Monthly Archives: December 2010
Remember my birth story when I mentioned my mother jumping out of my closet (My Comedic Birth, October 7)? Well, here it is…This story describes perfectly what it was like living with a mother like mine and how she raised us. My daughter thoroughly enjoys her antics to this day.
It was 1980, we had finally acquired cable television and I was too excited for words. I remember when my cousin got it and I was green with envy. I was 13 years old and “The Exorcist” was going to be on HBO. It was a school night, but I was determined to watch it. I begged and begged my mom. Of course, she said no…repeatedly. Moms know best and I should have accepted her “no” and moved on. She finally caved in with an “o-kay-eee, if you insist” tone to her voice. How bad could it be? I should have known.
I quickly got ready for bed in my favorite PJ’s and snuggled in on the couch for some good entertainment. This was going to be great! I felt so grown up…watching a grown up movie with my mom, it doesn’t get any better than that. I thought I was so cool.
Well, my “cool” went right out the door around the time the main character turned her head entirely around on her shoulders and began to spit blood. I did not run, but FLEW to my bedroom and hid under the covers, head and all, as if the thin layer of cotton and polyester would protect me. My teeth were chattering so loudly that I could not hear a thing outside of my fortress. That must have been the moment that my mother snuck into my closet. Can you imagine my surprise? I screamed my bloody head off and nearly died from fright – I guess it served me right.
Needless to say, I did not get a wink of sleep that night. I laid with one eye wide open, looking for any signs of demons. I was especially anxious because my mind kept going to the Ouija board that was laying in wait in my closet. You can just imagine the state I was in by the time the sun came up.
In the morning, I told my mother I couldn’t go to school. She asked me if I felt ill and I replied that I thought the devil had possessed my body during the night. Utterly ridiculous, I know. I proceeded to tell her that I felt my bed shaking and heard strange noises. Don’t ask me why or how, maybe she felt guilty about the closet incident, but she let me stay home.
I couldn’t go into our attic in the winter for years because I could see my breath and to this day if I even hear the name “Regan” I get the shakes… literally. The moral to this story is to always listen to your mom. I don’t regret that night, it is a fun memory that I have shared with my daughter on many an occasion. Especially those occasions when she thinks she knows best.
A lot happened between 1978 and 1979. We moved 3 times within a one year timeframe. Our final move would be from Yonkers to Mahopac, New York. I didn’t leave this house until my wedding day 13 years later.
On our first day in the new house, with moving boxes strewn about, my two brothers decided to go out and put up a bike ramp in the middle of our street which, I might add, was a pretty steep hill. Eddie decided to play Evel Knievel and literally flew his bike over the ramp. Of course, when you try to fly when you are 9 or any time for that matter, you don’t usually land gracefully. He skidded across the gravel on his face (the streets in our neighborhood hadn’t been paved), and he spent the next several hours in the emergency room. His face was puffy, his eye was swollen shut and water on the knee forced him to use crutches for the next couple of weeks.
At this point, my mom started dabbling in sewing and started to make some of our clothes. She may have enjoyed her new hobby, but she was no Betsy Ross. She worked all summer on my “First Day of School” outfit. Since I have no photograph to share (thank goodness), let me paint a picture for you:
My pants were gauchos made of this industrial strength denim that made me appear to be a triangle when I stood straight. They were more for wearing in a school play about Polygons than at a place where I was trying to make a good first impression. I don’t know why, but the material of choice for the neck of my shirt was an elastic band. Thank goodness I had a scrawny little neck otherwise I may have choked to death. To top off the look, I wore knee highs and saddle shoes. It’s a wonder I made any friends. It would seem that both my brother and I were doomed at this point, but it gets better.
While all the other kids had Adidas and Nike sneakers, I had the privilege of wearing Cal-Pros for PE (remember the Caldor sneaker?). When I went to gym that first day, I didn’t realize that one of my shoes was about 2 sizes bigger than the other. Apparently, mom accidentally grabbed two different sizes from the bin. I remember lining up the toes of my shoes so that no one would notice.
