Surprise Recognition

It probably goes without saying, given the context, but all of these links…language warning, okay?

I remember going out on my own in my late teens, off to college, and the most extraordinary thing started happening. I started finding my dad’s source material.

I will never forget the first time I heard George Carlin’s Class Clown and (momentarily) thinking he was cribbing my dad’s stories.

For example, this one–

When I think of it in my head, it’s my dad’s voice I hear, not Carlin’s.

This kept happening. I’d be going through my ordinary life, and then there would be these little discoveries.

The first time I saw Annie Hall, I had a flashback to learning to parallel park on a back street in Salem, WV. (“It’s okay, I can walk to the curb from here.”) Even now, every time I do an awful job of parking, I hear my dad’s voice–not Woody Allen’s–in my head, saying that.

The funny thing is, these discoveries never bothered me. Discovering these odd little plagiarisms was sort of delightful. My mom must be less into sampling, because I absolutely didn’t have this experience with her.

Watching The Jerk for the first time, when I was alone (and very lonely) in my first apartment in grad school, was like having a beer with my dad, which was the single thing I most wanted to do at that moment. Every time I ever had an autobiography assignment in school, Dad would say, “I think you should start with, ‘I was born a poor white chile.'” I never had any idea what he was talking about. There were a dozen other lines in that movie that were notes from home, too.

The funny thing is, I know that my kids will have this experience when they grow up and go off into the world, because JC and I constantly sample from movies and books that we’ve loved. It probably happens dozens of times each day.

It’s perpetuating into the next generation. The week before last, Silas was insisting that his favorite food was “chocolate marshmallows.” We kept saying, “That’s not a thing,” and wondering where he heard of it. The startle of recognition when I realized that it’s the first in the list of thirty ice cream flavors Lulu asks for in Ladybug Girl at the Beach was familiar. It was the same feeling I had the first time I heard Bill Cosby say, “Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry.”


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