DescriptionDevon Berkshite(DB), 33, interviews her mother Linda Argo(LA), 63. They discuss Linda’s unusual childhod, her development as a person and their relationship with each other.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Linda Argo
- Devon Berkshire
Recording LocationsStoryCorps Lower Manhattan Booth
Venue / Recording Kit
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00:05 My name is Devon Berkshire and I just turned 33. It is February 12th, 2011. We are in New York-New York and I'm interviewing my mother.
00:23 I am Linda Argo and I am 62. I will be 63 in 2 weeks. And today's date is February 12th, 2011. We are in New York City and I am being interviewed by my daughter Devin, Berkshire.
00:44 So just to start quickly.
00:50 My first question is what?
00:54 Is your earliest memory?
00:58 The earliest memory sometimes that's hard.
01:04 Distinguish what I remember, you know intellectually and what I really remember in my head.
01:16 Probably my earliest real memory is as a child traveling with my family to visit are my grandparents in, Colorado.
01:35 Where do they live in Colorado? I don't you haven't told me much about a grandparent. Will they were it it's it's interesting because the and I wouldn't a lot of respect for a small family because the folks in our family haven't have lots of children, so
01:54 Their am I think for me that's been at once kind of something to treasure and Anna let you know in another hand. There's something so many times when I've you know, when I've wished that I had had a bigger family and had tighter connections familial collect connection sale across the generations. But the reason I say all that is that these were the the only grandparents I knew but they weren't blood relatives. They were a step-grandparent a Grandma's. Yeah, right Grandma's dad.
02:36 Uncle when I call and Grandpa milk and his wife Agnes and I have some real strong memories about those are like the ones that I really connect to it strips that we made back there to see them and to see some other people in, Colorado
02:54 How old were you when they when your grandpa milk tide? Oh gosh.
03:04 I was probably a teenager. I don't remember probably a teenager and I hadn't I hadn't seen him for a while. Now. I was older than that. I was I was married. I was in my early twenties. Yeah, They're married to Paul yet.
03:26 But you didn't have a row. Did you have much of a relationship with Grandma's Mom?
03:32 I never met her she Amy night. I never I met her. Of course. I met her she died when I was two.
03:41 But you don't really remember her know. I remember her only from pictures, but she I have started to get Curie. I have many things at home that she sent me when I was a baby. So, you know, she was like, apparently I was the
04:10 I was her only grandchild because my mother was her only child and Chandler 11.2 Laurel wasn't born yet. So I was the you know, I was the stars in the sky and the planets and everything else and she didn't live near us. She lived in Colorado. We lived in Southern California and she would write me in this some beautiful beautiful handwriting that was spidery and Flowery this gorgeous him reading and I have some still postcards.
04:45 Ditto as if she was writing to me as if I was
04:49 You know 15.
04:52 And I was too or whatever and obviously I don't remember them from that age. But of course my mom, you know Grandma kept them and then handed them down to me.
05:07 Okay, so we're not even five minutes into this already mopping ourselves up. And you know, this is this is the gene it's Thai think it's the Miller Jean. Yeah. Yeah.
05:23 Grandma tough-as-nails right cried and Sister Act when we went to see it somehow.
05:35 So, you know moving away from grandparents a little bit. What was it like growing up in your family? Especially, you know, your mom had, you know, you really uniquely at that time divorced parents. I kind of must have affected you know how she was as a mom and I mean you've talked a little bit about it, especially with Grandma's passing but always will let you what was it like to remember growing up when you were little and you know into middle school and high school and I think you know, it's it's interesting because I don't have a lot of memories about anything being
06:25 Different because because for example Grandma's parents were divorced and only till I got older did I realize how unusual that was for that generation. She would be if she were alive today should be in her late 90s that were mid-to-late 90s and for that generation for people to for her parents to have been divorced what kind of unusual but when we ended up doing by the way we can talk about that later. If you want to if you want to when we went and did one of those family trees where you're looking at not just who begat whom but you're looking at who got divorced family systems. I think it's called family that you know, like in family systems and you do need chart out people in the family with the family Generations ago, which is really interesting. Anyway that I don't I don't think it is.
