I have pages and pages of this kind of thing, hope ya\’ll don\’t get too bored. lol Or please don’t read
My earliest memory is driving down the street with my mother, going into a strange building, with strange smells, strange people, strange to me were things and people I didn’t know. I felt shy and scared to be left in this new environment. Tho it didn’t take long to start feeling at home. There were other children my age, I had never before seen so many 3 and 4 year olds. This was another experience new to me, no older kids bossing me around, like at home. When you first walked in, you stepped into a big room filled with books and games, and in one corner stood a grand ole piano. The elderly ladies, that ran the school, well older than my mother anyway, were kind and gentle and made you feel right at home. Yes, I had been scared at first, but I soon began to accumulate happy memories from the Golden Days Preschool. One room was filled with bunk beds lined with soft gold colored blankets, here we rested while being read a story, til slumber overcame most of us. We planted our very own vegetable gardens, I had never grown my own food and was put in charge of my own little row of radishes, when harvest day finally arrived, I excitedly picked my first bunch, then ran as fast as I could to the water faucet. I rinsed the soil off my shiny red gem and proudly took my first big bite of a radish. I was horrified when I realized this harsh, peppery flavor was the result of all the months of labor and anticipation that had built up over the last months. It felt like a trick had been played on me, no one could actually enjoy this little vegetable. I soon forgot about my radish experience even tho, til this day, I pick them out of my big adult salads. There were other more pleasant treats to enjoy, like treasure hunts, with +5 and 10 cent prizes. +One morning a newspaper man came to the school, with the intent of selecting one child to have their picture in the paper. I was scared when he selected me and sat frozen while an artist painted a clock on my face. The next day, I was shown the paper with my picture on it, letting everyone know that soon the time was changing, falling back, or was it falling forward.
She looked at the pale yellow liquid in her glass, when had she started to feel so bad? There was always a feeling of not being good enough. Nobody ever said it but she knew, she wasn’t as smart as her sisters or brother, wasn’t as popular and well liked as her friends, she just tagged along and got accepted by a process of association. A scream of “WAIT” came from down the hall. Mother was getting dinner on the table, everyone signed because they knew they had to wait a few more minutes before they could chow down. Jody ran to the kitchen table and placed little itsy bitsy cards on the plates. She had taken great pains to make sure she used each of their favorite colors and something they especially liked on the cover, if she wasn’t sure, hopefully a guess would do. First, Kristan, the oldest, always purple, maybe horses or whatever hobby she liked at the time. Mitch being the only boy, had to get a masculine color, like green or brown. Brown was too boring, so green was usually his color. Kim, she was my pal, being closest in age, and sharing a room growing up, she was the sibling I knew and liked the best. Mostly, I love you’s were written on the inside. Everyone quickly exclaimed “how cute” then turned their attention to dinner, talking about the day, school, the news, TV, or yelling about spilt milk. Even then she couldn’t put it into words, but something was wrong in the house, something nobody ever talked about, maybe love notes could fix it, maybe love noted would make everyone happier.
Kim and I had our usual bedtime games, up in the air, where she would place her feet on my tummy and I would sail high in the air, or maybe just a little jumping on the bed, hopefully stopping right before the bed slats would break yet once again. If Kim wanted to stop, her favorite was the burping game, each person takes turns burping, starting with one on up. I can’t believe I kept attempting this one, for Kim, my sister could shoot them out like a machine gun, while I slowly squeezed one out painfully at a time. I loved playing our night games, even with all our fights, I loved sharing our room. When I was sad or scared, I would ask in a tiny voice, “could I climb into bed with you”, and even tho I know many a time she wanted to say no, she never did, she always said yes. Kim was my savior through childhood and I adored her. She tolerated me at her birthday parties, camp fire girl meetings and wherever and whenever I could sneak myself in. So, when I was about 10 and she was 13-14, and started to act out and go a little wild, getting drunk, into drugs and boys, part of me knew I had lost my childhood sister.
