Age 11: The Year of the Bully
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!