Sunday, November 13, 2005

Misty Memories Down Through Time

I remember my birth. I know that sounds like a false memory, but I’m convinced I can remember erupting into this world, being squeezed under tremendous pressure and then emitting a lusty cry in response to a new, cold environment. I remember having something stinging put into my eyes. I remember the lights that were so bright, and I remember the noises.

I next remember lying on a bed and crying furiously because I couldn’t get my hand to my mouth. I desperately wanted to suck my thumb and couldn’t. I remember my mother zipping me into a bunting up to my neck with my hands inside. I remember there were windows high up on the wall to my right in this room. I later found out this was my parents’ bedroom in back of the store where we lived.

I remember nursing at my mother’s breast. I remember the warmth of her body, the smell of her skin, and the taste of her milk. I remember the pleasure of nursing was almost sexual. I remember her singing me to sleep.

I remember lying in a baby buggy outside the store, all bundled up, taking a nap while my mother worked inside the store.

I remember being bathed in a large tin wash tub in the kitchen behind the store. We had a toilet but there was no bathtub.

I remember playing in the back yard where there was a huge tree outside our back door behind the store. Every spring this tree would drop long, red seeds that to me looked like worms lying on the ground. One day, when my mother was working in the store, I found myself standing alone in the back yard, looking down, and suddenly realizing that the ground was covered with these long, red seeds. I remember standing on tiptoes, screaming my lungs out that the worms were going to get me, and waiting for someone to rescue me. I remember the relief I felt when my mother finally heard my screams and came and took me in her arms. I was saved.

I remember my sister tormenting me throughout my childhood with worms and bugs that she had found, chasing me around the house and yard while I cried hysterically. I was traumatized for life.

I remember coming down with ringworm on my scalp from playing with stray cats and stray dogs and my mother shaving my head. Every morning she would apply kerosene to my head and then wrap it in a scarf. This burned terribly and I cried and cried. I was also mortified that my head was shaved.

I remember my sister burying a box of cookies in the back yard because she wanted to grow a cookie tree. That was her first experiment in horticulture. Everyone thought she was so cute.

I remember my sister had a dolly named Hilda that she carried around everywhere.

I remember the time I broke my nose. My grandparents lived in the house across the back yard. There were several trees next to this house that we loved to climb. One day, as I was climbing, the branch broke and I fell and broke my nose. I remember blacking out, not being able to catch my breath, and suddenly finding myself in the store with my mother. I guess my sister took me to the store. I ended up with a swollen face and black and blue eyes for a long time.

I remember I sucked my thumb for many years and my mother did everything to stop me, including putting hot pepper on my thumbs. Nothing deterred me.

I remember around age five when we moved from the back of the store to the house next door that belonged to my grandparents. My parents and my sister and I were to live in the four-room apartment downstairs and my grandparents were to live upstairs. I remember walking back and forth carrying things for my mother. I soon got very tired.

I remember "capturing" a large grey cat in our back yard and naming him Smitty The Kitty. I loved this cat and he lived at our house for more than 15 years before he died of old age. All through school he would go to the end of our block and wait for me as I walked home, then he would walk the rest of the way home with me, always glad to see me. He continued this until I graduated from high school. I hated leaving him when I left home at age 18. He was part of our family and I still have many pictures of him.

I remember sharing the (patented) Murphy In-A-Door-Bed with my sister. This bed was in the living room and we slept there until we were in our teens (except for a short period of time when my mother put a bed in the dining room for us). I remember we had no privacy.

I remember when I was six my father walking me to the Lafayette School to enroll me in kindergarten. I was extremely shy and desperately clung to his leg all the while hiding my face. I liked school after a while because they had a nice playroom, lots of toys, and the teacher, Mrs. Hoag, served snacks in the morning and afternoon.

I remember becoming sick at age six. The doctor came to the house to examine me. I remember the pain came and went. It hurt a lot in my right side. The doctor said to bring me to the hospital the next morning. I remember standing in line with my father at the hospital (St. Margaret’s), having a blood test, then being admitted. I remember being taken to the operating room and someone putting a mask over my face. I tasted something nasty. The next thing I remember was my mother was there and I was throwing up when I woke up. I had had my appendix removed. I was in the hospital for ten days. During that time, I was allowed up once a day in a wheelchair as I regained my strength. I remember one day seeing a room with a lot of babies in little cribs. I snuck in to play with the babies. The next thing I knew the nurse caught me playing with the babies, screaming at me, and sending me back to bed. I cried and cried, and I wanted to go home.

I remember lots of cousins and lots of family dinners. My mother had five brothers and sisters, so there were always many family members around for all kinds of activities. We had picnics, played games, and ate a lot. On Sunday afternoons, my Uncle Morry and Aunt Lil would pick us up in their big car and we would all take a Sunday drive to Chicago. They had three kids, so there were nine of us in the car. My Uncle Morry would drive about 30 miles per hour on the Outer Drive toward the Loop (he was the model for the original Sunday driver). I remember sitting in the back seat sucking my thumb and being lulled to sleep.

One evening the family was at our house for dinner. All the cousins decided to put on a skit. We dressed Cousin Jerry up as the Doctor and Cousin Howard as the patient. The rest of us were nurses and spectators. The skit went as follows: All the parents and grandparents were in the audience. We made an operating table from a couple of chairs and a tablecloth. The patient (Cousin Howard) was placed on the operating table and covered with a sheet. The Doctor (Cousin Jerry) proceeded to open the patient up. He dug around awhile until he pulled a can of Campbell’s soup out of the incision and declared, “Cancer.” He continued to dig and came up with two more cans of Campbell’s soup and declared, “No, Tumor.” Everyone, including us, was rolling on the floor laughing. In retrospective, it’s pretty gross. But, when you think about a bunch of nutty kids ages probably eight through twelve, that’s pretty radical thinking. This little play became legend amongst the cousins and one story we continue to laugh at after all these years.

I have many, many more memories, both happy and sad. I guess that's why I'm considered the family historian because I can remember so much. Most of all, however, I remember a childhood surrounded by lots of family and friends. Like most families, some of us were nutty and some of us were thoroughly nuts. That's what makes us so interesting. Through happiness and sorrow, we were all together throughout the years. I’m glad I remember so much.

4 Comments:

At November 13, 2005 8:44 PM, Blogger MrsGreenThumb said...

It was so much fun chasing you around with the red "worms". You were so easy to tease being smaller and all.

 
At November 14, 2005 3:00 AM, Blogger Motherkitty said...

Gah!!! She did it to me again!!! It's amazing how two sentences could evoke the very same emotions of quick, hot anger and frustration felt more than 55 years ago. These words were spoken (and now written) in a soft, teasing manner, but my basic fight and flight response was the same. Now, through the tears in my eyes, I can finally laugh at myself.

 
At November 14, 2005 5:40 PM, Blogger susan said...

Wow, what a memory! Thanks for sharing a great story.

 
At November 15, 2005 6:35 AM, Blogger Alipurr said...

i am glad you remember so much too. keep writing....

 

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