07:25 I don't think I had that much effect on I don't remember that particular aspect having that much effect on me, you know because I always felt like I always felt like I was in a comfortable nuclear family always felt will tell me about it. Tell me about your what it was like growing up. I'd let you know when I laugh sometimes and I think I'm my gosh. It was kind of like Leave it to Beaver. I mean, I don't you know, when I think about the you know that the symptoms of the you know about life in the 50s and 60s, and I guess that's what it was and seven days. It was a I always felt
08:07 Loved and protected.
08:16 I think I think too another memory emotional memory is also one of expectation. There was always an expectation of me in particular that I would do. Well at whatever I did there was a lot of there's a lot there's been a lot of talk lately about this book that's out there about to eat something about the anger of the tiger mother had your memory I've heard about it was certainly nothing like that. I think that I think that
08:54 My mom and dad products of the of what was not an easy life for them in the midwest growing up in Nebraska and Kansas and not have a lot of money and I think they were not a typical of many in their generation that that for them after they got married and finally had children after nearly 10 years of marriage, which was also very unusual back then.
09:24 They are you know the phone the one thing that always brought them together and that they that was at the Forefront of everything that they did was having a comfortable life for their enough for them and their children.
09:43 And one that was not wanting one that and I live with a very comfortable what I Now understand to have been a middle to Upper middle-class life and look what they did. They left the you know, the Prairies of Kansas Nebraska and went to Southern California the promised land that was you know, that was where they wanted to have their life happen for their family and you know, and it was
10:17 Both my sister and I I think were you know, they expected a lot of us, especially in school.
10:25 And but they gave us opportunities to do pretty much what we wanted in terms of it. Have we wanted to have swimming lessons if we wanted to to have dance lessons we took that way we swimming we did the kinds of things that they and we thought we thought would be fun. And then I think they thought would make us well-rounded.
10:49 Human beings
10:52 What was your relationship like with Laurel?
10:55 When you were growing up, I was pretty bossy.
10:59 I know shocking. I was miss you. So choose my little sister and I think we plot I don't have a lot of early Memories of Us playing together and I'll let my business than it was said what I think of this kind of been difficult to children in the family sister, they know two sisters and but not particularly competitive. She was always of that nature that I think
11:27 Of of of of a nature that
11:31 Auntie how would I say it she she was more? I think she was more shy I don't think she tried to compete with me. But if she did I wasn't aware of it. I was aware of her. It'll come following me around when I was young and all of that and then as she got older she made her own friends, and I didn't feel like
11:57 I felt like she created her own life for her and and didn't need to follow me around or be like me.
12:09 And I think that was a good thing.
12:14 But I have
12:18 I'm in my my strongest memories of growing up are being able to.
12:26 I always knew that no matter what happened to me. Even if I did something and I got in trouble is that I could come home.
12:38 And it out.
12:41 And I might get the right now. I'd like to get the backs of my legs waxed with a yardstick which is the worst thing that ever. I mean that was that that was the worst kind of punishment that we could go with my dad with the yardstick on the back of the legs and that might happen but nothing else and how I wasn't ever afraid and I always knew that way. My folks are going to be there for me and it was a I don't know it now. I didn't didn't know what then in the way. I know it now from intellect in history that it was a and out. It was a
13:23 A safe and comfortable Zone my house.
13:29 And that's had a big impact. I think on my life wanting to create that for myself and my family.
13:36 This is a place that you can always be and that you can always come to and it's its walls and the people inside a protect you.
13:49 He did a good job with that with me.
13:52 It's it's a little surprising to hear you say that because you moved, you know, pretty young around a lot pretty far away, but maybe because you knew that you could always come home, you know, and that you knew would always be there. Maybe if that's a good point. Maybe it'll be maybe if it wasn't such a safe place. You might not have moved so early and so far.
