Yesterday, I ran into someone I have known for years–or did know. “Jacob” was the director at a residential program my then-therapist recommended me to after my parents wanted rid of me–again. It was a residential treatment center for people with mental illness looking for a way to live independently. I saw him in the lobby yesterday after going down the stairs at the mental health center. He has hardly changed. He was still tall and slim and had long hair and a beard. True, his hair was white and he wore glasses, but you would know him anywhere. His clothes were a bit more “business” than when I knew him 30 years ago, but they were still trendy–“young”. I was shocked he still worked at the mental health center. After he left the directorship of the “house” in the 1990’s, he worked as a clinician (talk therapist) at the mental health center’s East office where I went to attend therapy after an ER visit due to an especially perpy day. I was there 7 years, left for 10 and am back now for over 2. Now he’s an Executive of the Mental Health Center. The Center has grown very large. They were pretty much a startup when I first went there in 1990. Since I have been a part of “mental health” services since the early 1980s I remember there were a few more private hospitals in town but I don’t know if there was a Center like the one I go to. I’m thinking Health and Hospitals took on outpatients as well as private therapists who took Medicare/Medicaid. The place where I have stayed twice was open in 1976 and there had to have been mental health services before then. The City still has a separate mental health program but its conducted in an old smelly building that used to be the main mental hospital. You can still see the bathtubs in the restrooms upstairs. You can feel the “ghosts” of patients past in there. “Jacob” is now a big shot, but still an “old hippie”. He sort of stood out in the preppy 1980s. After a short interview I was invited for “dinner at the house”. It was July 18, 1985. It was a warm, dry day. I had gotten there early. Dinner was at 6:30 back then. I thought it was sort of late because we ate at 6 every night at home. I remember sitting in the shade of a huge, old elm tree and listening to the cicadas sing and asking myself why my therapist of 3 years and my mother wanted me there. I was not dangerous or out of the hospital or did drugs. I was currently dropped out of college because of low grades and lack of interest. I had a job working the overnight shift at a gas station/convenience store. I was the one who sat in the little hut and collected the money. It was a busy street full of nightclubs and I’d get some rude and drunk customers. I drove myself to the huge red brick building that used to be a convent in my old Plymouth Fury III with the AM radio and no A/C. The transmission sucked, too. I was 19. I went inside just before dinner started and got the customary greeting: “why don’t you go into the kitchen and see if the cook needs help?” The cook didn’t. Dinner was announced with a huge chuck-wagon triangle. We sat down for dinner. The dinner was my community interview. People would ask you questions about yourself, your “illness”, what you intended to do when you were there, and your long term goals. You either had to work or go to school and had to see a therapist. I remember feeling scared of Jacob because he was so big. I felt judged and thought for sure I would not get in. End of story. II. I was called the next day. I had gotten in. I was to move into the house in 2 days. I would pay 63 bucks a week for rent and 6 dinners a week. (I told you I was old). You could also nab leftovers and government “commodities” for lunch if you were home at midday. Breakfast food was bought by residents and stored in cupboards. You would get a section of a cupboard for your cereal, etc… I was making 130 bucks a week after taxes so it would work. A “buffet” apartment where I lived in the 1990s now goes for 1050.00! I paid 265.00 when I lived there with utilities covered. The rent at the community is still pretty low considering the rents in the city since they have to cater to people on benefits, mostly. Toilet paper and linens were provided but not anything else like toothpaste, soap, cosmetics, etc….. I lived in a “shared” bedroom because it was cheaper. I think the singles were 80 a week or so or even a little more. I lived in room 3 I think. The rooms were nun’s cells before, so the singles were tiny, but the doubles were larger but without a sink. I remember there being some kind of destroyed nasty shag type carpetting and no screen on the window which was common in this area back then before climate change provided more summer bugs. My roommate didn’t seem to like me. She was up in her 30’s and had a good job. She was a substance abuser, so up on the house’s social scale. She was haughty and cold and got really angry at me when I looked through her record collection. I should not have but didn’t have many social skills after my isolated childhood and wild adolescence. She was always laughing and flirty with everyone but me. I saw social disaster for me. Her eyes were always red but she swore she was sober. We lived next door to the tub bathroom and down the hall from the smoking room. When I was first there, there was a tornado warning and I remember sitting on my bed and looking out the window at the pouring rain and hearing the sirens. It was hot up there but summer was already almost over