Friday, April 29, 2011

Pleasantville Lives On!

Just a quick update ... my chronic living has been mostly w/in the confines of my room, and has not included writing.

I did want to mention, before I hopscotch from preschool in NJ to other things, that on Facebook I "ran into" a woman who grew up on the same street as I did in Pleasantville, NY. No, I do not know her nor did I ... she is a good 13 years younger than I am and I was out of NJ and on to upstate NY by the time she arrived.

HOWEVER, her mother still lives in Gretchen's house almost across the street from 'my' house! I can't picture Gretchen or any of her family but it was thanks to Gretchen's (German) father that I fell in love with VW's. This Car I can see AND HEAR in my head and Mr. Gretchen downshifted down the hill. It was, and is, a small car love story that exists to this day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wardlaw -

As I can remember it, other than the occasional trip to Shop-Rite, the meat market, Dr. Lathrop's, and Fred Lippert's for Children, I don't remember going out much during the week as a child. Part of that was the late 50's/early 60's regime of the one car family and part of it was the roles men and women assigned themselves. (Please don't tell me society gave them those roles ... we can all think for ourselves. Really. Ok ... some are more likely to than others.)

But I DO remember going to Wardlaw for nursery school (imagine my surprise when DECADES later ... like this past summer I learned that part of my birthfamily lived down the street although a few years post my being there). I was four years old, so what did I know about the "status" of the school. I just knew that I didn't fit in. This was and is not an unusual theme in my life ... whether it's my T4 nature, my sworn to family secrecy "bastard" status, my not yet revealed yet suspected Jewish origin, or other things too many to recount at the moment, but I know I Did Not Like It.

I can literally see myself before heading out the door. Short ash blonde/almost gray hair, that killer "do" we all wore where our bangs were so short my "widow's peak" stuck straight out, and a pixie that could NOT be coaxed back into waves as it grows STRAIGHT FORWARD. I wore tights, a shirt w/a Peter Pan collar, a skirt with suspenders attached to them, and sturdy oxfords (ooh, how I BEGGED for "buckle shoes" to no avail!)

I don't remember a single person at Wardlaw but I DO remember the building (old and stone,) the front steps (quite a few) and the windows (LARGE!) Perhaps this is when I fell in love with old architecture. Who knows. I do know that I was deemed "gifted" which only added to my weirdness. I was tested and retested by many experts never "getting" what the big deal was. My mother was slightly embarrassed and my daddy was non-plused. I could have been a savant and he would have loved me just as intensely.

It must have been a fairly progressive place as I don't remember having to be on a certain 'schedule' other than play ground time. I remember two of the"stations" the best ... the reading and the art. In the reading section there were giant pillows on the floor, bookshelves that met a petite 4 year old's gaze, and BLANKETS. This meant I could literally curl up on a floor pillow, cover myself w/a blanket and READ ... which I apparently did more often than "they" would have preferred. If I wasn't reading I was at the easels where it is told I "favored" BOLD colors and geometric shapes. I rarely painted "pictures" but I do remember a lot of linear stuff on the front of my fridge at home. Yet it wasn't my reading ability or preference for mixing my OWN colors that worried the good folk at Wardlaw. It was my penchant for eating paste and my inability to tie my own shoes. Yes. I confess right now: I ate library paste straight from the jar. I can STILL see the paste containers and remember unabashedly digging in with my fingers. No need for a spoon. I don't think it hurt me yet it certainly was disconcerting to those around me. That tiny little girl with the pokey bangs ... there she goes again.

I will say I remember learning how to tie my shoes! My mother gave up after a couple of attempts because I was so PICKY and wouldn't let her HELP me, and my father plain old didn't care. But *I* didn't like being the only one at nursery school who couldn't tie my own shoes! I can see myself sitting on the swings in the playground staring down at my own untied sturdy oxblood oxford filled with 4 year old angst.

