A Mother Reflects On Her Not-So-Normal Family Growing up, Laura Greenberg didn't know from normal. Her dad was emperor of the road and her mom liked boys with underbites who wore their pants really high. Today, she's still learning how to be "normal."

A Mother Reflects On Her Not-So-Normal Family

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It is Friday morning, which means it's time for StoryCorps, the project that gives you the opportunity to look back on your life. That's what Laura Greenberg did, recently, when she spoke with her daughter Rebecca. Laura's story starts in Queens, New York where she grew up during the 1950s.

Ms. 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. And he's a little, fat bald man. And he's get behind the wheel of a car and he'd become like a Napoleon, he became nuts. He gave everybody the finger. He never used the brakes. And I remember being so frightened, I'd sit in the back on the floor, crying, 'cause, I said, we're going to die!

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 didnt tell your mother everything.

Ms. REBECCA GREENBERG: When did you learn?

Ms. LAURA GREENBERG: Well, it's still hard.

Ms. REBECCA GREENBERG: Who were your old boyfriends? How many did you have?

Ms. 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 under bite ew, God. But nobody wanted to have sex with me, really, 'til 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.

After college, Daddy wanted to go and see the world. And my mother was just a wreck. I mean, she put a compress on her head, and she just went to bed for six months 'til I came home. She would write me at American Express offices where we would pick up our mail. And every one says: Call home, immediately. Mother. So I thought my father died every two weeks. I thought something terrible happened, but she just wanted to hear my voice.

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

Ms. 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. But, we made two great kids. And when I knew I was having a daughter, I called my mother, and she says, every mother should have a daughter. And she died before you were born.

Ms. REBECCA GREENBERG: But I have her name.

Ms. LAURA GREENBERG: You have her name. You were named after her.

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Ms. LAURA GREENBERG: And she would have been very happy.

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INSKEEP: No, it's not a new book by David Sedaris. That's Laura Greenberg with her daughter Rebecca at StoryCorps in Atlanta. Their conversation will be archived in the Library of Congress, along with all StoryCorps interviews. And the project's Podcast is at npr.org.

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