once I was settled so I didn’t suffer that much. There were no fans. I kept going to my gas station job from 10pm-6am across town then tried to sleep at the “house” during the day. It was very stressful. The “house” was noisy during the day and I only got a few hours of sleep. In September, I transferred to another location nearer the house and got to switch to day shift. I even got an engraved name tag instead of one put on with Avery sticky tape. At first I didn’t fit in, and and I did not think I would last very long. First of all, I was the youngest there, and my problems did not seem as severe as the other residents at the time. Turns out they probably would have seemed more normal if they weren’t on huge doses of “old generation” neuroleptics. Jacob, who seemed to take a liking to me, said I was “high functioning”. A high functioning WHAT? My dx has changed a million times, getting “worse” each time! I do not believe my dx. I think I am and always was Asperger’s, which is mild autism. I also grew up in a cold home and did not know how to give or receive love. Thank God for my Grandma who did show love! The people at the house that were at the top of the pecking order were the substance abusers and people with eating disorders. People with mental illness were underneath. The substance abusers tended to be younger and less drugged than than the mentally ill people as well. Later, two 18 years olds moved in after I turned 20, so my time as the “baby” was short. After a month or so, people started talking to me, and my “roomie” had left the house over some rule infraction. I almost always had the room to myself after that. I’d get roomies off and on but they’d spend the night away from the house, etc…it was sort of weird. I got sort of an extra large single room. Soon, I made a friend of a new arrival. She was the divorced wife of a local DJ and had depression. She was so depressed she was made to get ECT which fried her short term memory. She had also lost custody of her sons. She accepted me immediately. She was in her early 30s and was sort of a big sister to me. She went out and bought a little coffeepot and we’d have coffee in her room Number 2 every morning. We would go out with others to a local bar where I did a little underage drinking and later some legal drinking. I also made friends with a young man from England who was tall and dark with blue eyes and loved “new wave” music. (what’s that Grandma?) We went on trips to the ice cream parlor with staff. I made friends with the two staff members, also. The lady staffer, C, had ridden into this city on a HORSE when she came here to live! The male staffer was kind to me sort of like an older brother. I remember going to the movies with him and he may have been the one who let me ride with him on his motorcycle! Staffers were usually Divinity students getting internships working with us. There was one young man who was always “coming onto” me, and there was another guy who hated me but he seemed to be the only one. For the first time in my life I felt “accepted”. Between the social activities at the house, my then-“boyfriend”, my job, pen pals, and my family I really felt I had a life. I was always on the go. It was too bad Ms. Coffee turned into a perp later. I got 40 hours a week at work and regular days off at the new location. They even gave me hours for “watching the store” during remodeling. Strange, my boss gave me a copy of Animal Farm to read while I watched the store. Did he “know”? One of my little rituals was to eat the breakfast buffet at Big Boy on Saturday morning, one of my days off. I also remember putting 10 bucks of gas in the car on Friday night after I got off work. I think work even cashed our checks. I was so proud of myself–3 years before I was locked up in a psych ward and now I was living away from my parents, working, had my car with me, had some friends, and felt good for the first time in my life. I tried Clove cigarettes (terrible for your lungs) at the little coffeehouse, got high in the park with another resident and went back to the house and lay on my bed in fear that Jacob would come in and know I was high!!! There were mostly special and some not-so-special memories from the house. There was a woman I met who had anorexia and we found a sick bird. She knew a woman who did bird rehab and we sent the bird to her across town. The bird woman had a huge Checker car called the Bird Ambulance. I got to go to a fancy dress dinner in Spring ’86 in a borrowed dress. I bought fancy stockings, shoes, and earrings. The female staffer made me up. The featured celebrity there complimented my looks! Another time, I went in Ms. Coffee’s car into the hills to a remote bar. We were coming home and Ms. Coffee was drunk? and the man who always wanted to get it on with me had to drive. It was 2 or 3 am when we got back to town. He was a smartass and would try and go thru the synchronized lights just as they turned green. At one intersection, another car was running a red and smashed into us. A window blew out and the car was totalled but no one was really hurt, just bruises. I remember the day Challenger blew up–I was trying to get food stamps. It was in February ’86. In December ’85 a bunch of us went into the hills and cut down a Christmas tree. I remember being so happy helping to decorate it! I went crazy with my new independence! I dyed my hair blue!! It lasted a week. The customers at work were angry with it. Now, it’s common. I