Would I ask for help? HECK NO! I never wondered where "THAT" came from when one of the Son's emphatically uttered, "I do it by MYself!" Doing it MYself has been something with which I STILL struggle. I'm not afraid to ask for help, I just don't like it. Even when pretty much bedridden I still tend to do what *I* can do. I will admit I now will quasi freely ask two healthy friends for help when I really NEED it and call the Sons for Tech Support probably more than they'd like, but other than that if I can't do it I DON'T do it!

So there I sat looking at my shoe as the swing slowly came to a stop. And there I sat. I can't remember his name or even what he looked like, but there was a boy on the swing next to me who said, "Tie your shoe." Was there any other possible response other than "No"? I think not. This dear boy then untied his OWN shoe and I watched intently as he tied it by himself. Then he did it again, and AGAIN. Finally, I made two bunny ears with my own laces, crossed one over and under the other and PULLED. Was this the first time I strutted? Swaggered? Nonverbally showed the world how proud I was of myself? I don't know ... but I certainly do remember it!

It was during the late winter at Wardlaw that I became ill. I didn't have the stomach flu and I didn't have a cold. I had a fever of 104 for over a week. During that time Dr. Lathrop came to my house quite frequently and I remember my mother giving me a cold bath every single day I was sick. In reality, it may not have been all that cold but to my 104 body, it felt like ICE. She'd sit me on the side of the tub, slip my nightgown off and me into the tub, pour cold water over my entire body, drag me out, sit me back down on the edge of the tub, towel me off, pour me into a clean nightgown and carry her trembling girl child back to bed. Other than that and my steadfast refusal to eat I mostly remember why I never felt the need to try hallucinogens as a teenager. Nor watch Johnny Depp's "Alice in Wonderland." My very own dresser at the end of my bed bulged oddly and grew to ceiling height while my bedroom curtains billowed out at me so much I was afraid they'd engulf me ... yet the windows were never opened and the house was heated w/radiators. Years later in upstate NY as a teenager my mother would remind me that the brain damaged boy next door suffered a week long fever as I did as a child ... and how BLESSED I was. Please, mom, tell me one more time. Yet when I look back on that week NOW, given my current medical status, I wonder if that's where it all began, the week I Fried My Brain ... and consider it medical foreshadowing.

But the coupe de humiliation was my return to Wardlaw several weeks later when Jersey was in full bloom of riotous spring and the near neon azaleas in our front yard SCREAMED for attention as I got walked out the side door resplendent in my snowsuit, boots, and mittens. Was there a need to pin a label on me stating, "this girl is a nerd now and forever more?" No. It was pretty obvious.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


When we last left off ... I was leaving Pleasantville, NY for North Plainfield, NJ ... where my dad worked the BSA in New Brunswick as the head of their audio visual department.

Ever seen old 50's Boy Scouts TV commercials w/a little lost girl? Yeah, it was black and white TV but this little lost girl had oddly ash blonde/gray hair and squinty blue eyes. This little not lost girl was me ... always rescued by an Eagle Scout. How did I love them? Let me count the ways!!

Seeing as I lived in NJ until between 7th and 8th grade, I can say with great certainty, I remember a LOT about it and only need to see TV commercials about NJ before I start saying things like, "daul" for doll and "dauwg" for dog. And I can MORE than snap a few z's.

But the first thing I remember about Greenbrook Road, is not the house, but the property. Although I had graduated from a "closet" in my parents bedroom in Westchester, in NJ I had a proper bedroom all to myself, complete with a closet of my very own and a window surveying My Land. Yup. We owned an acre of land/woods right there in North Plainfield, NJ and it might has well been a forest preserve as far as I was concerned.

Although my front yard was a mere three blocks from the infamous Route 22 and I was lulled to sleep by trucks zooming up and down it all night, it was literally out of sight, and therefore out of mind. Heavens knows, I was NOT allowed to go in the front YARD let alone cross the STREET so other than my bedtime "white noise" I only knew that Route 22 contained my favorite restaurants: "The Leaning Tower of Pizza," an A and W Root Beer place where they really DID hang a tray on the driver's side window, and the infamous "Howard Johnson's" with their 28 flavors of ice cream and killer grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh. And on the other side of it was Berkley Heights where my friend, Virginia, lived.