I started Kindergarten in 1963, the year President Kennedy died. I was too young to feel the importance of the time or should I say to know the importance, regardless, I felt them, it was my important time, my growing up time. My not knowing and not understanding life around me. When I look back, I remember a lot of good times, but I can only remember feeling bad. There is a logical explanation for most things, but logic and feelings don’t always go together. I believe truth is important and when truth is hidden, especially to children, they grow up troubled, not understanding what they are feeling or why. For starters, my parents’ marriage wasn’t a happy one, of course they tried to pretend, they were pretending to us kids, but even more they were pretending to each other. I remember many times waking up to hear the yelling, loud angry voices, coming from the next room, my parents room. All I could do was listen and cry. Kim, who I had the good fortune of sharing a room with, would tell me, “everything’s OK, just go back to sleep“. Poor Kim, trying to assure me, what was OK, parents yelling at each other in the middle of the night, once again everyone acting like nothing had happened, nothing was wrong. Families are good, you’d think they had special training they’re so good, so good at never talking about what’s wrong. Never talking about what everyone feels, and never speaking, each holding it to themselves. Even Kim, who coaxed me back to sleep those countless nights, never said a word. So we lived in the trusted, happy daylight of our youth, while Mom tried extra hard to make things a little more wonderful for us. We had a little more Xmas lights, more Halloween decorations and extra Valentine’s Day Card. Late at night we had an unhappy house, but at other times we were the envy of all the children we knew.
The red light went on and started to blink, she couldn’t believe this was happening again. Oh, she knew she’d been playing Russian Roulette for years, and losing. She knew the routine, why bother trying to pass any tests, they always did the test that counts, “THE BREATHALIZER”, the test that always did her in. It was not only having to deal with alcoholism, but she had the disease of drinking and driving too.
Finishing First Grade had been harder than I expected, but it was done. I hadn’t felt much, said much, or thought much, I had been ill with mononucleosis, and been kept out of school a good half of the year. I didn’t ask or want attention for being sick, don’t you have to do something special to get all this attention? The doctors had told my family I might have leukemia. Mitch’s sensitive side was shone to me for the first time, not to be the last. He was young and full of compassion and asked Mom and Dad, “Why couldn’t it be him, Jody was so young”. For me, at least this year was over, Mrs. Gaston, was passing out the report cards, wishing everyone well over the summer. I didn’t even wait until I was off school grounds before I ripped mine open, mostly A’s and B’s, a few C’s not too bad. But when I looked at the final box, homeroom and teacher, for the next year, I couldn’t believe it. “This can’t be”, it wasn’t the room or teacher, I knew to be teaching the accelerated 2nd grade class. Even tho I had a tutor when I had been at home the past months, Mrs. Gaston or Mrs. GasBomb all her students called this rather large red haired school marm, I thought this mean ugly gas bomb had held me back a year. What was I going to say to my family, my friends, everybody? The tears swelled up in my eyes, I knew I wasn’t as good as the rest, but never thought I was this awful. When I finally arrived home, and Mom soon found out what was wrong, she comforted me and tried to reassure me, I was in the second grade, just not the same classroom . This was humiliating, unbelievable, that’s what I get for being sick, something I couldn’t control. I felt like an outcast, walking into this lower class, not knowing anyone. Even when, just a few weeks after school had started, I was transferred back into my old class, I still felt horribly uncomfortable. Mrs. Miles was a beautiful, kind, young teacher, she assured me this is where I belonged. So, I was happy to be back with all my first grade buddies, but what must they think, that I hadn’t started with them. Now I not only worried about what my family thought, but what my friends had to be thinking.
One hot summer day, in the Salinas Valley, my father asked me to join him for a dip at the local motel pool, where my father new the owner, so we were privileged with a standing open invitation. This is the only memory I have of actually spending any time with my father alone. I was a little awestruck, but it was a happy memory. My father was an ex pro football player, he stood six feet, 210lbs. I was about seven and how I loved playing in the pool with him. I’d hand onto his neck and he would dive and take me under, swimming back and forth like a porpoise. I didn’t want this closeness with my father to stop, but of course it did. I could keep swimming, but my father had to snooze so he could rest up for his evening job. I am saddened to have so few memories of my father, I have tried to come to terms with this absent father of mine, really just coming to terms that their was no relationship. I tried when I was in 10th grade, to live with my father, so there might be a chance we could get to know one another, but I left, having not a clue who my father really was. My father just never talked to me about anything real and I never knew how to tell him how I felt.