did it when it was risque. Ms. Coffee and a group of us went to Easter Sunrise Services outside–I had always wanted to do it and I did! I also went camping with a few other residents and went on a rafting trip (my only one) in 1987. Cooking dinner, especially on Sunday, was an adventure. You had to be “cook” once every two weeks. You had to plan your meal, keep it within the draconian budget, cook it, set the table, serve it, then CLEAN UP. It was here I discovered I liked to cook. Cooking on Sunday could go for hours, especially if you had to finish cleaning up after Sunday Meeting. Jacob seemed to take an interest in me. There was a diner a block away and we’d go for a One Dollar Breakfast (2 eggs, toast, home fries), fifty cent coffee (take that, Starbucks!) and sometimes a Dollar slice of Baklava. He acted like he wanted me to succeed in life. I felt like I was sort of in his “inner circle” of residents and ex-residents that he liked. Another resident that Jacob liked was a serious young man who had had to drop out of Oral Roberts University. This guy asked me out but he was too sick at the time and when I met him later he was better and he wasn’t interested in me anymore. I was attracted to the cute dark English guy with the blue eyes and freckles anyway. He would share his Walkman and we would go on walks. I think they had Walkman players with plugs for 2 sets of earplugs then. He would tease and tickle me. He even tried to kiss me. I would’ve gone with him but he was bi and AIDS was a big threat then. He had a tragic end about a year after I left the house. I used to visit his memorial when I lived closer to it and talk to him. There was the fun day when the volunteers arrived and we all helped to paint the house! I kept my old U2 t-shirt with peach colored paint on it for years since it became a memory of better times in my increasingly dark life. I spent a lot of time in Jacob’s office. We “just talked” and he did not mind. He almost felt like an uncle to me or a much older brother. On Sunday night we had a “spiritual” group that was very faintly Christian and Jacob would wear jeans and my feelings (and other girls) were far from filial then. He was married though and I met his pretty wife at the Christmas Party. My best memory was when the staff and residents surprised me with cake and ice cream on my 20th birthday! I had not had a Birthday Party since age 10 and that is when all the other girls turned on me at my own party–how sweet! so this little party was great. People seemed genuinely happy I would celebrate my milestone birthday there. Finally out of my teens! I have not had a birthday party since. Soon I will be 50 and since I am targeted I’m sure there will be NO PARTY. I did not know that in 1985-1986 I was living in paradise and the hell of targeting would soon steal all my joy bit by agonizing bit. II Like all good things, my house stay came to an end. I had quit my gas station job in March ’86 then I got an on-call job at a shoe store stocking shoes that didn’t pay enough to stay at the house. I had to leave without my dream of moving into one of the transitional “satellite” apartments nearby. They rented for about 300. I moved “home” in June, 1986. I went to Florida to become a professional groupie but came back in only 5 weeks since I was only getting paid what I was getting back home but my room was 88.00 a week without food. I went back to school in early 1987, graduated in late 1988 and did not find permanent work. By 1989 it was bad at home. I still hadn’t found work beyond “temping” and my mother and I were at each others throats. My sister was still in college and I was on the outs with my Grandma by late 1989 since she started taking my parents side on everything instead of being my advocate. My father had had bypass in the Spring, my Aunt had been incapacitated by an ill-advised surgery, and I had become a TARGET and did not know it. I lost both my Grandma and Aunt the next year. My mother booted me out of the house just before Christmas in 1989, giving me some money my Grandma had gifted me with at birth. It wasn’t much, but at least she didn’t just boot me onto the street. Since I had never looked for an apartment before, I ended up back at the HOUSE again. This second time it was not as pleasant, however. Jacob was still there then, and I was welcomed back, but it was DIFFERENT now. First of all, I was not the “youngest” anymore. I was not a cute little teen all bubbly with youth and energy. Also, Jacob seemed different. He said to me, “boy, have you grown up,” like it was disappointing. Was I to remain a child forever like Peter Pan? Life had gotten rough and so had I. I had a single room this time and it was 465.00 a month. I paid monthly this time since I had money starting out, plus my “graduation gift” was a 1st month’s rent at my 1st apartment, so this was “it”. The first room, Number 15, was tiny and right off the library smoking room. Later, I moved to room “1” across a men’s double that was very noisy since they played fantasy baseball and their printer was always running. It was also over the steep kitchen stairs that a lot of old homes have: sort of like servant stairs, so I’d get foot traffic going up the stairs. “2” was the room where Ms. Coffee had stayed. The second friend I made at the “house” I met the day I came to dinner. She was in a crisis over dinner being done on time and here I was to save the day. And so it went. We were friends for