Tell us a little about your mom.
She was a teacher. She and my dad met in Cape Charles, where he was stationed. They were always such an ideal couple - they never fought, and they were always so in love. When I was a teenager, my parents took us to where they met. They didn't tell us where we were going until we stopped for a break. It's actually a bird reserve now, but they drove all the way around, and my dad could still show us everything. All the places where they first got to know each other. We pull up next to this stop sign there and my mom says, "This is where I turned to your father and said, "Listen, are you gay? Because you haven't kissed me yet and we've been dating for weeks!" And he said, "Because I'm trying to be a gentleman!" So it was kind of cool, even as teenagers. It's a sweet story.
So you grew up on bases?
I was born in Colorado because my dad was in the Air Force out there, but we lived off-base in Germany for three years. I don't remember anything before Germany. We were in the middle of this community there, so my brother and I developed our own language that was like half English, half German and really probably very funny. I didn't have a single American friend--they were all German. I was eight when we moved back to the States, to Woodbridge, VA. It took forever for our things to arrive, so we found a house and we camped out in the basement until they arrived.
Have you and your mom always been close?
So, my mom and I didn't always get along, my whole childhood. When my dad died in 2009, was kind of when we became friends, because I feel like we kinda both needed to reach out to somebody, and my brother, he's in the Army, so he's not around all the time. So we kinda connected at that point and started spending more time together and taking trips together. It's really interesting to get to know her in a totally different way--because I've known her one way for most of my life, and now it's in a totally different way, and I think most people do that as they become adults. It depends on the personality types, too. And she and I are very different personalities. We'll get mad at each other for stupid things, but ultimately, we respect each other more now as adults and as people. I think I inherited certain things from my mother that cause us to butt heads a bit. I got her stubbornness. My mom and I on trips are really funny. So my mom is so rigidly a planner, that if she could, she'd put me on a bus in the morning, tell me when to eat, tell me when to do these things, and tell me when to get off the bus. Whereas me, to an extent, I like the structure, but I don't need it like that...
Can you tell us about some of your trips?
We went to China two Septembers ago. We went to visit my brother, who is stationed in Korea, and we decided that the three of us would go to China. So we went to Korea, picked up my brother, then went to China for ten days, and then back to Korea. My brother was in charge of the trip, so my mom and I said, "This is going to be good." No. We show up in Korea, and my brother has two guidebooks and our very first hostel/hotel place that's like a block away from Tianenmen Square in China and, that's it. We went to China without any real plan, just told them a bunch of hotels in these cities we looked up quickly that sounded like where we might stay when we went through the border. My mom was like, "what are we going to do? what is happening?" and my brother is like, "it will be fine." He's the wanderer, and I just need to know a little bit to be fine. But my mother needs to know all the details, and of course, he didn't have any and everything is new and different.
That first hotel we were in was down an alley, past the pile of dirt. My brother and I just accepted it and said, "China, yeaaaah" all chill and excited, and my mom was just, "where are you taking me?!" And the night before we were leaving one place, my brother would just book the next place we were staying. But the whole time, my mom reacted with, "What is this?" or "Why is that happening? I don't understand!" And of course we wanted to try all the food, and this one restaurant we went to --and they were a totally legit Chinese place-- there were these heads of rabbit and oh look, there are the heads of some ducks. So my brother and I each had a cheek, and then my brother got the donkey dumplings. My mom wouldn't eat anything. She just took one look or smell and said, "I can't eat this food." And we said, you can see them making it!" And she was just like, " mm, nope." She lost ten pounds on that trip. She basically lived off of snickers bars and potatoes. She's very set in her ways, but she always goes with me on adventures.
Guest Writer: Heather Hill
Heather Hill is the Assistant Manager of donor acquisition & digital fundraising at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is a graduate of Houghton College, and Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the Human Rights Co-Chair of the United Nations Association of the National Capitol Area, and you can find her performance reviews on MD Theatre Guide.