Who is the author?
After a lifetime of being Mike Massengill, I’m getting more comfortable with Michael, having completed countless forms requiring my given name after retiring in 2013. I live in the Seattle area. Have done for forty years. Ann, my amazing wife of twenty-five years, and I have six children in our blended family. All are grown, half living near us, half distributed to different corners of the country. Collectively, they have delighted us with seven grandchildren, ages 1 through 14 by summer 2017.
My mother’s family emigrated from the tin mines of Cornwall to the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My father’s family left the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee for Michigan. After the War, the GI Bill put him in the same small college as my mother and that was the start of my own story. My paternal grandparents and their four children, spouses, and first crop of grandchildren all migrated from Michigan and Ohio to Southern California in the early 1950s. All but us settled in San Diego. We ended up about 90 minutes north, close to the desert, because that’s where my father found his work: teaching, and later principaling. Growing up for my sisters and me, first in Fontana and then Rialto, really was a version of a typical 50s TV show. Photographic evidence below.
The late sixties was a tumultuous time to go to college. At least it was for me. I started at Dartmouth, but soon found I was really a west coast kinda guy. I wasn’t there long enough to warrant a mention really, but it keeps sending me alumni mail and donation requests, so I figure if it hasn’t disavowed me, I shouldn’t disavow it. Back to California then and to UCLA– ah, glorious Wooden-Alcindor basketball days– and UC Santa Barbara– ugh, lugoobrious days on oilspill-soaked beaches.
I managed to (barely) attend enough classes and pass enough finals to get an English degree and a teaching credential, but my mind was elsewhere. Namely, five or six years involved in what is probably best categorized as a part of the Jesus Movement. This was an intensely sincere, partly positive, partly cultish, experience with other mostly college age through early twenties folks. It was an all-consuming and communal kick off to one’s adulthood. Oh, and I got married during that time, at 21, and started a family.
Inevitably, that group experience ended for us and we had to get out of SoCal. The Pacific Northwest beckoned and, with the exception of some painful family reconfiguration, it has been a wonderful home. I finally got around to putting my teaching credential to use, starting in grade 4-6 classrooms. Along the way I added a Masters in Instructional Technology and a library endorsement. By the time I retired, I felt my time had been happily and fairly evenly divided between classroom, library, and technology administration. Also, through most of the 1990s I founded and ran a summer computer camp that I can credit with making a major contribution to the college tuitions of most of our kids.
There was one intermission in the public education career that I should note because it relates to the children’s book I am working on. During the late peak of the DotCom craze, I received an enticing offer to join an educational technology start-up. I spent two years there, which included a week-long trip to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi princess wanted a contract with us for a computer camp in Riyadh, so she flew three of us there to make preparations for several weeks of camps the coming summer. That was 2001, just prior to 9/11. It was a certifiably bizarre experience. But, I had a most memorable excursion to Diriyah, the deserted and crumbling capital of the first Saudi state. It was there that the seed of an idea was germinated for Noah’s Lamp.