years. The “house” was different, somehow. The atmosphere was more hostile. There were a group of residents and a few hangers on that “ruled” the house” and they held court in the “library”. They were like the adult version of the Mean Girls or something. They harassed a man out of the house when I was there and probably were relishing the thought of his destruction but he just moved on and was fine. I tried to ingratiate myself with these bullies but they hated my new friend so I ended up loathing them. By that time in history, society was becoming more cruel and perpy. A man that came to dinner said he had a breakdown after seeing the movie “Heathers” which I thought was so weak of him since I only thought the movie was about bullying…I looked it up last night and the movie has murder and violence in it…and kind of “predicts” as The Powers That Be often do the school shootings that would start 10 years later. There was a victim of SRA that had become a Christian but still had MPD. She could switch to one of her child personalities on a dime. That was almost a deal breaker for me. The worst people from before were schizophrenics. Two of the men were Vietnam Vets, one of them physically disabled. The other was married to one of my old counselors from the hospital where I stayed at 16. They had a suicide plot and one bailed and the other survived but their friendship was OVER. Another man would DIE during his stay there because he had a heart attack and could not get treatment without insurance. I’m surprised he wasn’t taken to the city hospital where they treated indigents. Instead, the hospital down the street sent him home and he died. He was 55. He started a “baking club” at the house where residents would get together and bake one night a week or so. There was always junk to eat in the house after that. I met a woman with horrible SI scars and horrific art that she drew depicting a rape. A man jumped out of a second story window and broke his ankles. The house was a dark place now. I only had a PT temp job this time. Because I had that extra money I went out and splurged on highlights for my hair for a then absurd 80 bucks. I went to Wal Mart and got some sheets for my bed instead of using the old sheets the house provided. I noticed people were acting oddly to me sometimes…inside and outside the house. The targeting had started in late 87 but it seemed to get worse overnight when I moved out. Weird old women laughed at me when I walked down the street. There was this woman I hated there who only stayed a short while but kept on popping back up in my life. A person called me at the house but when I got to the phone no one was there. I had to go to the mental health center because I no longer saw my private therapist. They put me on drugs that had side effects. I lost my temp job and tried to stay on at the house doing janitorial but could not keep up with the rent after my Grandma’s money ran out. Sunday meetings were a hoot when it was decided that there would be a “chore committee” that would “grade” people’s chores. The people on the committee were of course the house bullies. They would give themselves 10 on their chores and give others 4, 5, or 6. It was like the bullshit orchestra tryouts in high school when the conductor let the kids determine section seating. I was at the house all day in the basement since a heat wave hit. Nasty talk shows played all day that showed audience members ganging up on guests they didn’t like. Proto-stalkers??? Sally Jesse Raphael, Gerado Rivera, Cathy Jones???, etc….that and all the “judge” shows. The heat was horrible upstairs. We were getting a 100 degree spell which used to be very rare. I had a west facing window. The June sun set late and the city heat island kept things hot all night. The temp in my room was about 95-100 at night and down to about 86 in the morning. They provided no fans. A woman resident with a fan was able to reduce her room temp. I can reduce the inside temp to about 76 in the morning with a huge fan during a heat wave but it will go up during the day–but not to 100!!! I felt ill with the drug side effects and the heat. Another woman resident got smart and set up a hammock in the back yard. I decided to go downstairs to sleep in the cooler “chapel” but someone was already there and he made me leave. The room was huge. He yelled at me and said I reminded him of his MOTHER. OOOOOH. What a perpy insulting thing to say. I had to go back upstairs and burn. I started feeling ill. I finally just gave up and moved home, owing the “house” money for rent. I wonder really what the “house” had to do with my life. Were they setting me up for stigmatization as a “nut” later? My 2 stays propelled me towards independence since we had to learn to cook fast, do chores, pay rent, shop, etc…, yet, somehow, I was being funneled into the trash can of society. Were they setting me up for stigmatization as a “chronic nut” for life? Was I to live in the wasteland of the Severely Mentally Ill with the loss of dreams and the acceptance of “lower expectations”? I found out later at a “clubhouse” for mental “consumers” that the staff at the clubhouse was not using it as a place for people on benefits to get away from home and isolation, but, as a job factory to funnel people on benefits into low paying jobs which got people off benefits and steered them to dead end jobs that are self defeating since you lose medical benefits and end up losing the job and going on