interview, origins, family

Where I’m From: An Interview About My Origins

Birth and Family of Origins

One of the qualities that make each of us unique is the distinct family origins we are born into.

What was going on at the time of your birth?

It was Sunday, April 8, 1979, Jimmy Carter was the president, and the country was listening to Rod Stewart, Gloria Gaynor, and the Bee Gees at the top fo the charts that week. Phantasm was the most watched movie and the final episode of All in the Family aired. Sports Illustrated featured a baseball issue about Jim Rice and Dave Parker.

Were you ever told anything unusual about your birth?

It was not an easy day for my mother. She awoke that night and told my grandparents it was time. My grandmother got out of bed and drove her to the hospital that was about 30 miles away. She dropped her off at the door to St. Francis Hospital and drove away.

You see I was an unexpected pregnancy, and my mother was 19 years old. Who my father is only my mom knows. My grandparents, when they found out she was carrying a child, did not speak to her during the pregnancy, but she was permitted to live with them. Later that day after I was born my grandfather arrived at the hospital and held his first grandson. I do not know much about why he had a change of heart, but I am assuming he probably understood the role that he would have to play in my life after that.

Are there any stories told about you as a toddler?

I recall my family talking about my nickname as a toddler. My uncle was only about three years older than me and he could not say my first name but could say part of my middle name. He could not get the “S” down, and it would sound much like “Tot” instead of Scott. So my family began calling me “Tiny Tot.”

Not long after I was born my grandfather was in a work accident and was in a full body cast. My mother told me she would take me to visit him and set me on his chest.

How would you describe your parents?

Young and in love with whatever direction the wind blew. They were ready to embrace trends, technology, ideas and eager to start life and be grown up. Not much different than any young adult who has been set loose in a big world. I see a lot of the same comparisons among my generation and millennials. Young people are inspired, have big ideas and want change. They just have not developed their ideology yet.

While the previous generations are okay with things staying the way they are because they worked hard and fought battles to get the changes that exist today. Eventually, change will happen because the next generation will take over supervisory, management and leadership positions. Instead of blaming or labeling the upcoming generation we should be mentoring and coaching them. They will create companies and take positions that will allow them to create change.

Sometimes you just have to be patient, and that is the biggest challenge for young adults. My parents were no different, neither was I and my kids will probably face the same challenges.

Cultural Environment and Origins

Genetic makeup and our cultural heritage are strong influences. This may be stronger for some than others.

What is the makeup or origins of your parents?

Mostly Scots-Irish. I had done some genealogy research, and there are traces of Spanish, American Indian, English and other cultures in my makeup. However, the dominant features and the family name comes from the borders of Scotland.

Were there any stories of family members or ancestors who emigrated to this country?

My family once held an authority status in Scotland a long time ago. A member of my family was knighted and given a Barony that is much like the size of a county in the U.S. He defeated an English knight who was harassing the villages on the border of Scotland.

Another member of my family is Mary Draper Ingles. She was one of the first white settlers west of the Allegheny Mountains. Her family was ambushed by a group of Native Americans. The men were out working in the fields, and the women and children were taken captive. Some lived, and some died. Those that survived couldn’t rescue the others. Mary was in captivity for over a decade and eventually escaped. A book and movie were made about these events and her descendants still have the farm. It has been restored to resemble a Virginian colonial farm at the time of the tragic events.

Was religion important in your family?

Religion was important to my grandfathers siblings, but I do not think it took the main stage. For some it did and I believe the women more than others. The men were laborers and spent most of their time working while the women attended church on Sundays and cared for the children. As my mother’s generation came to be a lot of that was lost. Christ did not play a central role or even a factor in my life when I grew up. I made a conscious decision to accept Christ as a grown man in my 30’s.

Social Circumstances

The field of influence on us is beginning to widen, new components from the community, social structures, and culture start to have a larger impressions on us.

Did you feel nurtured as a child?

As an infant and toddler yes. When I began school and after my mother’s first divorce, I became a free-range child. I was given much responsibility early on and an extended leash. As long as I was not in trouble with the law my parents did not discipline me much other than if I was just disrespectful. Early on I was getting into a lot of brawls with other kids and that was okay until someone got hurt. Usually me in the beginning, because I picked fights with the bigger kids. I didn’t back down. As I got older my experience became my advantage against the less experienced. Even if I did something, I knew my mother would tell my grandfather, and he would make a comment on Sunday when he came to visit. I knew from his words that my actions were disappointing, and I did not like to disappoint him.

What do you remember about growing up with brothers and sisters?

I do not think my brother or sisters made much of an impact. My siblings distracted my parents. The distraction allowed me to get away with a lot. I was pretty much the odd person out since my father was out of the picture and theirs were readily available. We pretty much went our separate ways. There is also significant age gap between two of the three. I spent most of my time with an older cousin and uncle who were just a few years older than I. They were doing all the cool stuff. Stuff a kid three years younger should not have been doing.

What were some of your conflicts as a child?

Understanding my mother’s first divorce. It was a shock to me as a 3rd/4th grader, and I did not know how to communicate that I was confused. There was no explanation and still not sure what caused the split. It just happened one day. We went from living in a lovely two story home in a respectable neighborhood and needing nothing to a trailer park next to low-income housing eating fish sticks and cheesy macaroni. We left the trailer before I was in the fifth grade and moved to an apartment. It was not long before my mother remarried and we moved into her new husbands one bedroom house. The home was built for his elderly grandparents that he inherited. If you imagine the largest of tiny homes that are trending today, this was one of the first.

