This is from an autobiographical assignment written by my son, Rhodes, when he was in graduate school at Lewis and Clark in Portland, Oregon. It breaks my heart to realize what pain I caused for him by having to move so many times. I look back and try to come up with things I could have done differently, but I’m afraid I was so conditioned to work hard and be good and do what I was supposed to do, that sometimes Rhodes was the unwitting victim.
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Well to begin with, it all started August 30, 1971 at God knows what time in the morning. Cecil Rhodes Gibson III was born. I’m sure it was a happy occasion, although I myself do not remember a thing. My parents were and still are both chemical engineers by training. My father, a traditional southern boy who was raised on a farm, was I’m sure overjoyed by the fact that he not only had a son but someone to pass on the “hokey” family name. My mother, opposite in pretty much aspect from my father, had been raised in a middle class family in Chicago and then Virginia. At that time, my father was finishing up his Army career and my mother was attempting to accommodate to my father’s view of what a good wife and now mother should do. We had been living on the base at the time and both my parents had been saving to finally be able to buy a family home.
Within a year, my parents purchased a large home and it is this home that many happy memories would revolve around. It was a huge house when viewed through the eyes of a youngster, plenty of space for my own playroom, my own bedroom, and countless adventures that were aided by my own active imagination. My neighborhood was not one conducive to the antics of a typical child. There were no other children, only adults of various ages and occupations. I learned from a very young age that I was expected to be a nice, polite and very courteous little boy – and this is exactly what I was, with the few exceptions of some very wild temper tantrums. Adults were what I was surrounded by and it was these people that I began to associate with and eventually attempt to emulate. I was a five-year-old boy who wanted to act like a middle-aged family man. But despite what may seem to be a somewhat dismal existence for a child, I loved it! It was a great childhood with almost anything you could ask for: all the fun toys, interesting people everywhere to go and talk to, a huge house that my own domain, and two parents who loved me and were very proud of their little boy. The only thing I wanted was a sibling, but it became apparent early on that there were not going to be any siblings – or at least not the old-fashioned way!
At the age of eight years old, my little world got changed around, oh just a bit. Since I was old enough to walk, I had been enrolled in the best private schools in the city and at this point, I was in third grade at St. Clement Episcopal School. Within a matter of a month, I went through a roller coaster. It started with my mother telling me that Daddy was not going to be living here anymore. Then there was a trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico with the lady that had been my father’s secretary and her two children, who I had often played with at company picnics. The next day my father and his secretary, Maria, were married. The next day, my new family, complete with an older brother and a younger sister, all went to the airport and went to live in Paris, France.
At the time, my parents felt it was best if I knew as little as possible about what was going on so the result was a little boy who had gotten his dream of siblings but the woman he had called “mom” was no longer around and Maria seemed to have taken her place. It was a very confusing, but also very exciting time for me. We lived in a hotel in the middle of Paris for the first few months and eventually moved into an apartment. I attended the American School of Paris, as did my brother and sister. Paris was our home for six months and then the family moved back to the United States and I went to live with my mother. It was the same house I had grown up in but now it was just my mother and me, and the house just seemed too big. We were two people living in a huge house with five bedrooms so the house was sold and my mother and I moved to a smaller house in a country club just outside town. At this same time, my father and his new family moved to Houston where I would spend my summers and a few holidays.
The next few years were again very happy years but were also years of watching pennies and living on a budget. My mother and I still lived very well and in a prestigious neighborhood, but it was definitely a struggle compared with the things when my parents were married. I did very well in school (St. Clement’s had saved a place for me) which was always to my parents’ delight, and my mother worked very hard as well as advancing up the steps in her company.
With a promotion came a move and a few days before starting high school, we moved to Midland, Texas. This was a very difficult time. I was about to enter high school with all of my friends and now here I was at a public school, no uniforms, and no friends. My mother was starting a new job and she too was going through a rough time but somehow we made it through and Midland became our new home and a very comfortable and happy home at that. But this did not happen to be permanent and with the downsizing of the company, my mother was transferred back to El Paso and I moved as well right before my senior year in high school. So here I was again facing a new school and no friends, just as I had three years earlier. But again we made it through, even though neither my mother nor I were ever really happy again living in El Paso. The only good thing about it was that my mother was doing very well and I was off to college in a year.
For college, I moved to Austin, Texas and again faced a new school and no friends (was there a reoccurring theme in my life or what?!?). College was a very liberating and exciting time in my life; I grew during my five years of college and learned not only academically but about life as well. I graduated from the University of Texas in 1994 with a degree in Psychology, minor in Zoology and on my way to medical school. But as usual, I decided to instead take some time off from school and move to San Francisco where my mother had moved three years previously. It was time to reevaluate what I wanted out of life and what I was going to do to accomplish it. Following a year as a manager for GapKids, I quit to go back to school, pick up a few courses at San Francisco State before applying to graduate school, most likely in psychology.
But who knows what the future has in store . . .