My birth was both expected and celebrated. Somewhere off Route 4 in the nether regions of Norman, Oklahoma there is a sign proclaiming, “TOM Starita fell here” but we’ll get to the reasons why later on. My mum, a young, 22 year old Scottish lass named Kathy worked the counter at “The Pigging Out” diner. My father, Bill, a 39 year old Australian immigrant, owned his own brass mining company, a successful one aptly named, “Bill’s Got Brass.” He had chased after my mother for years, with little to no success due to two reasons. The first being a seventeen year gap in age. The second was my mom’s parents were vehemently opposed to their daughter dating some immigrant from the outback.
Despite the obstacles, Bill never gave up hope that one day this woman would bear his seed. Once a month for three years Bill had sent flowers, candy, balloons, singing telegrams, pajamas, meat of the month club, international star registry, buffalo head, baboon’s tail and other exciting and enticing gifts with no luck. It wasn’t until he accidentally left a brass fixture inside the box containing nine pounds of potatoes that things began to change. Because they were firmly anti-Bill, my grandparents never inquired as to what my dad did for a living. The moment they realized he had access to unlimited brass, and a large bank account, my grandfather practically drove Kathy over to his house.
Two weeks later, a marriage was being celebrated.
Two months later, a positive stripe revealed Kathy was with child.
And on August 18th, 1978 all their wildest dreams and wishes became fulfilled upon the birth of their first son. Bill wanted to name me after his favorite uncle back home – Crocodile – but my mother wanted nothing to do with it. She preferred the name Jacob, but dad knew a guy back home named Jake who had a curse placed on him by some Aborigines and was afraid somehow the curse would transfer to me. Their marriage had hit its first bump in the road and there seemed no settling this significant gap. Fortunately for me, apple sauce was invented.
You see my parents LOVED apple sauce. It was always a part of their dinner and sometimes for breakfast as well. My mom used it as a facial wash and my dad would bath in a large drum filled with apple sauce, believing it gave him the ability to be a better business man. His rationale? Everyone loves apple sauce, everyone loves the smell of apple sauce, and therefore if you smelled apple sauce on a man you knew he was the right man for the job.
My father had a tough day down at the brass mines and didn’t feel like talking much during dinner. My mother, feeling ignored asked him to pass the apple sauce. When my father reached for the jar he saw the label reflected in his glass. TOMM’S.
(I failed to mention my father had an acute form of dyslexia, in which words would appear however was most convenient to my story)
Immediately he stood up and announced that their son should have the honor of being named after the greatest food ever invented. And that’s how I got the name TOM after only eleven months.
Life was perfect in every way. Dad’s company was booming and as a result he was able to spoil his family. They had the largest house in town, three cars, a name finally picked out for me and no ceiling on their future.
Until the brass fields of Tecumseh dried up.
I was two years old and can vaguely remember my parents talking in the living room, panicking over their future, or suddenly their lack thereof. The brass fields of Tecumseh were only the biggest in the state of Oklahoma, if not the entire southeast. Thousands of families depended on their consistent production of brass, millions around the world took for granted all the fixtures, door knobs and pipes which were created via these magical fields. No one knows why exactly the fields suddenly died. All we did know was with no brass to sell to the various companies, dad was forced to liquidate his assets, sell the remainder of the company and get a handyman’s job at the local YMCA. The house, the cars, everything gone.
From millionaires to chumps, in the matter of days.
Because my dad no longer had access to brass, or had any money, my grandparents refused to help them. Dad, being a resourceful man did what any man in his position would do. He dragged his family to the famous Oklahoma forest and built us a tree house. There we lived for three months, as time, resources and love were all seemingly running out. They were down to their last jar of apple sauce when someone knocked on their tree. When my dad climbed down to see who it was he saw in front of him two beatniks from New York, and they had the solution to all my parent’s troubles.
Of course it involved me.