While I was in this particular gym class outside, my brother Eddie was on the playground about a couple of hundred feet away. I remember looking up and noticing his familiar face, when suddenly this awful girl shoved him down in the dirt. The poor boy was defenseless, crutches and all. I took off like a bullet, leaving my gym class behind to go to his rescue. I stood up to that girl like I’ve never stood up to anyone before. I don’t know what came over me. I guess it was that protective thing, like when I was trying to save him from drowning several years earlier.
This was the third school this year for me and I was completely lost. I couldn’t grasp a thing they were teaching me. I can’t remember ever struggling so much in my life. The end result was to repeat 7th grade. I thought I was going to die; I was going to be left behind. I remember crying and crying the day my parents told me. All the friends I met, this was finally a place I could really settle in and I was going to lose it all.
Dramatic, I know. I was 12. It actually wasn’t so bad. I met new friends, in addition to keeping some of the old. I got 2 jobs – Papergirl and Babysitter. I was able to make money to buy myself a pair of totally rad leather clogs and Jordache jeans. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, my parents would not buy me anything designer. They thought it was frivolous, I thought I was deprived and that I had the worst parents ever. I wore the jeans to DEATH, almost every day of the week. I finally figured out that if I told people that I had 5 pairs of the same exact jeans, I would be less embarrassed.
I’ve come to realize that everything happens for a reason. That course of action and chain of events put my life in the direction it was supposed to go in. It’s amazing how that works, isn’t it? Oh, and mom and dad, it’s okay that you didn’t buy me everything I wanted. I get it now.
My mom and dad decided that it would be best for dad to leave the army. My brothers and I were really starting to be affected by the poor education we were receiving. We moved from Tennessee (which was devastating to me) to St. Paul, Minnesota because my dad needed to receive 2 months of training for his new job in New York. I don’t remember much about Minnesota except the little boys next door and it being really cold in November. After our 2 month stint in St. Paul, our next temporary move was to Yonkers, NY while we searched for the house that we would call home for the next 27 years.
Yonkers was quite an experience. Let’s just say you had to have street smarts to live there, of which I had zilch. We had to walk to and from school every day because the city lacked a bus system at the time. I remember my mom walking us the first day so we would know how to get there and back. After that, we were on our own. I can’t remember complaining about it…ever. We just did what we had to do.
Once I got to school, I didn’t make many friends. I made the mistake of staring down a girl on the first day. How did a skinny white girl who weighed about 50 pounds soaking wet think that would go? I don’t know what I was thinking. I never stood up for myself before in my entire life, and Yonkers is where I chose to do so? I remember these girls hanging out on the street corner to give me a hard time – pushing, shoving, name calling. It was a pathetic scene. One especially nice girl hit me over the head with a baton; you know, the kind you twirl with. I’m not sure if I ever shared this with my mom. I probably didn’t want to worry her. My brothers were not spared the same type of treatment.
We rented a 2-bedroom apartment while my parents found a permanent home. My brothers and I had to share a room. I remember my dad hanging up a curtain to divide our space in half so that I could have a little privacy. The slumlord, um, I mean LANDLORD was this awful man with a tyrannical temper. He used to scream at my dad for any little mishap. The final straw was the spaghetti down the drain incident. This was cause for Big Bad Landlord to threaten my dad’s life. Rumor had it that he chased his brother-in-law around the block with a loaded gun. This rumor, whether true or not, scared my parents enough to want to get out of dodge. We immediately packed up our belongings, rented a moving van and skipped town dead in the middle of the night. It was like a scene out of The Godfather.
Just so I’m not a complete Negative Nelly, I do have one decent memory from that time period. Our upstairs’ neighbors owned a deli a couple of blocks away. I remember the little girl had rotted front teach. I always thought that it was from eating too much candy from her parents’ store. We used to go to the deli to get free candy. That’s it. That’s my good memory. Not the rotted out teeth part, but the candy part.
We all survived our 3 month stint and it made us stronger. Like my mom always said, “What doesn’t kill you, builds character.” I guess those angels were back and working overtime!