Posted tagged ‘growing up’

“Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends.”

May 8, 2017

This morning is chilly. My heat went on earlier. The sky is peppered with clouds. I’m thinking it’s a day to stay close to home. Luckily I have everything I need and everything Maddie and Gracie need.

When I was a kid, the future was a day or two away.  Once in a while, I’d be asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. That always took me aback so I chose saying teacher just to have a ready answer. I actually had no idea. I was still planning what I’d do on Saturday. I always thought that was a silly question. People like my aunt the nun asked it because they had no idea how to talk to a kid. How’s school was their other question. Good, the great non-descriptor, was my answer.

My father used to drag us to Connecticut once a year to visit my aunt the nun. She was my father’s older sister. Getting there was quite a production. We’d wear our play clothes until my father stopped at a brick highway rest stop in Connecticut where my mother cleaned us up and we put on church clothes. My aunt was always a nun to me as she became one before I was born. Those were the days of black and white habits and wimples. My aunt never seemed comfortable with our visits. Mostly she just paid attention to my father whom she called brother. He hated that. I remember how quiet the convent was. A nun would deliver cookies and lemonade almost without making a sound. She just whished. Part of the visit was always a tour of the school where my aunt taught. We’d follow behind her from the convent to the school like ducklings behind their mother. The tour was always boring. We knew what schools looked like and hers was no different, but we were glad to be moving not just sitting in the reception living room. We’d finish the tour and then go back to the convent to say our goodbyes until next year. I swear we all let out sighs of relief, even my father, as we were leaving.

I was never close to that aunt even after she ditched the habit. She used to come from Connecticut every year to spend Christmas with my parents. We were all nice to her in a stilted sort of way knowing my cousins were favored and we were abided.

My father often said you could pick your nose but not your relatives. I always thought that was gross but he was right. I offer up my aunt the nun as proof.

“Don’t try to make me grow up before my time…”

July 26, 2015

Today is overcast and dark and the air has a damp chill. It feels as if rain is pending. I hope so. It has been too long since the last rain fell.

Last night was perfect for movie night. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. Goldilocks would have found it just right. The crowd liked Breaking Away and they clapped when the Cutters won.

I lived in a project from the time I was five until I was sixteen. It was in my small town and back then the word project had no stigma attached. We never thought twice about calling it the project when we talked about where we lived. Even now, when my sisters and I remember growing up, we start our memories with, “In the project…” The houses were all duplexes made of wood. The front yards had lawns, bushes and flower gardens. We lived in a corner duplex so we had a huge front yard with a small hill leading to the sidewalk and the street. All the backyards had clotheslines, and each side of the duplex had two of those clotheslines. In the middle of the backyards, between the sets of duplexes and behind the clotheslines, was a grass-covered hill, perfect for little kids to sled on in winter and to slip ‘n slide on in summer. The project was loaded with kids of all ages. My best friend lived up above from where I lived, and she even lived in the same duplex where we had first lived. Everyone in the project was a neighbor. One of our favorite neighbors lived in the house next door and another favorite lived right beside us in the same duplex. Their side was a mirror image of ours. A few neighbors were not so friendly, but only a few.

When I talk about my childhood with someone, I usually have to explain the project, defend it somehow, as most people tend to think of projects as block after block of brick high-risers in the poorest part of any city. They never think of them as I do: a place filled with kids, ready playmates, with a grassy field of grasshoppers which jumped in front of you when you walked, an old tree for climbing, blueberries for picking, woods for exploring and a swamp perfect for catching pollywogs in spring and for ice skating on in winter. It was the best place in which to grow up. My sisters and I agree on that.

“In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else.”

April 10, 2014

I want a weapon which uses projectiles. I’m thinking a potato gun. My target is the red spawn of Satan who is constantly at the big feeder. I chase it away but it always comes back. This morning, after my second chase, I was thinking of putting barbed wire across the part of the deck rail the spawn uses for its take-off to the feeder. I’m also giving a bed of nails serious consideration or a metal cylinder. I chuckled at the picture of the spawn trying to get a paw hold on the cylinder but sliding every time. Buying a Have-a- Heart trap is another idea. I’d catch the beast and drive it so far away it would have to learn a new language. That spawn has to go!

