So, this is me.
I am the young one, right there, on the right side of the dinner table. I was precocious, or so I was told. I am the youngest in this scenario and over to my right is my Mother. There she is, typical in many ways but unique in others.
Then again, this is the 1970’s and the world was a different place back then. Mom was not afraid of work nor was she afraid of the corporate world. In fact, Mom held different jobs from stewardess to working at Pepsi. Mom was never intimidated by work. Maybe this is because Mom left her childhood home when she was young.
I remember when Mom took a job at Howard Johnson’s. She wasn’t there very long. I’m not sure about the timeline of this event but Mom worked at “Ho-Jo’s” until something happened. Something happened which I was too young to understand what it was and far too young to inquire about.
I know there was an emergency call to my Father, whom I will always refer to as The Old Man, and when the call came, I never saw him move this way. He was quick and serious – and the serious part is something that I had seen before but nothing was like this. He was afraid.
The Old Man grabbed a bunch of towels and dressed me. He put me in his work truck and then we rushed over to get Mom.
I didn’t understand the towels or the notion of Mom’s bleeding. But then again, most young children don’t know about Mom parts or what an emergency hysterectomy is either. I think I was told that the “Baby Shop” was closed. But I never asked why or what happened. No, I just witnessed something.
Mom had red hair. She was naïve about certain things; but true to her nature, Mom was a typical Mom. She enjoyed her place at home. At least it seemed that way. She was young then; although in fairness, this was so long ago that I can hardly remember. I do remember her as beautiful.
She would smile. There were times when Mom was angry or frustrated. Mom knew she wasn’t perfect.
She was never halfway about anything – at least not in my eyes. If she was going to be a wife then Mom wanted to be the perfect wife. If she was going to be a Mom, then Mom wanted to be the perfect Mom.
To be clear, Mom was somewhat of a “Brady Bunch” Mom. She was unaware of so much but at the same time, Mom tried to understand. She cooked meals and took care of the house but in true fashion, Mom was a typical housewife. She liked this part. She liked her home in the suburbs. She liked taking care of us and, of course, Mom loved taking care of her husband, my Father (AKA The Old Man).
As for my Father, there he is right there.
He is the one sitting at the head of the table and yes, you guessed it. My Father is the one with the big piece of chicken on his plate. He’s the so-called bread winner, blue collar, hardworking, intense, impatient as well and, good or bad, this was his home. This was the way my Old Man lived. He was up before the sun and home after the sunset.
The Old Man was a licensed steam-fitter which meant that he worked with piping, heating and oil burners. As a man who was born out of the depression, The Old Man was not too understanding about the way life was for me or my Brother.
As for my Brother, he is the one sitting on the left side of the dinner table. He is the family hero. He is the family athlete. He is strong and well-liked. He is perhaps the Old Man’s favorite because my Brother is an athlete. And me, well . . .
I was small and young.
I was trying to learn and understand about the way things went. However, I offer this view of us as humble as can be. I do this with reason.
We were a small family in a somewhat small town, which was somewhat young and somewhat emerging from the Vietnam era.
There was history in my town which, again, was still growing. There was a field which used to belong to an air force base that had shut down long before we moved in.
There was something country-like about our town.
There was something wholesome about us. Then again, I was still very young.
I had more to see and more to learn. However, this was my point of view.
This is what I witnessed. This is where I met my first real heroes and like I said, there was Mom and The Old Man, there was my Brother, Dave, who was like a legend to me. He was big and strong. Then again, I guess everyone is big and strong when you are small and young.
My home was a small cape with a downstairs and an upstairs and a basement which was finished with a bar and a couch. If my memory still serves me, there was an upper and lower oven behind the bar.
I think the oven was rarely used. If I’m not mistaken, I have a memory of a family gathering with cousins and aunts and uncles. This is my first memory of a family gathering.
There are other people in this scenario who will fail to make the cut, which is not to say that I did not have sisters and another brother. I did.
I didn’t know much about them and again, I was too young to inquire and much too young to understand the complications of divorce or the concepts of The Old Man having a life before me.
The same went for Mom. I never saw either of them as humans or as people with a life that went on outside of our family.
They were parents and somewhere in our minds, at least to me, parents are not really human.