14:21 This wasn't one of my questions that I was going to ask but
14:25 You've lived in a lot of different places and I'm always here to surprise cuz sometimes it's like we name a city and you're like, oh I looked there and so
14:35 Can you trace the places that you've lived when you were in your like in your 20s before your
14:42 Well, you know, it's it's interesting. I David and I when we had a we went to a his reunions, I think it was a year ago this last fall his college reunions God. I don't even know how many years it was. I mean, I'm trying to think what the reunions was forty years and on the way back we were driving back from North Carolina and we got all this time and weeks and that's one of the things that's when we did that we took out a notepad and we each did the same thing. We tried to remember not even just the places. But if we could remember the address, I know you told me you did that and you shouldn't to lessen the night that Professor. I not forget that he probably the address but I think I could sure I know I mean I lived in Southern, California.
15:42 I went to college in California. But then as soon as I at Santa Barbara and as soon as I left, remember, I got married. Yes, I do before Apollo who was the student body president at the video? That's the panhellenic representative which meant and what that means I've represented the soror all the sororities on the student council. That's how we met and we got married in our senior year and then we moved that's what you're right that started a crack, you know where I moved a lot from that point on we moved to New Jersey to Rutgers so he could go to master's program at Rutgers University and we move there and then he was drafted.
16:36 And I moved back he went into the army and I moved back to California on my own and why you got divorced and I lived at the man. I can't remember. I lived with Mom and Dad for a while cuz I was pretty young. I was so late, you know, 20 20 20 or 21 and I live with them for a while lived a couple other places in Southern California that he got out of the army we move back to
17:08 I like it, confused. He got out we moved I moved out we were in several other places. Oh, we went to Kansas City.
17:18 We went to Kansas City and he worked for the National Council of state legislatures. And that's when I first started working but wasn't really the first but it's when I continued my love for politics and working in political campaigns.
17:38 And that's what that's the first paying job. I ever got in a political campaign was in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Washington, DC.
17:52 And we lived in Washington DC on Capitol Hill before you move back a lift there for a couple of years.
17:59 Right move to Washington DC and then we separated when we were back there and Laurel came to live with me and Laurel came to live with me for a while. I was by myself back there after Paul and I split up and lived in Washington. Then I move back to Southern California. I went to the beach down near Venice Beach.
18:20 Cool and lived then I Met Your Dad.
18:29 And we lived in a couple of places in Southern, California.
18:38 That's when I went to grad school. Yes. I went when I move back. I went to graduate school at the University of Southern California. And I met dad there in the School of Architecture. Exactly. I was working the School of Architecture and he was a student in the master's program. So we met then and then we live together and then we got married when we were living in, South Pasadena.
19:04 And then I know the rest cuz I know so switching off geographical topic.
19:14 Who would you say?
19:18 I have all these people that we've talked about already. Who would you say was maybe not even any of them? Who would you say was the biggest influence in your life so far?
19:36 See I should have rehearsed I should have prepared should have anticipated questions like this because they're their heart of the things that you don't think about all the time. It's good to speak into it and I've known so many people who would have had I think probably
19:57 In terms of
20:00 Just an impact on who I am is probably my mother.
20:11 As difficult as she was and could be in terms of who I am and I wouldn't have that Foundation was laid and I mean I buy chocolate a little bit because some of that is
20:29 And I think you were right and you were very perceptive when you said it's interesting that you talk about that your new your home is being a place where you were comfortable and felt safe and all of that because as soon as you left you went but I think that's right. I think that has a lot to do with it. Is that a lot of who I am has to do with that the
20:56 The strength the role modeling she gave me as a woman again who if she were alive with me at or nine days and was older when she had me and she worked and most of the people I grew up with their parent, you know, their mothers were at home and she that role model of a career woman who was also devoted to her family and made sure that she always had a job or she could come home by, you know by 3 or 4 in the afternoon and not work late at night those things but the other pieces I think a lot of who I am has to do with my my trying to move away from her.
21:39 Knowing how much I had of her in me and not wanting to be some of the ways that she was so I would take actions removing directions. That would take me not so much physically away from her.
21:55 But from the standpoint of developing personality and characteristics and knowing that that I didn't want to be like that.