The sun is out, but the morning is chilly. It is only 45˚ right now though it is supposed to get warmer by afternoon. I opened the front door and Fern is sleeping on the rug, sprawled in the sun streaming through the storm door. When the sun shifts, Fern too will move to the rug by the back door for the afternoon sun. Maddie is still sticking her head up under the lamp shade for the warmth from the lightbulb. The house isn’t cold, but I guess it’s not cat warm.

Today is my only lazy day, and I’m taking full advantage. Granted, I did make my bed and change the cat litter so I haven’t been a total sloth. I’m really just saving my energy as tomorrow is such a full day.

I always hated people asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had so much trouble figuring out what I wanted to be at Halloween that choosing a profession for my whole adult life when I was ten was ridiculous. I had pat answers: teacher or nurse. Which answer I gave depended upon my mood and the asker. I actually hadn’t given a thought to either one. I was a kid, not a long-range planner. No kid ever was.

I did end up a teacher but hadn’t planned on being one. I was going to be a lawyer. My dad told me law was not for women so he was against it. That didn’t matter to me. I got into law school and was also offered a teaching job, but I turned both of them down for the Peace Corps. Law school was willing to defer my admission so that was my plan after Ghana, but it never happened. I became a teacher. It seemed I had been prophetic at ten.

“There’s milestones on the Dover Road.”

April 4, 2014

Sun, we have sun. Fern is even lying by the front door where the sun is streaming through the glass onto the floor. It is chilly still, but spring chilly, not winter cold. Today is the home opener for the Red Sox. The pre-game will have much hoopla as they will be receiving their World Series rings and the championship flag will be raised. My friends and I are watching together and will be eating baseball food as if we were at the park only we’ll be warmer and closer to the bathroom. I’ll be wearing my new Red Sox sweatshirt, a gift from my sister at Christmas. It’s red as befitting the team and the holiday.

When I was young, I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to the future. It always amazed me when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t know what I was going to do on Saturday let alone in ten or fifteen years. When I was twelve, I couldn’t wait to be thirteen, a teenager with all the rights and privileges which came with that magic number. When I turned thirteen, there wasn’t any magic. I was shocked. My sixteenth birthday, my sweet sixteenth birthday, was a total disappointment. We were on vacation with my aunt and uncle and my birthday was their anniversary so the cake had Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary written across it. I hated it. I wanted fireworks and balloons as this was a significant birthday, a milestone, but, instead, it was a total bust. Eighteen didn’t mean much in those days. We were all waiting to be twenty-one, the big birthday with so much attached. My twenty-first birthday lived up to its hype. My boyfriend at the time gave me a magnum of champagne, and my friends took me out to dinner. They got drunk and forgot to pay the bill so I did. I registered to vote. According to the law, I was now an adult. I took that with mixed emotions.

The last big celebration was when I turned sixty. My sister flew out from Colorado, and the three of us, my two sisters and I, spent the day in Boston, took a tour of Fenway and went to the ballgame. That was my gift from them, and it was great one.

Birthdays are special to me, each one a milestone, another year of life well-lived. It’s not my birthday. I just got to thinking.

“Adulthood is accretive by nature, a thing which arrives in ragged stages and uneven overlaps.”

December 28, 2013

I collect hats. They hang from nails on the bottoms or tops of the bookshelves, which one depends on your orientation. I tend to think they hang from the bottom shelves. My friend gave me two new hats for Christmas. One is your basic black perfect for almost any occasion. The other is white fur with ear flaps and a red Soviet hammer and sickle pin on the front. I figure red is not an accident. It is now my favorite hat.

Today is warmer than yesterday. Gracie has been in and out all morning. She is my temperature gauge. The longer she is out, the warmer the weather.

When I was a kid, relatives trying to make conversation sometimes asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I figured it was just one of those polite questions asked right after concerns about my health and before I was dismissed, the pleasantries being finished. The health I could answer, but what I wanted to be was elusive. I answered cowgirl once in my Dale Evans phase, but I didn’t actually think I’d ride a horse and work on a ranch. Lois Lane was about the most interesting woman on TV back then. She was a reporter but not just any reporter. She was dedicated to getting the news no matter what. Lois often found herself in trouble but Superman always saved her, and her story made front page. Reporter was a possibility. I never imagined myself in pearls, short heels and a dress so being a Mrs. Cleaver or a Mrs. Stone was out of the running. I read a book from the library about Nellie Bly, and she became my heroine. I wanted to be Nellie Bly. Not only was she a reporter but also a world traveler and a muckraker. She taught me to disregard boundaries: I can do anything.