the street and applying for benes all over again…but now, you are worn out and ill and willing to be more COMPLIANT to overdrugging or whatever they have on the agenda for you. There were a few favorites that got good jobs at the clubhouse that seemed to function normally but that was tokenism. I think the clubhouse was destructive. I had a degree and at least wanted a job that had some responsibility: I did not want to be a file clerk or work for Burger King. This job scam is a subject for another post! I think people who are on benefits should be able to work but should be able to keep benefits unless they are truly better and can continue on their own. A LOT OF PEOPLE TOOK JOBS AND ABANDONED THE BENEFITS BECAUSE THEY WERE ASSIGNED PAYEES THAT DID NOT LET THEM HAVE ANY MONEY–EVEN FOR GROCERIES. They gave these poor souls “gift cards” for the store. One such person left benes and went to work and then lost her job and came back a year later, looking 10 years older and dragging an oxygen tank. I could go on about forced drugging but I covered it on my old blog that cannot be resurrected. Sometimes it’s needed, but not at the extent they do it. Forced drugging with neuroleptics (antipsychotics) is legally sanctioned torture due to the akesthesia symptoms that are a side effect. I have tried 6 different ones and they all had the same depression/anxiety effect on me. My Dr. wants to try me on a seventh. Essentially, I was able to live w/o “meds” for over a decade, but, targeting, witchcraft aimed at me, and God knows what else drove me back to the Docs. Targeting took away my dreams of overcoming my bad childhood and adolescence. I stayed poor year after year after year until I just wore out and went on benes–then I had no life at all! I thought God had a plan for my life but satan and his helpers stole it, for the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy. Again, I wonder if my first stay at the “house” in 1985 was a setup.. I was sort of “lovebombed” there as a youth and it was a way for them to make me think I was on of the Seriously Mentally Ill. I sort of started to think of myself in those terms–someone who is “chronic”, E.G., SOMEONE WHO WILL NOT BE “BETTER” WITHOUT DRUGS. A career nut. I even “tried” for benes as early as 1986 but got turned down because the doc who saw me thought I “just had to get away from my parents.” He was partially right. I would have made it if not for targeting. I was jealous of another young woman who did not have to earn her bread since she had benes, yet, she was not on psych drugs, or seeing a therapist, or going to a clubhouse or anything. She was free as a bird. She got around her town on a bike. She lived in squalor, though. I was suffering at the time working a nasty temp job and only having about 30 bucks over my rent for food a week and maybe 10 for anything else. That was a 40 hour job with a long bus ride and the bus was a dollar each way and took that 10 a week. I struggled to work until mid 1999. I was 33. I did a variety of temp jobs, food service jobs, day labor, and one “real” office job that lasted only 2 years. My last job was Mickey D’s, which is in another post. I finally threw in the towel and took the “checks”. I’m not a bad worker. I’m not fast, but I work consistently and like to be accurate in the office and produce good food in the kitchen. I also was accurate at the “till” usually being within a dollar. I rarely called in sick, and only when I was really ill. I was getting “fired” so much that I had NOTHING to show on a resume. What I got “paid” for these often physically exhausting jobs, was no more than benefits. NO health insurance. One job kept me on a yearly average just ONE HOUR UNDER what I would need to qualify for the HMO. Shysters. At the end of my working life, I felt often ill, colds dragging on for months, always scared about being fired every day I came in, and even scared about my next meal at times when my tiny check ran out a week before the next payday. I lost my apartment in 1999 and I found myself living in “community” again–at a shelter. Oh well, at least I had experience. PS Just saw some fundraising videos about my old community. They did a major remodel a few years back. The place was really dirty and run-down and trashy when I was there. It’s now Posh Palace. The resident testimonials were sooo great. It cannot be that great, but, that is what keeps money coming. The community DID have its success stories–people who returned to full work in “society”, but for the most part people moved into apts, but on benefits. There were a lot more people who used the place as a revolving door back in my time, but now there are time requirements. It seems more structured with more groups now. Back then, we were pretty much on our own. We were expected to attend a few dinners a week, Sunday Meetings, and “cook planning” meetings. You could also go to a meeting on basic money management and have a “one-on-one” with an under-staffer, or Resident Coordinator. Overall, the “house” was good and bad. I had some of the best times of my life there, but I came to see myself as “ill”. I still see Ms. Coffee on the bus every once in awhile. She just perps me. I’ve seen a few others from the “house” off an on over the years but not many. I saw a “success story” that had an apt and a job that I knew from the second time give me a dirty look on the bus years ago. Ahhhh, targeting…. I guess the “house” was the best it was ever gonna be.
