

LAURA GREENBERG: My father would be in his boxer shorts in front of the stereo with a baton. He loved classical music; and he would play it really loud, and he would conduct the orchestra. The problem growing up in my home was that I didn't know what was normal. We're yelling and we're pinching, and we're hugging and we're cursing. And we peed with the door open. I mean, I didn't know this was not normal behavior. I didn't know people had secrets, you didn't tell your mother everything.

REBECCA GREENBERG: When did you learn?

LAURA GREENBERG: Well, it's still hard.

(LAUGHTER)

REBECCA GREENBERG: Who were your old boyfriends? How many did you have before Dad?

LAURA GREENBERG: I didn't have a lot of boyfriends. I had the neighbor boy. My mother loved him. But he wore his pants really high. And he had an underbite. Ew, God.

God. But nobody wanted to have sex with me, really, till I met your 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. It was - I don't know. Still married 35 years later, unbelievable.

(LAUGHTER)

REBECCA GREENBERG: Has your life been different than what you imagined?

LAURA GREENBERG: Yeah, a little bit. I married a Jewish lawyer, and he makes no money. So I thought I'd found success. And, you know, he's an indigent-defense criminal lawyer, and he saves lives.

MONTAGNE: Well, that was Laura Greenberg with her daughter, Rebecca. It seemed only fair to give Laura's husband, Carl, a chance to defend himself. So StoryCorps had the Greenbergs back for another conversation.

REBECCA GREENBERG: So your first kiss, we heard about how you bled all over Mom. Do you have any different take on that story?

CARL GREENBERG: That's how it happened. 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.

LAURA GREENBERG: And Carl had to explain to me, a pound is a pound.

(LAUGHTER)

CARL GREENBERG: We make a very odd couple.

LAURA GREENBERG: 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. And then I would start to giggle. I would get this like, 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.

CARL GREENBERG: Your mother wasn't very happy with me.

LAURA GREENBERG: No.

CARL GREENBERG: She thought my name was Paul for many years.

LAURA GREENBERG: Mark.

CARL GREENBERG: Mark?

LAURA GREENBERG: Mm-hmm. She said: This is my son-in-law Mark. And I'd say, Ma, his name is Carl. She'd say, son of a bitch; I can't remember his name.

(LAUGHTER)

REBECCA GREENBERG: It's so weird because our family now is the most functional of all of our friends. I mean, all my friends, they would rather hang out at my house with my parents than hang out with me.

LAURA GREENBERG: But Rebecca was the one who said she really wanted to do a StoryCorps interview. You know, when I listen on my way to work, I'm crying and my mascara's running. 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. We just did it to have that experience and share that moment - and have it forever.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: OK, I'm laughing so hard, I'm crying. That's a StoryCorps for you. It's Laura, Carl and Rebecca Greenberg in Atlanta. Both of those interviews will be archived at the Library of Congress. Tomorrow, the latest chapter in a long-running love story from Brooklyn.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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