Jessica Kibblewhite grew up the daughter of an astronomer. Her dad, Edward Kibblewhite, invented, among other things, a system that allows scientists to take clearer pictures of stars.
Given his background, Jessica asked him for help finding clarity on a different subject: starting a family.
The world, Jessica told Edward at StoryCorps last October, seemed like an especially difficult place, and she and her husband had been struggling with the idea of bringing children into it.
She felt scared for the future.
Edward, now 75, asks her what the alternative is.
"Not having a kid in the 21st century," Jessica says.
"I think if you do not have children because you fear the future, that is to misunderstand what it means to be human," he says.
Edward says he grew up during a time of great fear as well. He was born after World War II, and there was an Air Force base with a missile site not far from his high school. Students were invited to tour the facility and touch the warhead of a hydrogen bomb.
"We were pretty sure that these missiles would be fired," he says. "I had a whole plan I had worked out – an underground place to go. ... I mean, the whole population believed we would be burned to death."
The period following World War II was plagued with global fear of imminent, mass annihilation. Edward acknowledges that today's future also holds real fears, but, he tells his daughter, it's vital to remain hopeful.
"Having you as a daughter was a very moving experience, and in the case of my parents, WWII started on Sept. 1, 1939. My sister was born the next year," he says. "So having children is an act of hope, and if you do not have children because of fear, then you have given up hope for the future."
For Jessica and her husband, Sam Horn, the StoryCorps conversation played a big role in their decision to try to start a family.
"Maybe it's a choice," Jessica says, "to feel hope."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Camila Kerwin.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
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NOEL KING, HOST:
It's StoryCorps time. Jessica Kibblewhite's dad, Edward Kibblewhite, was an astronomer. One of his inventions lets scientists take clear pictures of stars. Last year, Jessica and her husband were having a hard time deciding whether to have a kid, so she brought her dad to StoryCorps in Chicago and asked him to help her see more clearly.
JESSICA KIBBLEWHITE: Dad, I was hoping that you could share some advice. I'm finally at an age where I can appreciate much of what you share. So my husband and I are thinking about having a child. And we obviously know that the world right now is in a very difficult place. How do you stay optimistic?
EDWARD KIBBLEWHITE: I think how much advice you can give to the next generation is actually rather small. But I grew up after the war. We used to have a missile site five miles from our school, and you could actually touch the warhead of the hydrogen bomb. We were pretty sure that these missiles would be fired. And I had a whole plan. I had worked out...
J KIBBLEWHITE: (Laughter) Of course you did.
E KIBBLEWHITE: ...The underground place to go. And, you know, I mean, the whole population believed we would be burnt to death. So the fears of today are, as far as I can see, nothing compared to the fears that we were brought up.
J KIBBLEWHITE: I think that just to say that fear is unfounded...
E KIBBLEWHITE: That's not what I'm saying.
J KIBBLEWHITE: OK.
E KIBBLEWHITE: Well, perhaps it is.
J KIBBLEWHITE: But I do feel scared for the future.
E KIBBLEWHITE: What's the alternative?
J KIBBLEWHITE: Not having a kid in the 21st century.
E KIBBLEWHITE: I think if you do not have children because you fear the future, that is to misunderstand what it means to be human. Having you as a daughter was a very moving experience. And in the case of my parents - World War II started on September the 1, 1939 - my sister was born the next year. So having children is an act of hope. And if you do not have children because of fear, then you have given up hope for the future.
J KIBBLEWHITE: Maybe it's a choice to feel hope. Also, you and mom will make great grandparents (laughter).
E KIBBLEWHITE: Well, probably not (laughter).
J KIBBLEWHITE: You will (laughter).
KING: That was Jessica Kibblewhite and her father, Edward Kibblewhite. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.