Mom and aDad were both born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so it was natural for us to take some of our vacations there. I was about 7 on my first trip to the Midwest. It was summertime, so the days were hot and the nights were balmy. All the children ran barefoot all day. We would go on fire fly hunts at night. Not having fire bugs in California, this was especially exciting. We would go to my Grandma Soboleski’s farm and she would fix us scrumptious meal after scrumptious meal. She talked in a Polish accent and when we asked about her wonderful recipes, she would answer, “oh I don’t know, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” We would have races every morning to see which one could eat the most potato pancakes. After having heaping bowls filled with fresh berries and cream, the four of us would waddle to our begs again, for we had stretched our little tummies to the bursting point. She was every child’s dream Grandma. Her main mission was to keep us fed and happy. Both she did very well. We got to have our first taste of coffee, well half cream and half coffee, milkshakes late at night. Even though we didn’t get to see much of our Grandma, she made us feel loved and never have I felt so much contentment as I did, than at my Grandma’s farm.
It is strange that the father I didn’t really know had this loving mother, while at the same time, my mothers mother was a cold, unemotional woman. It is so strange because my Father seemed so distant, while my Mother’s love was felt and ran deep. We always had visits with both grandparents. Grandma Schuilling, my Mothers Mom, married into a wealthy Washington D.C. Banker, so we were always exposed to this wealthy, snobby, educationally focused influence on one side (with absolutely no fun allowed) and then this open, loving, naturally, fun filled atmosphere on the other side.
I remember my 1st Halloween, urging my mother to hurry, as I saw some children already on the street and I still had to go home and get ready. Mom always helped us make wonderful home made costumes, no cheap store bought outfits for her children. Since Mom adored making holidays special and festive, she always went all out, with decorations, making ghosts out of lamp shades, putting spiders and cobwebs in all the corners of the house. Dressing up as a Witch herself, with a scary plastic nose, that even included the traditional Witch’s wart. When the TV show The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown first came out, we all got to invite the neighborhood kids over, to watch the show after trick or treating. The whole family, even Dad had gone to the local pumpkin patch, where we got to keep as many pumpkins as we could carry. Dad carried this one humongous pumpkin, while the rest of us grabbed as many as our arms allowed. For the total neighborhood to enjoy, Mom covered our front yard with them, along with a big Charlie Brown sign. This was our normal way of celebrating all the holidays at our house.
I had my first camping experience when I was about 9 or 10. Mom always tried to give us all the family experiences she could, even if it was without a Father’s presence. We went to Big Sur, it was beautiful, with trees all around and the most exciting part, wild animals. The rangers warned everyone to be extra careful out at night, they had a rash of wild boar encounters. Well, the very first night, a big ole hairy boar with ugly yellow tusks coming out of the nostrils ran threw our camp, giving everyone quite a scare. You know how children don’t see the seriousness of things. We spent the whole week sneaking up behind each other in the night, giving out big snorting sounds, scaring each other out of our skins. Luckyfor us we didn’t have any more encounters with this ferocious beast. We did see many raccoons, deer and foxes. In fact, I did get in a bit of trouble for taking bread and leaving little trails back into our camp. My belief was only nice animals would discover my treats. Looking back I don’t see how Mom did these trips all by herself. She wasn’t a natural camper and we were much too young to be of much help. She must have got outside help to set up, what she could not. Just like when she would take us to the drive-in, four little ones in their doctor dentims. She could never park the car and would inevitable ask some kindly gent to help her, we would all melt in embarrassment, but still be happy to watch the show. My Mom always wanted us to see as much and know as much as we could about the world. Even if this meant we would be tired the next day in school, after watching a series of classic movies. We hard the coolest Mom an elementary kid could have.