I went to college, the first in my family to attend. It pushed the boundaries, but I didn’t think of it that way. I just figured it would give me time to work out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.”

September 21, 2012

It was only 5:00 when I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed. I am not a fan of this early in the morning. It is too reminiscent of my working days when every morning started in the dark, but I can now see a tiny glimmer of the morning light in the gray sky and that makes me glad.

It is as if I never went anywhere.

My town, where I grew up, has three churches on three street corners across from each other. The Catholic church is two blocks down the street. Both funeral homes are on the same street and are right beside each other. That street is convenient to all four churches. The police department, the town hall and the fire department are basically on the same block, one right after the other. When I was young, the fire and police were in the same building, but the town and the police department grew so the police needed their own building. The bowling alleys are gone now. There were once two, and each of them was candlepin, the kind of bowling where you use three small balls per frame. Candlepin bowling is a New England thing. We all grew up playing it, and the bowling alley was a spot for Friday nights with your friends. My town has a good Italian restaurant which is always filled. You need a reservation. It used to have only a Chinese restaurant, but now it has Thai and Indian restaurants. I have eaten at both, and the food is excellent. I know of two Dunkin’ Donuts and neither one has a drive-up window. There is no bakery and no bookstore, but there is a wonderful library built with money from Andrew Carnegie. I remember reading the plaque about that when I was standing in the doorway out of the rain when I was younger. The two golf courses are on the edges of the town in two different directions. I never knew anyone who played golf. My mother had her senior prom at the club house of one of those courses. I have never even seen it as it is off the road, and I’ve not had the inclination to go look. The movie theaters are gone, but the one from my Saturday matinée days is now a theater which presents wonderful plays. My sister and I have the tradition of seeing their Christmas play and then eating at that really good Italian restaurant.

My sister lives in my old town, and I don’t visit enough. The ride is only about an hour and a half, but I’m lazy about making the trip. I have to change that. When I do visit, I like to take a memory tour and ride the familiar streets. I go through uptown and check out the buildings and any changes, I go see the house where I grew up, my elementary school, the field where the park was and, on the way, I remember which friends lived where. I am reminded that it was wonderful place in which to grow up.

“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”

August 21, 2010

It was a team effort. One of the cats dispatched the mouse, and Gracie went sniffing around this morning and found it. My guess is the event happened Thursday night because the house was cleaned that day, and yesterday morning I found the three large pillows (sit-on ones piled against the wall) askew. The deceased was lying beside them, but I obviously missed the body when I straightened the pillows. It was, after all, a small mouse. CSI was busy so I disposed of the remains. I thanked both cats and Miss Gracie for their assistance.

The day is again lovely. I woke earlier than usual and remembered I had forgotten to buy cream  for my coffee so Gracie and I went to Dunkin’ Donuts. The roads were clear, and it was so early I was only the second car in line. When I came home, I went straight to the deck. The air still had a bit of chill left over from the cool night. None of the neighbors were stirring. It was just Gracie, me and a few hungry birds.

I lived in a project until I was sixteen. It was in my small town and back then the word project had no stigma attached. We never thought twice about calling it the project when we talked about where we lived. Even now, when my sisters and I remember growing up, we start our memories with, “In the project…” The houses were all duplexes made of wood. The front yards had bushes and flower gardens, and the backyards were  interconnected but separated by plots of grass. In the middle, behind the clotheslines in the backyards, was a grass covered hill, perfect for little kids to sled on in winter and for a slip ‘n slide in summer. The project was loaded with kids of all ages. My best friend lived in the project and even lived in the duplex where we had first lived. Everyone in the project was a neighbor. One of our favorite neighbors lived in the house next door and another favorite lived right beside us in the same duplex. Their side was a mirror image of ours. A few neighbors were not so friendly, but only a few.

When I talk about my childhood with someone, I usually have to explain the project, defend it somehow, as most people tend to think of projects as block after block of brick high-risers in the poorest part of any city. They never think of them as I do: a wonderful place to grow up, a place with a field filled with grasshoppers, an old tree, blueberries, woods and a swamp perfect for catching pollywogs in spring and for ice skating on in winter.