We don’t write in a bubble — we write in the world, and what we say is influenced by our experiences. Today, take a cue from something you’ve overheard and write a post inspired by a real-life conversation. Revisit a time when you wish you’d spoken up, reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with you, or tune in to a conversation happening around you right now and write your reaction. Take time to listen — to what you hear around you, or what your memories stir up.
Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.
This assignment is hard for me because as a ti people do not act normally around me. Even conversations I overhear are usually “directed conversations” designed for me to overhear and to agitate or depress me. It has been a long long time since people acted normally around me and I didn’t feel the vigilance of people to capture my every word and deed. I have thought over these last few days of conversations I might have overheard in my family as a child and young person but even those are few and far between. Even then I was not privy to family secrets and I was also kept from the real life of the family…the love. I was set apart, kept in the dark. I do not know if my parents were perps but I certainly was not accepted in the family. Only on a surface level. I was a guest in my own house…like a sort of foster child. There was a wall there put up right around the time I was 8 or 9 or so.
OK, here’s one I heard at my last job, which was over 5 years ago:
A man at our work table announced he had been a father at age 8. I forgot the response to it.
It’s hard to hear convos even though I try. Due to my targetting everyone is on guard around me like I’m some criminal.
It’s hard to remember when anyone was natural around me even in an overheard conversation,
Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?
I have already done a post like this last year. As I read it, I noticed sentence structure. I had too many small sentences. For awhile, writing with many small sentences was “cool” I think, in maybe the 1990s. I mixed it up just enough. This time I will just relate what the house looked like, not personal history from age 11 on like I did in that old post.
Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.
My childhood home circa 1977 was the epitome of Middle America.
We had a medium-sized house with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It came with a jumbo kitchen and a semi formal parlor and dining room and 2 dens. It had a large yard front and back and even a side yard. It was built in 1961 by an architect who was leaving to go live in a bigger home he had built for himself. This man became very rich later. The house oozed ’60s with Avocado carpet and orange yellow and green linoleum in the kitchen. I believe he was responsible for the Shag carpeting in some rooms and also the Avocado, Pumpkin and Yellow curtains for the den.
I lived there with my parents and my younger sister. We didn’t have pets until later. By 1977 we had lived in the house almost a decade. We still had much of the original look. My parents upgraded the kitchen, the carpets and the paint in the 1980s. The house had a large front porch but no one sat on porches in that neighborhood. My folks added a patio in back so they could barbeque.
The master bedroom was pretty small but had an attached bathroom in green. My parents had to buy furniture for the new house since they had moved from an apartment. A lot of it was cheapo until my mother added nicer pieces in the 1980s in some rooms. The old bed with the metal frame lasted until my father moved into his own condo in the 1990s. We had 3 dial phones. One old beige box phone in the bedroom, an Avocado slimline for the den and a Wall Phone in tan for the kitchen.
Our bedrooms were even smaller. Mine might have been slightly larger than my sister’s but it was also the coldest room in the house. It was about 60 degrees there in Winter if I closed the door. I would have to go under my comforter with a heating pad to keep warm. The main bathroom, in pink, was nice with a large vanity and drawers and 2 sinks. I spent a large part of my childhood/adolescence in the large pink tub falling asleep. My mother upgraded the floor in the 1980s with ceramic tile, which wasn’t that much in use yet.
Some of carpet was in mustard puke yellow as well. The house had lots and lots of windows. The kitchen was very light as was the parlor and dining room. The 2nd den was all windows on its East side. It was never used as anything but a playroom and later a rec room. My father could have requisitioned it as a home office/library but he didn’t.
Gardening was not priority with my mother. She planted a few Annuals in our Rock Garden and a few Perennials came up every year including a large Yucca that came with the house. She refused for some reason to plant bulbs which disappointed me because the Spring flowers are from bulbs. She also did not keep Roses or Iris like Grandma. We also did not have fruit trees. My mother spent so much time watering the lawn on our huge lot that gardening took a back seat. I also have a feeling she did not want to be outside amongst the neighbors even back then. When my father and I left the house I put in bulbs for the next owner by digging up an old garden spot on the side of the house. There were no flowers there the last time I checked and the grass had grown up over the spot.
