"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Thursday, August 26, 2010

1975 and the Family Years

See this 70's couch?  Boy, do I have a story to tell about this
couch about 10 years later.  You'll have to wait.  And you'll
NEVER guess what it is.
I started kindergarten in the Fall of 1975. We were still living in the Stevens Street house. I went to La Crescenta Elementary School. I love that school. Whenever I am in La Crescenta (which is not often) I drive by the school. It looks so small to me now, especially the kindergarten playground. At the time it seemed so big and I guess it was to a 5 year old. It wasn’t the closest school to our house – Valley View was, which is where my friend Beth down the street went. But my parents were buying their first house, and it was closer to La Crescenta Elementary. We moved there shortly after I started school, I guess. 2948 Mayfield Avenue. I drive by that house sometimes, too, although the last time I did, it had been so remodeled on the exterior that it doesn’t even look like the house I lived in, so I guess that chapter is closed.

Anyway, I started kindergarten in 1975 and around the same time we moved into our house on Mayfield Avenue. Mayfield is a street that has houses only on one side of the street. The opposite side has a sidewalk and a chain link fence that provides a boundary between the street and the 210 freeway. The freeway is not level with the street though; it’s actually really far down, so there’s like a hill of dirt that leads down to the freeway. I forget what they call that.  Our street was also a dead end so there was in fact very little traffic. It made it easy for us to ride bikes, roller skate, etc in the street itself, almost like an extended front yard.

I LOVED that house. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s the last time I felt like a kid. This house had aspects that the Stevens Street house didn’t have, like a walk up porch, or rather a porch with steps. We also had a cool backyard that had a cement patio and then had steps down to a grassy yard where there was a swing set and enough space for my parents to garden vegetables or for us to have a makeshift baseball game. In reality, it was probably a small space but everything about this house felt big to a kid. Our house was built on slanted ground which also allowed us a long sloping driveway which was fun to ride our Big Wheel down.

Kindergarten was fun. Again, I don’t remember too much about it. At one point, a group of us were selected to go to a first grade class in the afternoon. Our day would go like this: we would go to the kindergarten class for a while in the morning, then our group would move next door where all I really remember doing was playing with legos. Afterwards, we would spend the afternoon in a first grade class.
I made a few friends on the street, one of which was in my class at school. I liked to try to get everyone together to put on shows or invite all the neighbors over. I loved to play pretend. We played Charlie’s Angels and even made construction paper boxes to fit on our bikes that were supposed to be our car phones like the 70’s Angels had. We played Nancy Drew, too. And my favorite way to play was that I would get kidnapped or put in danger and everyone had to come rescue me.

Things just felt so normal to me, my parents being together, my brother and sister and I playing. I have a great memory of coming home from school one rainy-ish day and my mom had made hot cider with cinnamon sticks for me and my brother. That was the mom I always wanted to have. Sometimes, she lived up to that expectation. Other times, she just did her own thing. By that I mean she was there, she made our meals and took care of us, I guess, but I don’t remember a lot of those Ideal Mom Moments. She would never be the TV mom of the 21st century when I think about the way moms these days are sometimes overly attentive to their children’s development.
It didn’t help that every weeknight at 7:30 we watched “The Brady Bunch.” It became my favorite show and in retrospect realize that I was far too impressionable to watching that show. It was too perfect and it represented everything I wanted my family to be. I wanted to be Marcia, perfect and melodramatic, with her parents falling for every burst of tears, running out of the room, every “my life is over” moment. I copied the Brady kids’ lines, even telling my brother once when we were fighting that I was leaving him out of my will. The Brady kids used to threaten that all the time. Things came easy to them. Their excitement was contagious when good things happened.

Unfortunately, those kind of exciting things never happened to me, and my parents never responded the way I wanted them to when I threw a tantrum. I used to threaten to run away all the time, would even pack a sack of clothes and run down to the end of the street. No one ever came after me the way I wanted or expected them to.

At school, I was quiet, good. I wasn’t at all disruptive. I got good grades in all subjects, very rarely got in trouble. I had friends in my classes – we had all come up from kindergarten together. Generally, I was a shy child among those people I didn’t know. With my friends, I tended to want to be the center of attention and could be a little bossy. I don’t remember really having a “best friend” until much later on, but probably the concept didn’t exist for me until then. Children are fickle, and there is really something to be said for stability in school – you know, growing up and going through the grades with the same group. You almost become like brothers and sisters.

By then, too, church had become less significant. Sometimes we went, sometimes we didn’t. Some of my friends at school were also members of my church, and I remember at times it seemed awkward that I wasn’t always going to church with them. I didn’t really care so much. It just gave me more time to play on Sundays. Wednesdays were different – Primary was on Wednesdays, kind of a secondary Sunday school for school-aged kids and younger. It was more fun than regular church. Sometimes I went, sometimes I didn’t.

I don’t remember my parents fighting. Or maybe once I did but it wasn’t like real arguing, not the kind I encountered years later when my mom was with my stepfather. I just remember one Sunday morning my parents were up early. I thought we were going to church but it soon appeared we weren’t – maybe this is really the time we stopped going. It was my dad who got all of us kids together and gathered in the den because they had something to tell us. I was six or seven, my brother about four and my sister was still a baby at one or so. My mom was sitting on the couch in her pink robe and she looked like she’d been crying. Her arms were folded across her chest and I think she tried to pull herself together for our benefit. My dad was more composed. He told us they weren’t going to live together anymore. I honestly didn’t really understand. At least, I don’t remember understanding. I didn’t know what divorce was or what it meant. I didn’t have any friends whose parents were divorced. They assured us that they still loved us and that they just couldn’t live together anymore, I guess. Maybe I cried. Maybe I hardly reacted at all.

1 comment:

  1. I had commented earlier on Green Bananas. I think I lost it on the Google Account. Anyway, I want you to know that I enjoy reading your blogs. I almost cried because I remember the day I found out my parents were getting a divorce. Life changed drastically. Although I had heard of divorce and somewhere knew it would happen in my family.