My story begins with my parents and grandparents, as I was born with the unique legacy that came with my family. We were not told much by our mother of her childhood, but we know that she was raised in Virginia, first daughter of a second marriage to a wealthy couple. My grandfather was a CEO and they lived in a mansion of a home and mother was raised by a black nanny- as we were told was normal in privileged homes of Virginia at the time. Mom grew up in an alcoholic home, and it sounded like there were some traumatic experiences that came with it.
She became an incredibly passionate, independent thinker that wanted to change the world- she became a hippy. She would study anthropology at William & Mary and teach seminars to jam packed business conferences about saving the earth and other topics, and spent time living in Africa and Columbia serving the poor. At some point she would meet the LDS missionaries, convert from Protestantism to Mormonism, and transfer to BYU to complete her education.
My father was born to a WWII veteran and a woman that had already abandoned several children to the foster care system a few years earlier in California- she was an alcoholic as well. She would abandon my dad also when he was 2 years old and his father would find a distant relative with a daughter of the same age to care for him during the week. My grandfather would die suddenly only a year later and so my father was placed in foster care and later adopted by the family that he had been living with since he was two. He would keep his original last name. He grew up in the loving home of the Moloney family, with a mom, dad, and “twin” sister.
Despite this, Dad was a bit of a lost soul, struggling to find himself, getting into drugs, getting kicked out of many catholic schools and finally giving up on high school altogether. After a short stint in the Marines, he would also meet the LDS missionaries, convert from Catholicism to Mormonism and start school at BYU to study history- his dream was to become a teacher. My mother and father were in drama classes together and became good friends before their stormy relationship evolved into love.
My parents were married several years later- they eloped of course. They were like oil and water sometimes, and their passion, dysfunction, and the fact that neither ended up finishing their last semester in school led to a lot of chaos and instability in our family. Dad became a house painter- a job he never liked. Mom stayed at home with a rapidly growing family- a job she was wholly unprepared for or really interested in. They never owned a home and so we were forced to move every couple of years, including cross-country several times. Other than a two year period, when we lived in Virginia near my mom’s family, we had little family contact and a limited support network.
Despite my dad’s strong work ethic, times were tough and we lived on thrift stores, food stamps, and often barely survived day to day. As we grew, the conflicts increased, the instability continued, and the cracks showed up even more on our home and family. In our world, we saw this environment as normal. Our parents did love and care for us and despite their many struggles, they did their best and they taught us values. They taught us passion, determination, integrity, morality, service, and faith. My father stated that all he hoped for was to give his children a life better than the one he had- and in many ways, he accomplished that for us.