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Keep on Movin'
Intro: It is May 16, 2012 at the Janowski residence, and I’m interviewing my mom.
Q: What is your full name?
A: Michelle Mary Merriam Sophie Smith Janowski.
Q: Where were you born?
A: Albany Medical Center Albany, New York.
Q: What is your relationship to the interviewer?
A: He’s my baby boy!!
Q: Who were your parents?
A: My mother Marilee Mullen Suminski, my biological father is John Smith, my step father is Leon Suminski.
Q: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A: I am blood related to two brothers I don’t know and have never met. Joseph Anthony Smith, Joseph David Sarsfield, and Michael Kennedy [were my brothers and] Rhea Quigley [is my sister].
Q: What was your family life like?
A: Unconventional. We moved around a lot we lived a lot of places.
Q: How were relationships in your family? Were they harsh or very loving?
A: (Long pause) Uh, I’ll go with loving.
Q: Care to elaborate on any relationships with your parents or brothers you may want to talk about?
A: My step-father was my best friend, very loving relationship there. My relationship with my mother I would typify as dysfunctional, yet loving up until the age of eight. And then almost full-board dysfunction after that. My relationship with my siblings; I was raised under the same roof as one-Joseph Anthony Smith-and he was pretty cruel, he didn’t like me. I loved him, but he didn’t like me at all.
Q: As you stated earlier you said you moved around from place to place, but I was wondering where you went to school, like, in what general areas did you go to school.
A: I went to school on the eastern seaboard. I changed schools from the 1st grade through the 8th grade eighteen times, various states, various schools, I attended one school twice.
Q: What was the reason for all your moving?
A: My father was in the hotel business in the seventies when there was a financial boom, and he worked for a company that took care of hotels for investors and when the economy took a dive they would send my father in to take the hotel from the red and into the black.
Q: What were your academic endeavors like? What clubs were you in? What grades did you get?
A: The type of grades I got depended on the school is was in. Moving so frequently sometimes I would be ahead of where the curriculum was and sometimes I would be behind where the curriculum was. Sometimes I did really well, and sometimes I did very poorly.
Q: Who were your primary friends in your childhood? Who did you keep in touch with?
A: I tried real hard to keep in touch with a few, but it was hard because I was moving so often. It got to a point where it was easier to let people go than to try to keep up with them. I was the only one who kept moving on and on and on and on. Keeping in touch with them reminded me how far away I was from them and how fed up I was with my life, and how far away I was from the people I loved.
Q: What was your social life like?
A: (Sigh) It depended on where we were living at the time, how people received me in that environment. Sometimes we moved to places where people were very friendly and receptive and sometimes we lived in a place where people were very closed and stand-offish.
Q: Did you have any jobs growing up?
A: I started my own business when I was twelve, it was a cleaning business. I made some big fat jack in the cleaning business.
Q: What was High School like?
A: I was shipped off to a boarding school to avoid all the moving involved with my family and to be able to get into college. I went to Marian Heights Academy in Ferdinand Indiana, run by the sisters of St. Benedict and I graduated in 1985.
Q: Did you ever start feeling like an adult at any point in High School?
A: I think the hubris of childhood is that you feel like an adult long before you ever become one, but yes, I did feel like an adult in High School because being at a boarding school, all my success and failures, they were on me. There was no help from mom and dad, they were on me. This makes me think that I kinda developed self-determination earlier than other kids that stayed home for High School.
Q: Where did you go to college?
A: Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ring out Ahoya! Whoo-hoo!!
Q: What would you say was you biggest struggle growing up? Would it be you not having a loving mother or not having very many friends? What would you classify as your biggest struggle?
A: Now, my mother was loving, she was loving in her own way. She tried, she really really tried. My biggest struggle, which is something I still deal with today, is that with all of the moving and all of the uncertainty with how my mom would react to certain situations, I became a people pleaser because moving around that much I found out it was a lot easier to be liked than unliked and developed that quality at my own peril.
Q: If you could re-do you childhood, would you try to do things differently?
A: You only know what you know. The situation I grew up in was unconventional. But that’s the only thing that I knew. I knew really early on that what I experienced wasn’t what everyone experienced. I think that I’ve always experienced that I wanted what was normal; to have the same phone number, to have the same address, to have the same neighbors, to have a community, to go to church that you know, to be in a store and you run into people. All the things that other people take for granted that haven’t moved. And growing up into adolescence, all you want to do is to be able to fit in; I fit in with people who knew me, but I told very few people who knew me my home life because I didn’t want anyone passing judgment or thinking I was weird.