There were only the bushes and 2 evergreens including a huge Blue Spruce when we moved in. My father planted a tree for my mother’s 50th Birthday. I guess it is still there. No one knew how little she had yet to live. My parents put trees in around the backyard but the beetles got them. The house also came with bushes and an evergreen tree in the backyard. I was very jealous of the neighbor girl whose parents had put a fish pond in their backyard.
I went back to the house of my bad childhood (see other posts) a few times. It looks as if the Monster Bushes in front had been cut back and the house looked a little spruced up. Nothing major. Of course I didn’t go inside. I wonder if the marble entryway is still there and if there is still that weird ironwork in the kitchen and dining room that came with the house.
As the years go on, the house becomes a memory. My sister lives in a home of her own (more than twice as big according to Zillow) with a circle drive and 5 bedrooms. I live in a Section 8 apartment in the ‘hood or former ‘hood as it’s getting to be. When we moved my father told me to take a last look through the house for anything we missed. I found one of my Mother’s wedding portraits. It “lives” with me in the ‘hood today. I was the last one in our home that day. Thirty mostly miserable years had passed on. I doubt I will ever have any kind of home of my own due to being gangstalked already for most of my life.
Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.
“Aw c’mon dcms, there must be SOMETHING comforting from your childhood!”
“Well, I already told you about Passover and what a comforting tradition that was so I guess there’s only Shabbos, or Friday night dinner left.”
“Okay, tell me about it.”
“It was one of the most enduring traditions of my childhood. It happened every week! Ya couldn’t escape it! Friday was Shabbos! When I was very young up to about age 13 it meant going to Grandma’s across town to eat what she made. It was just us four, Grandma and Grandpa, and the dog. It was always good. We always had Candle Lighting, except in Summer when it was so late, then the family would gather and we would do the prayers over the Challah and Wine. My Grandpa and Dad would take a piece of Challah and say the Motzi and then put some salt on it and eat it. Then we started eating.
There was always a first course. Usually it was chopped liver or cold turnip salad with Challah. I didn’t like either much, but the liver was better for me because the turnip salad was bitter. Of course I loved the homemade Challah with white raisins.
Then we’d get to business and the main course. It usually was some kind of chicken but Grandma also baked beef sometimes and occasionally did a “milk” Shabbos with tuna casserole as the main dish. We’d also get cold salad and a hot vegetable and kugel. I liked every kind of kugel except potato. Sometimes it would be rice kugel or noodle kugel which were both sweetened with fruit and cinnamon. Potato was plain and there were no condiments to put on it. Sometimes we’d get pickled green tomatoes my Grandma put up from her tomatoes.
After that there was dessert, the best part. Most times she would bake some kind of cake: either banana or marble cake or even a pie. With a milk meal it would be coffee cake. Sometimes there would also be fruit salad or even in summer, Grandma’s version of ice cream made with Coffee Rich, usually strawberry flavored. For a beverage, it was usually Swee Touch Nee tea and sometimes coffee.
The best part however, was being together at the end of the work/school week and talking. If it was Summer, we’d retire to the patio to talk till it got dark. If it was Winter, I’d go with the ‘rents and my sister would stay over and go to shul with Grandma. I had allergies at her house and could not stay the night even though I tried a few times.
After the dog passed I would stay at her apartment she later got for the whole weekend for a few years. Then it would just be Grandma and I eating the Shabbos after my folks got into it with her one Friday. My sister came to these dinners also if she wasn’t out of town at college or at her job. At the end it was just Grandma and I. The food would not be finished so we would eat the rest for lunch the next day.
All those days are gone now. Everything is gone now. Only my sister and her family are left alive and she does not talk to me.
“Wow, dcms, Shabbos was a real stable part of your young life.”
“It sure was. I probably turned out better than I would have if not for those family traditions to keep me somewhat grounded.”
This is the time of year I start thinking of Summer. There was thunder lightning and hail. Early summer, the prelude to the real thing.
Summer was fun before I was a target. I was bullied at school but Summer meant most time was spent with family and occasional visits with cousins at my Aunt’s house. I liked to do all the Summertime things I would not dare do now because I’m an official Outcast, official Off-scouring–the ti.