But most of all, I was a land owner. Ok. The daughter of a land owner. Said land was divided into three sections behind the house. The "circle" which really was a semi circle of grass complete w/requisite flower border and ginko trees separated from the "back yard" by a winding gravel driveway that came off the street, ran past the side of the house, and around the back where one could drive into the two car garage ... separated from the house by a breezeway. But most important ... were "The Woods." More importantly, MY woods.

I can honestly say there wasn't a single day from age four until 12+ when I didn't pull up my back window shade and literally gasp with awe. Jersey has hellish hot summers with humidity enough to make even my stick straight hair suggest a curl, but the pay back for that was and is exquisite springs, mild winters, and "Indian summers" that went on until Thanksgiving. Every day I gave thanks for my woods.

For the longest time I was not allowed in them alone nor even allowed to walk across the gravel driveway into the "backyard" lest I get rambunctious and dare play in the creek that bordered the property and meandered through the woods. And, quite honestly, I didn't disobey ... my own sense of guilt for disobeying as a child was enough to keep me in line, let alone the reminder of the discipline that awaited me if I didn't. It wasn't for nothing my brother called me "Good Girl."

Because I was.

So. I did the best I could with the devil on one shoulder and thoughts of being smacked with a belt on the other. I sat on the edge of the gravel with my feet planted in the "backyard" (which was really just mowed crab grass.) I'd hunch my legs up to my chest and rest my chin on my knees and plot. When the time was right, I was gonna OWN those woods.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Sons

I really didn't intend to write today as I have way to much I HAVE to do, but I will say the four of them have been heavily on my mind and heart the past few days. A tad because my heart is heavy when I'm aware they carry burdens of one sort or another (April is a horrific burden for college students!) but mostly due to a conversation with one of them held a few weeks back.

First of all, like all mothers ... ok, most mothers, my sons are most definitely at the top of a relatively short list of those I would die for (no pun intended.) I remember after the Professor moved out I slept with one of their "souvenir" baseball bats under my pillow in case I needed to bludgeon someone who broke into the house and threatened us. Yeah, me and a 12" bat from The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY vs. a robber. Not good odds ... but I was willing to play them. Or at least pretend that not only I could, but that I WOULD, and WIN! Or die fighting for them. Go me! Go Sons. GO TEAM!

I realize that due to my own background, birthing and raising said fine young men was/is not only something I LONGED for, but something I DID, and while I certainly didn't do it perfectly, I did it with positive intention, love and RESPECT for who they each were as individuals. I recognize that after a decade of childbearing and another couple of child rearing it has been 32 years since I carried a child w/in me and will be another 18 months until the youngest has graduated from college. Just doing the math (love the math.) When that day comes, I will be 57 years old and more than half of those years (33.6 years to be exact) will have been spent with them in the FOREFRONT of who I was/am.

So it is with this respect for who they ARE as young and approaching not so young adults, that I am no longer going to write about them specifically. When I started this blog journey I did so so I could tell them MY story ... which got lost in the shuffle of child bearing/child rearing/divorce/graduate school/child rearing/teaching and more child rearing.

My favorite Sister/Cousin (I'll talk more about this phrase later) is an accomplished writer whom I LOVE to read and talk to. She has guided me through negotiating my birth family, divorce, and was there (in NY) to long distance talk me through getting a diagnosis (although I do think there really WERE times she truly thought I was nuts.) She is bright, she is bold, she is frank ... and she herself is at the top of a very short list of those I call when in SEVERE distress. I know she'll give it to me straight, no sugar on top, and definitely no cherry.

After the aforementioned convo with one of the sons I wrote her and asked, "How does one write about one's life and NOT include their children?" She wrote back and said that when he was ll, "Boy" asked that he no longer be mentioned in her columns. Boy is now a Grown Up and I haven't read a public thing about him for more than a decade. Yes, she also keeps her word, no matter how unhappy or uncomfortable that may make someone else. Harsh? I used to think she was ... now I just see her as one who is just totally comfortable being herself. Because she had to be to get through her own life, grew into it, and she became it as much as it became her. I truly love this woman. But I digress.