My sister and I traded off on sleeping on the floor and couch for the first year. When we finally got the addition partially complete with windows and walls we bought a kerosene heater to stay warm in the winter. My room had a bed sheet draped down over the door for privacy, and we finally had beds to sleep in. The floor was just a double layer of plywood, and I spent the rest of the winter and summer painting and roofing. To improve my quality of life I had to work on improving the environment I lived in.

At some point, I just did not want to be there anymore, and that is why I started washing dishes after school when I was fourteen and found every odd job available that would pay. I came home to sleep, eat, get a change of clothes for the remainder of my school days.

What tensions did you feel as a teen, and where did they come from?

Mostly myself. No one pressured me into doing anything that I did not make a conscious decision about. I knew what I needed to do, and my grandparents did a pretty good job of impressing those ideas on me early in my adolescent years. They continuing the conversations as I got older expanding on the ideas of what I needed to do.

I also knew a couple of young men in their teens who lost their lives. Both had a significant place in my life and impacted it in one way or another. Both died tragically at different times, years apart, but other men took their lives in a violent way. This probably created a lot more internal conflict and confusion for me than tension, but it was significant moments in my life.

What was your first exposure of leaving home like?

It was exciting. I enjoyed the journey and the unknown. Seeing new things, cultures, buildings, land, people, and tasting new foods. It was like I had been living in a cave and now I had been set free.

Learning

Most of us get some education at home as well as in our neighborhood schools or beyond.

How far did you go with your formal learning?

I am currently working on a masters degree in counseling at Liberty University.

What was the most important class you took in school?

Philosophy. At the time, it opened my eyes to many ideas that I had not even known about. However, it was also the first stepping stone to discovering my worldview and faith.

What has been your most important lesson in life, outside of the classroom?

Follow through and follow up. Do what you say you will and when you do it follow up with those people to ensure they got what they wanted, and it is working for them.

Love and Work

Love and work are things we carry with us through the rest of our lives. These ideas and beliefs may change as we continue to improve.

Do you remember your first date? Your first kiss?

I went with a girl to Six Flags Saint Louis, but I do not recall the first kiss. Unfortunately, at that age and time, I was only concerned with the home run and not first base. I wish I would have had the proper mentoring when it came to dating. I fell into the stereotypical idea of a young boy because that is how I seen it defined before me. I hope I can teach my boys the right way to date and properly mentor them as they get older.

Did you have any aspirations or dreams as a child?

I did want to become a baseball player, but that did not work out. I quite the team after the high school coach made a terrible year-end speech telling the players that they did not put their best effort out, and I will let you fill in the rest. After that, I realized the kind of coach I wanted to play for, and this was not it. He had given me a hard time during the year, and I felt that he was playing favorites. It happens in a small community, but I have to take some of the responsibility because I did not have the best reputation at the time and was just beginning to clean up my act.

Every time I see a coach yelling at a kid in an ineffective way, I can see the damage done, but the coaches anger and disgust is blocking them from actually seeing the harm they are doing in the child’s eyes. This is one of those developmental stages for young men and sometimes they do not have the best role models who are developing their character.

Historical Events and Periods

Each of us is born into a particular historical moment. Some moments in time may seem more significant or noteworthy than others, but each moment has its place and purpose.

Do you recall what you were doing on any of the crucial times in our history?

I was in 2nd grade I believe when I seen the Space Shuttle Challenger explode. Since it was the first teacher in space, we were going to watch it at school.

What is different or unique about your community?

I never actually seen it as different or unique. I have always considered it another small town USA kind of town. Tucked away in its little neck of the woods. Occasionally someone comes out of there and into the spotlight. Mostly hard working people making a living and taking care of their families the best way they know how.

What changes did you experience as a teenager?

Wrestling was a major factor for me, steering me on a cleaner and less harmful path than I was already on. The sport developed my character and taught me a work ethic. It showed me what a good coach looked like and helped keep my grades up so I could wrestle. I learned about adversity, hard work, rising to the occasion and focus. My coach showed me that anyone can be great if we recognize an opportunity and put enough sweat equity into it. He gave me that opportunity, and I gained a whole lot more than I was able to return for his leadership and opening the door for me.

What were the crucial decisions in your life?

Leaving home at 19 years old. If I would have stayed, then I probably would not become who I am today and seen how much the world has to offer. I would have likely ended up working to survive and fell into the role others defined for me.

Are there any learning experiences growing up you wish to share?

Don’t take life for granted, Honor those before you and your family by challenging yourself. There are people out there that care about you no matter who you are, where you are or the circumstances in which you find yourself, so honor them. They are everywhere and even when things are tuff they are there, right with you. Do not let your origins or where you are from define you – write your own story and grow from every experience.

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  • Kirby, This is a great interview. I like your closing paragraph. It’s an important reminder that we don’t have to let other people’s choices determine our destiny.

    • Thanks, Jon. It was fun to reflect and I think I gained more out of it than I realized I would. The last paragraph was the biggest lesson I learned the hard way. We focus so hard on the problem that we don’t see the other people around us trying to help. We unintentionally shut them out. I find it was also troubling that society defines us and that isn’t fair. There are certain privileges people receive based on status and impressions. Through hard work and determination we can accomplish anything we put our minds to.