I can’t remember how young I was, when I started to tell myself, I was the only one I could count on, the only one that truly loved me and I would be OK , and I wouldn’t let others hurt me or they couldn’t hurt me if I didn’t let them. I was small, maybe, six or seven. I would repeat this to myself every time I did get hurt. But, you can’t be close to people and not get hurt, and I always wanted to like everyone and have everyone like me back. So I accepted, that you get hurt and would just try not to feel it as deep. You can pretend this all you want, but no matter what you show to others, you feel it, you can try to hide it from yourself, but we all innately know truth. I tried to be a person that doesn’t get hurt, but I felt the pain of hurt all the time. When you feel kindness and love to your hurt, it reaffirms your feelings, we all need that. I remember one night as a child watching TV by myself, before everyone was in, before dinner was ready. I was watching something important to me at the time, but when Kris, Mitch and Kim all got home, my feelings weren’t important, being the youngest, I had the least say, the least influence, so my show was clicked and changed right in front of my face, with total disregard. Of course my whining and protestations were ignored, but quickly everyone forgot about the TV, dinner was almost ready, so without notice I changed it back. I was the only one watching, this was fair. When one of the others decided they wanted to watch something else, it got changed again. Mom was busy in the kitchen, so no chance of any help there. The frustration, of not counting and the inability to be heard, led me to burst into tears, running from the table. Mitch, was the only one who felt for me, he came to me, hugged me and said, if it was that important, I could turn the station back. My brother doesn’t know how important that gesture was to me. What it meant to feel he cared. What it meant to have someone hear me. Our family didn’t communicate to each other, while I was growing up, so for Mitch to acknowledge how I felt, and to understand, left me with a special spot in my heart for my brother. He did this on more than one occasion. When I was in my teens, Kim, must have been around 21, she got mixed up with Scientology for a couple years. One Christmas, when we were all home, everyone started really putting her down and showing no respect for her feelings. When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I started to cry and yell at everyone. I said, “I still love my sister and she had the right to her own beliefs.” Kristan thought I was over reacting and being silly, but once again, Mitch was the only one that heard me, and saw how upset I was, even Kim, said she didn’t need any defending. I’, closer to my sisters now, but I’ll always remember the few times I felt acknowledged growing up, it was my brother, Mitch, who did it. At times it breaks my heart to remember my brother then, for as he’s grown into an adult, he hides his sensitivity and squelches it so, it rises less and less. But, I believe what you have been is always with you and I have never lost the tenderness my brother gave to me then. He still has it, it just keeps getting covered with intolerance, success, and indifference. I still see it though, because I know it’s there.
How do you define feelings for your family? Most people love their family, but how much does that mean, if you don’t like and respect them. Is it because there is a blood relationship and you have the same genetic background? I haven’t like different people in my family at different times, but I feel I’ve always loved them. So, is love indefinable? You can lose passionate love with a partner, so that is a different kind of love. I have felt love in my heart for relatives I don’t even know very well or see that often. Is that a love from our own ego, just because they are a relation? It is the love we should feel for all mankind because, in essence, we are all related. We have just moved so far away from this love, we can only feel it in our families and sometimes not even there.
Maybe, that’s why I’m always looking for love so hard, even though I really don’t know what it is. My personal experiences have always been full of rejection and unfulfillment. Either coming from me, or someone that will never return my feelings. Or, when they do I decide it’s not right. I really don’t have the background, to enable me to recognize love. All I know is what I feel. I know I really don’t understand myself, so how can I ever expect to realize love, in a healthy manner. I ‘m 36, I still don’t expect to, I just think, I just hope, I will get better. Get better, at understanding myself and understanding what I need. I can’t go my whole life with these short term relationships, I mean five years and under. They feel fine now, but there will come a time when I’m able to grow into more, I just hope it isn’t too late.