They don’t think or feel like other people. They’re supposed to know everything. They’re the first fixers in our life; at least, this is who I thought they were supposed to be. So, therefore, we take these lessons from our youth and we hold these memories which we have witnessed since an early age and we hold them close, without questioning our versions of normal because to us, this was life. This was my family and this was my normal.
I was a witness.
Just a witness. That’s all.
Small as I might have been, like all children – I was a sponge. I was set to absorb all that I had seen and all that went on. I was there in this young vessel which I called my body or like the great Ram Dass refers to it as my “Spacesuit.”
Our home fit the times. We had wood paneling on the walls. We had furniture that matched the décor of a typical middle-income home in the 1970’s. We had a kitchen, which was Mom’s domain.
Mom and The Old Man had the bedroom upstairs across the hall from me.
Dave had the bedroom downstairs which meant it was easier for Dave to get away with things. But me, Mom and The Old Man were across the hall so, I had to keep it down.
My bedroom was upstairs and to the left. I had a small twin sized bed. I had a series of stuffed animals each one with its own personality and one of them who is named Tuffy which is someone who I will tell you about in a later chapter.
I never had a Grandfather. Only two Grandmothers. One was named Grandma Lena and the other was Grandma Lu.
Grandma Lu was my Mother’s mom. But Mom and Grandma Lu never got along very well.
Mom said that since her Father, my Grandpa Dave died when Mom was only ten, Grandma Lu was never mentally fit nor did she ever recover. So, without much detail, Mom seldom spoke about what it was like to grow up in Carlsbad, New Mexico,
Safe to say, a lot of Mom’s history was a mystery to me. The same can be said about The Old Man. Plus, I was too young to inquire and too young to understand. The reason I know this is because I would ask and The Old Man would tell me, “You’ll understand more when you get older.”
As for Grandma Lena, she is someone else who will come in a later chapter.
As for my bedroom, this is where I slept. This is where I dreamt. This is where I’d play pretend and where I was taught to play fair and share everything. I never had many toys. I only had a few matchbox cars which were not the coolest cars and certainly not as cool as the cars that some of the other kids had in my kindergarten class.
I didn’t like that class either, nor did I get along with the other kids. I didn’t like them. I didn’t like the idea that something about me was different; that something about me didn’t fit in and somehow, it seemed like the kids in the class all knew each other. As for me, I was like a stranger, smaller than everyone else and unaware about the lessons that would come with this type of exposure.
Perhaps this is why I’m writing this to you.
Maybe this is what I want to tell you about.
We are all witnesses to the world. We see things which alter or change our perspective. Yet, at the beginning of our purest selves and at the moments of our early wholesomeness, we are witnesses to the world. We see everything. We soak up information even if its misinformation or damaging – we take what we see as fact and we believe what we are taught.
Why wouldn’t we?
This is life, right?
This is me. I am that one right there in the picture.
I am smiling. I am young. I am on the verge of so many new things.
I am at the sunrise of my life with an abundance of time ahead of me and a plethora of tomorrows.
This is my little home complete with a little aluminum rowboat in the backyard, which was off to the left hand corner in the rear of the yard.
This was my fantasy machine. I would sit in this boat and pretend to fish for hours- absolutely hours and, to me, there was nothing better than this,
I used a twig as my imaginary fishing pole. I was alive in this little boat and perhaps what I was really doing was re-enacting a time when I saw The Old Man at his happiest.
Maybe this is where my amazement comes from when it comes to the sea.
This was my first memory of fishing, which has faded and is small – but I do remember a picture in my mind of me holding a small fishing rod and someone helping me reel up the line – I think we snagged a little starfish and, to me, this was my first greatest day.
This is amazing enough that I can detail this frame in my head, so perfectly, so vividly which, to me, this is why I can understand what was so fascinating about the little aluminum rowboat in the backyard. I get why I would sit in this for hours, just dreaming, wishing, and waiting for the next chance to go fishing with The Old Man.
As raw as this might be, my hope is to define this as pure and true. Therefore, this is me at the beginning. This is the sunrise of my life – young, hopeful and dreaming for a feeling that is as new as the first light of day.
This is me at the core. No layers. No buffer. No filters or disguises.
Just me – a witness through the window.