I'm past the "empty nest syndrome," past the lack-of-soccer-shoes-in-the-hall syndrome, and past the backpacks-on-the-floor syndrome. But hopefully, I will never be "out" of the mommy- love syndrome. I imagine w/in the next five years or so I'll also be in grandmother-love (although I hope for a more original moniker than THAT!) I'm thinking of stealing "Ya Ya" from a midwest friend. But in the end, my grandchildren will call me whatever comes out of their mouths, and I'll think it pure gold.


Back to The Sons. One of my parenting "themes" and consequently teaching "themes," is that children deserve a childhood. One as carefree and childlike as possible. A child deserves to grow up crawling/toddling/walking/running his or her path, not in the shadow of another sibling or adult: to be who THEY were born to be. And I can say, with tears in my eyes, I think I did an ok job at this given what I had to work with at the time. But my job isn't over yet. In able to STILL give them that childhood, I need to respect it long after it's gone.

To that end, I will no longer be writing about individual sons. I may write about them as a group, but I will not "rat them out," "give them up," or otherwise betray the sanctity of their short yet precious youths. May they grow stronger, more secure in who THEY are and in the love of their family and friends, and more into the men they were born to be.


I love you, guys.

Mommy mommy -

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bankruptcy -

No, not that kind ... actually, my credit score is amazing, thank you very much. My mother and Daddy raised a top notch saver that has allowed me and the sons (when they lived w/me) to live a much "better" life than we would have had I not been taught the basics of finance with baby food jars. I had three jars and every week my dollar would get deposited thusly ... 10% (one slim dime) in the "Giving Jar." One slim dime in the "Savings Jar," and 80 cents to spend or save as I wanted, although given my "wants" I learned the basics thrill of compound interest fairly young! This easy peasy principle has been one I've followed all my life ... and I wish I had passed on this complicated financial wizardry to my four sons. So guys, there it is. And to quote Grandma, "Old money holds." That's it. Combine that with "buy low/sell high" and you get the drift. No debt. Never. Ok, except for maybe a house. Maybe.

So I was surprised when my ME/CFS doctor asked me if I knew what bankruptcy meant yesterday as I sat in her office telling her I didn't even like who I was anymore. I wasn't happy, I wasn't sad, and I pretty much wasn't anything but tired. But I do know ... something inside me has shifted this past winter, and I don't like it. So we reviewed my physical symptoms and she asked a few questions about my emotional "state." I leaned forward in my seat as I told her how I could no longer "blow things off" that I used to be able to. Like hypocrites, for example. Or blatant liars and manipulators. Oy. Or politics! I don't even watch the news and I'm a news whore. Now I rely on Vito and the Freedom Fighter for all the goods. Even the rantings of others on fb give me an inking on what's going on Out There. But now I'm rambling.

SHE leaned forward until our knees were almost touching each other and asked me, "Do you know what bankruptcy is?" I straightened myself right up and declared, "Thankfully, I have never BEEN bankrupt nor do I intend to be!" Good heavens. I am sooo financially cautious!

"Oh," she sighed, "but you are!" I bent forward again so my forehead was almost touching hers as she explained to me what being physically bankrupt was. What emotional bankruptcy was. And what it meant to be mentally bankrupt. Then we added up the tab since June ... the wanted yet stunning sale of the family home, the physical act of purging three floors and a basement of "stuff," some intense and life altering personal shake ups, six surgeries w/accompanying anesthesia (thank goodness, yet which I had no IDEA took that long to leave one's system!) etc. etc. And there you have it ... a woman deplete of pretty much everything. Me. Or rather ME.

Because this life with ME/CFS ... one never knows when the Grim Reaper will come and steal what one has left of life force. Waiting to render one a blob on the couch watching "Law and Order" reruns just because. Checking Facebook oh, way too much, and too tired to knit.

Yet now knowing I'm "bankrupt" and will at some point return to my "normal" ME/CFS state has brought a peace with it. Knowing I can wait out this crash w/no shame, no guilt, and no judgment.

So I today I embraced being a "couch potato," had my own version of a grilled cheese sandwich, and called one of the Sons. Life is good.