It was a snowy Wednesday February 5th in 1948 when Rob and Jessie Meinke’s first child, a boy, was finally born at 5:20 pm after a long night and day’s labor. The high for the day was only 34 degrees and it had showered snow all day.
Rob and Jess had gotten to West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park late in the evening of the 4th. They were living at 741 N Long Avenue, Jessie’s family home in Chicago, just a mile from West Suburban hospital. Jessie was a month and a half away from turning 21 and Rob had turned 25 a month earlier.
And so there I was. A noisy baby. With hair (which hasn’t lasted). The first of the second generation of the Mackenzie line in the US and the second of the Meinkes’ third US generation.
Upstairs on Long Avenue lived my Uncle John Mackenzie and his wife, Aunt Verba. They had married in September 1942, a few short weeks before my grandmother Margaret Maclennan Mackenzie died of breast cancer and sepsis.
It wasn’t long before I was moving around. That hasn’t changed: since February 5th 1948, I’ve lived in 23 different homes in the US, England, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. From 1969 to 1988, I actually spent 17 years living in the Middle East.
I’ve been: a church painter on the Navajo reservation at Nazlini in Arizona; a student for more years than I care to remember; a graduate student in theology and in linguistics; a researcher for the Palestine Research Center; a teacher of English as both a second language and as a foreign language; a management trainer; a treasury manager in a Kuwaiti bank; an instructor of colloquial Arabic and culture; a night desk clerk at a somewhat raunchy Red Roof Inn; a mid-career US foreign service specialist; manager of an Arabic software company’s US office; a resident in the Kuwaiti desert; finance and administration director for a cancer support organization; founder of two LGBTQ nonprofit organizations; and a volunteer docent and museum staff person.
And I’ve wandered and wondered most of the time.