It was fun hanging out at my Aunt’s eating myself sick and doing errands for her. Making burnt pancakes on her ancient stove. Playing with the neighborhood kids occasionally. Meeting a lost little kitten on my Aunt’s porch. Watching her grapes ripen and knowing my mother would want some. Her favorite food of all was Concord Grapes. It was hot at my Aunt’s but we were thin and wore shorts and tee shirts and it was sort of like camping sleeping in the small stifling bedroom that used to belong to my grandmother. There were windows way high up and it took hours to get a breeze. The big window stayed closed as it was a rough neighborhood then.
I could wear shorts before I got fat. I was actually comfortable in Summer at my parents A/C home wearing Summer clothes. Ever since I have moved out it has been one a/c less apt after another. I’m too fat to wear shorts and even feel sort of naked in capri length pants. I spend three months a year under the relentless 50mph blow of a huge fan. I do wear tank tops but now they stretch the bounds of decency because I’ve gotten large on top so now I’m paranoid about that and am wondering if I should go back to regular hot t shirts for Summer. People make fun of my attire and I’m too poor to get nice things.
I used to go swimming at the J CC, at the local High School Pool and the lake behind our house. As a child I would do dives off the diving board and might dare a forward flip. There was that little jittery feeling as I ascended the high dive and also the determination I would go off it and not climb back down to my utter humiliation. I would dive off the high dive and get water up my nose. At the lake there was not much room to swim for so many people so my mother got us floating rafts to sit in to go out on the water. I would sit and read in the raft.
As a young trip there were trips to Dairy Queen to get soft serve. I insisted on at least a Medium Cone which was huge then. It was 35 cents. Occasionally my father would let us get dipped cones. On special days we’d get to go to Baskin Robbins and I would get a double cone of the most odd flavors I could find or the most decadent chocolate flavors or one of each. I’d get daiquiri, pina colada and every other weird sherbet. A double cost, what, 79 cents? My latest forays into ice cream shops gave me nightmares with the high prices and perps everywhere,
We would go to movies and enjoy the a/c before we had a/c at home. It was a magical world in the dark eating overpriced popcorn and drinking drinks worth their weight in gold, and you didn’t want to movie to end. Now I’d be sitting in the dark with a bunch of angry perps…I do not remember the last time I went to a movie.
We would go on vacation and sleep in dive motels and eat at greasy spoons. Dad would drive too much during the day. There would be fights. It was the typical American Vacation. My classmates got trips to various Islands and resorts but we had less than they. I still remember going to the beach for the first time in San Diego and being fascinated with the seaweed on the shore, the pelicans and the cool coastal air.
I would take my sleeping bag and sleep in the backyard only to be woken at about 6:25 am under the morning clouds and the clatter of my mother’s Cottonwood tree. I’d walk inside and she’d say “good morning, how did you sleep?” Like a baby that’s what. NO pills either.
We’d go to the amusement park at night to escape the heat so we’d see the older crowd of teens and adults and not whiny babies and hot ride seats. I was grateful for that. We would stay until they closed at midnight. My mother went on all the fast rides with us girls while my dad played skee ball and fascination.
We would eat before going at an Italian restaurant. I would get a huge calzone. It was a family run place, closed now.
We’d beg for sweets at the park later.
We’d pile tired into our big old car for the drive across town to the suburbs sleepy and happy.
I have not been to an amusement park since 1990 and am not eager to go. Surrounded by people again. Perps and skits and park security. Nope.
If it stormed at night we’d go to our parents’ bed and tell them we were scared. We were told “It’s just a storm” and be told to go away. To me the great flashes of lightning and window rattling thunder and sheets of rain were the end of the world.
My mother said she saw a tornado out driving once. My childhood dream was to see a tornado. I saw one later on but it wasn’t so great. The dream was already dead.
One summer we joined a hiking club and hiked as a family. Oh those 5 am wake ups and those breakfasts on the road with the group! The beautiful forest and rocks and then crossing the tree line and eating the same whole wheat bread and cheese of everyday but it seemed a feast up there. Falling asleep on a breeze in the mountain meadow before we had to hike down….begging for ice cream in the first town we saw.
My mother’s forays for fudge in any small town we went thru on vacation…
I’d lay on my bed and listen to America’s Top 40 on my little radio with the windows wide open. I never thought I would end up like this.
The summer crickets would chirp and a breeze would float in. Life was a summer dream. The nightmare was out there waiting for me.