22:07 Some extensive you say you learned a lot from her.
22:13 Happy like you know that I watched, you know, I watched her build a life for herself and and and respected. I think in in ways that I wasn't always in touch with the
22:37 Kind of enormous leap that she took
22:43 From this only child who was kind of intellectually Beyond her peers and all of that lonely often reminded as lonely and I think I think lonely and using her intellect as a way of forging her way in the world and breaking out of of the you know of that that's the life that she might have had in the midwest kind of charging ahead.
23:13 And and doing are you doing finding a wife or herself that had that kind of that? You know that that's the kind of nuances to it that I like that I can't imagine. She ever thought she would have let you know when she was young.
23:29 She also knew.
23:34 How to do you know how to push my buttons like no one I've ever known.
23:41 I want to ask you something. Okay back to the question that you ask because I think
23:51 If I had one of my
23:57 One of the issues that I've always struggled with in my life is whether I gave you the same kind of
24:11 Comfort and love and safety
24:16 That that that I felt allowed me to be who I am and to enjoy the things that I've enjoyed in my life.
24:27 You absolutely have.
24:30 Can you say more?
24:35 Because we were on our own for a long time. I know.
24:44 Yeah, I think that I think that they know being.
24:49 Strong smart women who
24:56 Who make it a point to have their own?
25:00 You know independent career-oriented cells.
25:06 But also have a really strong family bond at the same time is something that Grandma passed to you and that you passed to me.
25:20 I always home is out. Your home is always been your home.
25:26 Has always been the place where I felt the safest.
25:39 I would say still.
25:43 I feel safe in my own home, too, but
25:46 I still feel very taken care of.
25:51 When I go home, and it's a place, you know, it's a it's a it's a it's a place to take cover if I need to.
26:02 I need some it's a bit of the Haven and you know, when that's because of that, you know, that's because of the way that you're built it.
26:14 You and David both do a great job with that together.
26:18 But I'm I'm really proud of who I am.
26:24 As a woman and the balance that I that I strive for and I attribute almost all of that to you.
26:39 That's a hell of a validation a lot of time and a lot of love and a lot of stress that.
26:55 That we went through we went through together.
27:00 I know I gave you I Gave You Hell.
27:05 When I was little
27:11 Oh, I don't think I would say that compared to what I've heard from compared to what I've heard from other families, but I think that and the reason I say that is because there is so much, you know, they're and they're always probably will be enough swirling debate and controversy and discussion about the importance of a new of a two-parent family and you know, what you and what children gain or lose or how it affects them. That's one of the you know, that's what it's not a regret. I wouldn't say that I wouldn't say regret and I heard quote the other day about something that's the way you should live is live so that you said it's so that when you die, you don't have any regrets. I think that's easier said than done, but it's not a regret of mine.
28:05 That I you know that I single parent to do for 10 years however long however long it was longer than that that but it's but I often wonder how different it would have been and you know it in one sense. I think we are in one respect. We're both stronger for it.
28:32 For having enough for having relied on each other and a way that you do and I'm and I went a single parent child same-sex single parent child relationship that sounded kind of intellectual about it. And I don't and I don't mean to but it's not again. It's not a regret. It's just something hey, you know if I could if I could roll the tape back, you know and run the tape over 30 30 years ago. Would I have done things differently that mean like that married to David sooner things like that probably would have but I don't
29:11 I'm so unbelievably proud of you. And as I said in that last birthday card, I wrote you just a couple of weeks ago and I cherish you for who you are and I have to believe that that the way that that all involved had a lot to do with who you are today.
29:37 I would agree.
29:43 How how do you think that you have changed as a person since?
29:50 Since you moved back to DC with me around the age that I am now when you are around the age that I am a little older Maybe.
30:02 How do you think you've changed as a person since I was little?
30:07 Oh my goodness.
30:10 I know I've grown up.
30:17 I've and I it's a hard question to answer because I really believe.
