In the begining…

9 Mar
Years ago after I told my sister yet another of my misadventures she said, “Weez, you really should write a book about your adventures and would you please let me read it first”.  So Trish, here you go… only it’s not a book yet.
I’ve often said I had the worst and the best of childhoods.  My childhood is divided into 3 parts for me.  The Early years, the Irish Catholic family years and the living with the Nuns boarding school years.
My Dad was a career Navy man who met my mother in a bar (as he revealed to us many years later) in Naples, Italy and well, we’ve all heard the stories about sailors in foreign ports.
Shortly after he returned from a lengthy sea tour my mother showed up with me in her arms and said, “Marry us and take us to America or you’ll never see her again.”  (Or at least that’s the family legend)  Dad, being a 21-year-old, Irish Catholic boy, and madly in love, did the right thing and married us both and took us to America.  Thanks again, Dad!
Not much good to say about the early years except we were shuttled from Dad’s Navy postings down south and my grandparents up in Massachusetts, with an odd stay at an Orphanage or foster family when my mother needed treatment for her Mental Illness.  I still break out into a southern accent if any one around speaks southern.
Being almost 2 years older than my sister and more than 3 years older than my brother, I remember more than I want to of those times.  And given it was the late 50’s and early 60’s I don’t like to think too much about what my mother went through either.
When I was about 7 1/2 the family decision was that my siblings and I move permanently to my grandparents house.  Usher in the best of childhoods.  10 acres and more of land to explore and play in and an Aunt Pat who understood the joys of being a tomboy.  Aunt Pat was the unmarried aunt who lived at my grandparents house and in reality was the Mother who raised my sister, brother and me.
In addition there were what seemed like a hundred but were really only 26 of us first cousins, a number of 2nd cousins and enough neighborhood kids that might as well have been cousins in the mix.  It was no longer a situation of us against them but of us and us all together watching out for each other.

The Clan through the years.

There were always cousins coming and going in my grandparents house… on weekdays, weekends, holidays and sometimes to finish schooling–High School or College.  It was like having 20-something brothers and sisters.  And all the aunts and uncles had a hand in our upbringing and adult value systems as well.
It’s a shame this arrangement is now rare and perhaps it was rare even as I was growing up.  But it seems that families are smaller and spread further apart across the country these days.  I feel sorry for them.  When my whole family gets together almost 50 years later it’s like we never left each other… blood knows blood even across the generations, and the Love is still there!  Yeah, We’re family!
As I’ve mentioned before in this blog I’ve attended a whole lot of schools.  The first 3 years were at the Lancaster elementary school.  I was registered late for 1st grade since we had just suddenly moved into my grandparents house.
After the two first grade teachers had called all the names from the 1st grade roll, I was the only one left, sitting forlornly on the sidewalk.  Miss Flagg turned to me with kind eyes and gently asked me my name.  It’s obvious in retrospect she had no idea who I was but immediately declared I must be in her classroom. And I just as immediately fell headlong into my very first crush.
I like to think she paid special attention to me that year and maybe she did and maybe she didn’t.  My Aunt Pat, an educator herself, always maintained she wasn’t a very good teacher.  It never mattered to me.
My very first album was one I received as a Christmas present because it was one Miss Flagg had played often at school.  The soundtrack from Danny Kaye’s movie “Hans Christian Anderson“.  A few years ago I found it online and downloaded it to our computer.
My wife just rolls her eyes when any of those songs show up in one of my iPod mixes.  How many of you can remember and still sing along with your first album (tape, mp3 or whatever)?  I challenge any who may read this to let me know in the comments section what it was.
At recess that spring, I tried to play baseball with the boys but they rejected me out of hand.  When the catcher missed and lost the ball in the bushes, Miss Flagg had been watching and knew I knew where the ball was.  She addressed the boys as they were frantically searching, “If she finds the ball can she play with you?”  My baseball/softball career beyond just family was born.  It was to last almost 50 years from that day and I’m still not sure if I’m done playing.

Always ready for a game.

There were 2 more years of public school after that but the only thing that sticks out was my somehow ending up in the special needs reading class in 3rd grade.  Aunt Pat was furious since I’d been reading books from 1st grade on.
She brought me to a child psychologist who asked me weird questions like, “Would you save someone at the expense of your own life if they were stuck on a railroad track and a train was coming?” and “Who would you choose to rescue from drowning, a person close to shore and it wouldn’t mean sacrificing yourself or 2 people further away even if it meant you would die and they wouldn’t?”  And then he told Aunt Pat I was Hyperactive and to never let me come home with anything less than a B in school.
Thankfully, child psychology has come a long way since the mid 60’s.  Honestly that scarred me for more years than I care to remember.  I was terrified to get anything less than a B in any of my classes all the way through college!

MJA

The years of Catholic education began a year later in the next town over.  It also began the years of being raised by Nuns not wolves!  To be more fully explored in another post.  And really, I am working towards explaining badcookiesforweez.  It’s all related.
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