06.29.03 Wednesday, Kyle pointed to a picture of his friend Joseph, whose likeness was silkscreened on a pile of t-shirts Kyle was attempting to sell. Joseph, Kyle told me, had recently gone AWOL for a brief stint, smoking pot before returning to his Air Force base.
In high school, AWOL was a term I associated with the Beastie Boys and little more. Hell, that was my primary association with the term until I began dating Kyle a little over a year ago. You see, my boyfriend is an ex-military man, serving in the Air Force for four years after graduating from high school. (Okay, "military man" might be an exaggeration -- he served as a dental hygienist.)
I never really thought I would be involved with anyone with a military background -- when military recruiters came calling my senior year, I could get them off the phone with a simple statement: "I'm a pacifist."What would have been just as easy, I've realized, would have been to tell recruiters about my parents, The Commies.
My parents were Communists when Communism was far from cool -- in the Reagan 80s. (Although, really, was Communism ever cool?) When I was little, when they regularly protested conditions in Nicaragua, El Salvador and for working people around the country, I used to worry they'd be arrested, and I would have to fend for myself. But as I got older -- although I still kept the information about my parents under my cap at school -- I became more at ease with their politics. By the fifth grade I was able laugh at the middle-aged woman who not-so-surreptiously whispered to her husband "do you think they'll be able to take over the world?" as she fingered old linens at a Communist yard sale hosted by my parents.
I never quite realized how deeply my parents were entrenched in their Communist ethos, but over the years, I began adding up the clues. In the sixth grade, while rummaging through a bag of rags in the attic for craft supplies, I found a handgun. My parents, my mom explained, had done target practice in preparation for The Revolution.
And then there were the pictures of my dad, in Cuba, standing by a man who looked suspiciously like Fidel Castro. It was not, I learned, El Comandante, but his brother, Raul Castro.
The family record collection included a 7-inch record and accompanying book with a picture of Mao on the cover. The book had directions on how to do the daily exercises prescribed by the Chinese leader.
And recently I did an internet search and discovered the organization my parents had belonged to was a Maoist-Stalinist group. My friend Joey, my mom later explained, was named after Stalin.
In the years since, a lot has changed. Mom works at a non-profit, and says, "we were crazy back then." Dad does public relations for a union, but now has a younger, blonder wife and a fancy house bordering the 'burbs with a pool.
"They've sold out," Joey told me at a recent Thanksgiving gathering.