30:25 That we change all the time, you know that we always changing. So I mean it's think about think about the number of years, you know, 30 years times 365 days and I was probably evolving some in some way every one of the days that I was there, but I have
30:44 I was very focused for much of my life after you you know, after you were born and and I split up from your dad very probably much more focused on on a sense of Honor on providing a sense of stability.
31:06 And for both myself up primarily for you and so many of the and I probably said this to you before but I don't know if I have but so many of the decisions that I made from that point on were based on the life. I knew I was going to lead at that point whether I ever got married or not, but that I had I had a daughter and I knew that I needed to begin thinking about things that I haven't thought about before like having a you know, I had enough money so that you can College making sure you have the right education trying to get them to the right neighborhood. So we had the right schools and all of those kinds of things. So it was probably for me a leap into on maturity.
32:02 And but somewhere in there I left and went to school and became an adult and you got married to David and you started a new married life wife. Do you think you've changed because of that for the better for the worse? Anyway, absolutely for the better and you know, David spend the most important thing, you know that happened to me. I think of the later part of my life and he said what he use provided me with we had our own kind of tumultuous relationship for 10 years and you think back about it. We're both, you know, and you look at us now and he's like, how did we get through all that, but
32:53 Allowing myself the opportunity to to find I'm always I've always been a person that I think has been a happier couple in a relationship then not and finding one that was that was rewarding but also challenging and finding a partner that allows me within certain within certain parameters to be who I am and I can be I know myself so much better than I knew myself for years and years ago justice as the product of again maturing to be controlling to be to pee excessive about some of the things that I'm obsessed with obsessive about to be like money and to also allow me to grow professionally.
33:53 And have and try to find that balance in my life between the unit between the satisfaction. I feel from my purse out of my profession and working and my working life and also that that I feel from the comfort of Love of family and I wouldn't be in this place that I'm in now, which is a pretty good place.
34:18 If it if it wasn't for him.
34:24 So we talked a little bit last night about me having kids sometime in the next couple of years. Hopefully before my egg start drying up and
34:35 So if you have a little while.
34:40 The wet, you know, you've been through a lot as a mom and you you had to do some of the parenting for both mom and a dad when a lot of the time when I was little and I was just with you.
34:55 So what advice would you give me for raising my own kid or kids?
35:01 Well, I would say.
35:07 I sort of wish it was leading into this last night when we were talking that I think that
35:18 Of course having the right partner and do you know having somebody I think the for me the ideal for you would be to be as comfortable as you can be in the partnership that you're indignant and right now that's the Palo come we love and to be comfortable that that somebody that that you with a parent with not just to love and to be partners with but that you want to parent with because I think it's either way. It's infinitely not just easier but I think more rewarding please for me. That's that's one of my sadness is not having is not having you didn't do with something that you did do that. You're proud of as a parent that you think you did. Well that you want me to do to
36:15 Paid attention to who you were as you were growing up offering you. That's what I would hope that you could do for your child off or whatever opportunities that are for them. But for them to grow gives them let them if they you know pea to pay attention in a way that you can then take advantage of whatever interests and skills that they show even from an early age and help them develop those love them fly by being there for them by figuring out how to spend the time you need to advise and just comfort and read to them at night.
37:04 Try to make up songs give them memories that they will have for the rest of their lives.
37:17 And that's by and that's by and that's just bye-bye by really being who you are and not worrying about the right time to have a child. There is never a right time.
37:30 The right time is when you're comfortable with yourself and that your life is going to be about somebody else and not you anymore.
37:47 I think I have to stop because everything else I asked you is going to require another long answer.
37:55 Give you a short one.
37:59 Okay quickly. Tell me.
38:05 What are you proudest of in your life?
38:09 I am proudest of
38:14 Getting to the age of almost 63
38:18 In good health and and with a partner that I feel like I can be with for the rest of my life, which I think it's a real accomplish, especially from Mickey and probably most of you
38:36 Of my
38:40 My greatest accomplishment my greatest reward
38:46 Is having raised a beautiful.
38:53 Sensitive smart
38:59 Child that's found her on her way of the world.
39:08 I love you.
39:09 I love you, too.