I had met a special friend, named Jennifer, Jenny, our friendship had just started so, I wasn’t too upset when Mother would not let me invite her to my 8th birthday party at Happy Valley Park, that had kid’s rides galore, a huge 100 yard swing and gold to hunt for, Mother thought her family life was too unstable, like mine wasn’t. I tried to say the invitations already went out, I know she didn’t believe me, and I had hurt her feelings, tho we never talked about it. She knew, my Mom did not approve of her. From the beginning of her young life, she had to deal with antagonistic adults. Her Mother died in a car accident, when she was three. Jenny, along with her older brother and sister were then left on their own, to deal with their unreasonable, unbalanced Father, anyway they could. Right from the start we connected in a special way. I refused to let our friendship fade, even when my Mother tried and tried to break us up, I would persevere each time, unwilling to lose my new precious friend, I felt such a kinship for. We had secret meetings at the Tot Lot Park between our two houses, all the while I pressured and pleaded with my Mother, until there was nothing for her to do, but accept this new little girl, that I could not be without. This was a friendship that was to endure over the years. I think I was more concerned about my friendship with Jenny, than I was when my parents were breaking up, which happened at the most confusing time in my life, or any pre-teen, Junior High time.
My first year of Junior High I didn’t know who I was either. I had started to feel sub-conscious about my looks and popularity at the end of grade school. When everyone had gone steady at least once in sixth grade, I figured my never melting baby fat was the reason, because, it couldn’t be that nobody just plain didn’t like me. My best friend was Jenny, one, if not the most popular girl in my class. They liked me, just not in the way they like the other cute girls. That is what I wanted to believe. So, my dependence on Jenny grew, she could make friends and I came along, just like a package. Jenny was busy, finding her new popularity in a new school and fighting her own troubles at home, which kept her running away from her Father, which in turn left me to fend for myself. I had other friends to turn to, but they were finding new friends too, but no one could ever replace Jenny in my mind. I spent many a day in the library having lunch alone. Or, I, too would meet someone new, I thought could be my good, good friend. Jenny as usual would return home and I would be so excited and happy that any new friends I had made were quickly forgotten and faded away.
At my home front things weren’t too much better. I was awakened once more by a loud disturbance in the house. My Father was pounding on the front door, after my Mother had bolted the bolt that never bolted. I can hear it, just three thunderous pounds and the final burst. Kristan was standing there next to Mother, they yelled at Kim and I to go back to bed. We listened terrified, this fight was different. My Father went and packed his suitcase, not speaking. Kim and I ran and got in the car, with just our p.j.’s on. We were crying, not wanting to go and not wanting to stay. My Father yelled one last time, to get back into the house. We did, and we watched him drive away.
We drove through the small town in a down pour of rain, well at least this new city felt like I did inside, gray and gloomy. I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening. We had left the home I grew up in, two hours ago, left the town I knew so well, my childhood friends, that I grew up with, especially my best friend Jennifer. Before my parents had divorced, the ones I supposedly hated, my sisters and brother, had been there. Now, Kristan was married, Mitch went off to college and Kim had talked Mom into letting her stay behind to finish her senior year. Even when Mom had first gotten remarried there had been a couple step-brothers at the house. They had joined their Mother in Georgia. Now, here I was driving into this bleak little town, leaving behind, all I knew in my thirteen years of life. Mom was happily chatting away “and on your left is the high school you’ll be attending, Jody,” ugh, now I’ll really be alone. I don’t remember making new friends, ever, since all my friends had always been there. I tried to get excited about picking out my own room, in this new upscaled house we moved into. All I could do was dream about the many visits, I planned to make, back to my old stomping grounds, and keeping my connection with Jennifer, my long-legged, blonde beauty, my direct line to friends and popularity. How was I going to exist here all alone?
After my first few months in Pleasanton, something strange began to happen. I met all the teens in my neighborhood and was beginning to become very popular, all the boys asked me out. The girls invited me to their homes. It was 1972 and life was one big party. I was dumb founded when I started school, and upon entering the bathroom, if you could see through the smoke, you were offered almost a complete array of your drug of choice. I was always one to try anything at least once so I soon began to look forward to what mind altering substance I would try the next day. Back in Salinas, Jennifer and I had just started to experiment with drinking, pot smoking, a little hash, but not anywhere near the scale of which was going on in this hoity toity school. I became an expert at cutting class, starting this new school by signing my Mother’s signature to everything myself. Soon, I had my first true boyfriend with a school ring and everything. I had accepted before I even knew what I was doing, the novelty of it all. Soon, I had my first of many experiences in breaking up with a boy and having them get mad, when actually they were really hurt and feeling pain and sorrow.