Friday, February 18, 2011

Childhood Home

Home meant different things at different ages. Music highlighted the various stages of my growing awareness. Let’s just say The Beatles reigned in Tillson Elementary School. At eleven, I can still remember the cute boys, the portable record player and the songs we danced to outside during recess. I remember riding home in the back seat of the school bus bouncing high every time we hit a bump on the twisting old country roads, my friends and I giggling in our bright new clothes just picked up from layaway at Sears and J.C. Penney, my long straight brown hair tied back in a ponytail and fastened with a matching colored band.

I woke up early during school days. It got really cold in the winter in upstate New York. The old furnace in the basement only managed to warm up the downstairs. The upstairs bedrooms were another story. The feather down comforter that grandma sent from Germany, pulled up to my chin, was all that protected me from the frigid air. I would lay out my school clothes the night before, dress, tights, shoes all neatly arranged, and  pull them on as quickly as I could. Goosebumps would cover my arms and legs on those mornings. I loved having my own room. I had my own portable TV and Stereo where I could practice singing, She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand, into my hairbrush each night. The door had a floor length mirror, so I could inspect myself before I went downstairs. My sisters had to share a room down the hall; being the eldest had its advantages.

Dad  usually left the hall window partially cranked open. I could see my breath as I closed it each morning. The glass always had a layer of frost on it. The black banister would shake from us girls sliding down it; at the bottom the post provided a landing. Sometimes if we hit it just right it would fall off and roll down the hall. Dad never got around to fixing it along with many other things that remained in a virtual state of unfinished; small things like baseboards without molding, wires suspended from the ceiling, the bathroom tub that needed a new hot water knob. We used a wrench to turn it on. It became a permanent fixture. I remember how my Mother would hound him about the closet doors in their bedroom that were never hung. One time he bought Mom a dishwasher, but she only used it once, because he never found the time to get the necessary hook-up to permanently install it. The one time she did use it, he had jury rigged a hose from the back of the dishwasher to the kitchen faucet that he took off of the washing machine. He was always going to do it LATER. There was always some reason why he didn’t have time, or couldn’t get the necessary part. He always had a truckload of excuses, like the neighbor needed his expert help with a project. This usually started another argument about getting PAID for all that help, which he never did.

Poor Mom, she did her best to supplement Dad’s salary and feed and clothe her three girls. She went to work after my sister Angie was born and still hasn’t stopped. I was seven years old and I remember this because I was elected to babysit my two year old sister for twenty minutes, five days a week, until Dad got home. She started as a night cleaning lady in an office building and now at seventy five, she still works part-time preparing salads at the deli in the local supermarket, three days a week.

Meanwhile Dad retired thirty five years ago, stating that there wasn’t anything suitable for someone with HIS qualifications. Mom waited over fifty years for him to finish this and that, and now she has to beg her sons-in-law, because Dad has dementia. He thinks the neighbors are trying to steal his identity. He still drinks too. On a recent visit I took to see them, Angie and I caught Dad acting completely normal when he was out spending time with friends. Mom is still in denial about everything. She says that it’s too late, she can’t leave him now. My other sister chalks it up to LOVE. Wow, all I can say is, “If that’s love, Mom’s a NUN!” Today’s song would have to be, Call Me When You’re Sober by Evanescense, I learned early on exactly what I did and didn’t want my home life to turn out like.