What was the tipping point for Malcolm Gladwell? What unscripted event made Meryl Streep who she is? Read more...
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Apr 2011
From the cover
BORN ON A SUNNY DAY
My husband, Jay, used to tell people that I was born on a sunny day.
I thought it was the nicest compliment I ever received. I guess you could say I've always been one of those upbeat, glass-half-full people. Experts in the field of positive psychology might conclude that I'm "hardwired for happiness." When I was a little girl, the youngest of four, my sister Kiki's friends nicknamed me Smiley. Naturally outgoing and eager to please, I used to memorize photos in the yearbook and then approach various students at football games with salutations like "Hi! You're Barbara McLaughlin. I recognize you from the picture in my sister's yearbook!" Before you gag from the absolute adorableness of it all, to paraphrase that Pantene commercial, "Don't hate me because I'm happy." Trust me, I've been to the other side. My mom, a practitioner of common sense who was raised in Omaha, Nebraska, has often said that no one leaves this life unscathed. Indeed, dark clouds did come rolling in, and I've survived my share of window-rattling, life-shattering storms. But that comes later.
Growing up in Arlington, Virginia, I had a childhood that was more like Leave It to Beaver than Modern Family. Mine was an old-fashioned nuclear family, with a stay-at-home mom who, had she been born in a different time, would probably be an ad executive or a stockbroker (she bought many shares of Trojan condoms in the safe-sex early eighties), and a father who was thoughtful and intelligent, hardworking, a voracious reader, and a bit of a taskmaster who expected excellence from all four of his children. Add to that three older siblings, who paved the way for each one who followed, and a neighborhood teeming with kids who spent endless hours playing Red Light/Green Light and street baseball (with a tennis ball, since no gloves were used) and waging some pretty serious crab-apple fights, and you have an upbringing straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
Our recreational pursuits put many of the neighborhood kids on the injured reserve list. My own mishaps are, of course, the most vivid in my memory. Having just learned to ride bikes at age six, some of my neighborhood girlfriends and I decided to ride down the hilly sidewalk of Fortieth Street, single file, Indian style. It would have been an impressive showing of our newfound talents if only my best friend Sara Crosman had also learned to use the brakes. Instead, at the bottom of the hill her bike crashed into mine (I was leading the pack, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit) and threw me forward. My chin came down on the sidewalk, and the impact broke one of my proudest possessions: my new front tooth. My mom cried, her tears, I'm still convinced, more for financial than cosmetic concerns, and I spent many of my elementary school years sporting a silver tooth in class photos—a lovely addition to my horrifying inch-long bangs. When Chris Foley tripped me on the blacktop after I stuck my tongue out at him in third grade, it was a bit of a godsend. Two caps looked less fake than one.
So the memories of my youth are a collection of happy snapshots: cheerleading, running track, playing the piano, piling into our station wagon for an occasional vacation to the beach as we demolished the sandwiches my mom had made for lunch by 9 a.m., taking my sister Emily to New York to travel across the ocean to spend her junior year abroad while she was at Smith College, going to my brother Johnny's baseball and basketball games, watching my sister Kiki driving off in my dad's racing-green Sunbeam Alpine (his one midlife indulgence),
her pom-poms peeking out as she headed to a high school...