I cope with the challenges handed me in life by utilizing my philosophical sensibilities. After many decades of awareness I've developed wisdom and insight in ways I never thought to. Like all of you, I have flashes of memories from my childhood. Most are good. I had thirteen years of a great life with a mom and dad that loved me, two older brothers I adored and a baby sister who thought I was her mother. Even as an early teenager, I would rather spend time reading books to Jeanne and her friends than be off doing things with kids my own age. I was very attached to my religion, Roman Catholicism and had a deep faith and love for the Blessed Mother. Life was good. I had one dark passage in my memory from when I was around three years old but I didn't think about it too often. Mostly I preferred enjoying the present time.
And in the Midwest life in the 50s was pleasant. We had the changing of the seasons, we
swam in rivers in the summer, skated on them in the winter, played night time games three seasons out of the year and huddled over hot chocolate near the wood stove in the winter as we played Canasta to the tune of the howling wind and the fleeting glances of snow filling the countryside with Jack Frost painting pictures on our windows. In the autumn we raked leaves and cooked hot dogs and marshmallows over the blazing fire. Some night we listened to the radio while we munched on popcorn; Amos n Andy, My Friend Irma, Gunsmoke, Jack Benny, Lux Radio Theater, Gangbusters and The Shadow all brought excitement and intrigue
in to our every day lives.
Mom wasn't a great cook but it didn't matter. I just loved to eat. We always had the same food, Sunday was pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, a salad and pudding for dessert, Monday was hot beef sandwiches from the left over roast with a salad and vegetable dish, a relish plate and ice cream for dessert, Tuesday was a casserole dish with a few trimmings, Wednesday was baked beans, baked potatoes, meat loaf and home baked rolls. Wednesday was mom's baking day and I'd walk in the door after school to the wonderful smell of bread baking in the oven. Thursday was another casserole; Friday was almost always hotcakes and eggs. No meat was allowed on Fridays but years later they changed that rule and you could have whatever you wanted. I always wondered what happened to the little old lady that ate meat on Friday when it was against the rules, died on Saturday before she made it to confession and went to hell for it. Did she get to come out of hell? Saturday was usually BLT sandwiches. The menus rarely changed and brought stability into our life. We had a vegetable garden with each of us having our own plot that we took care of. We hiked, camped outdoors at night, took our 22 rifles out to shoot prairie dogs, spent summers with our beloved Finnish Grandma and Grandpa Bay in Minnesota where we were able to live out at their cabin on the lake for long periods of time. There we had a large group of Finnish great aunts and uncles and cousins all of whom loved us deeply. Life was good.
Mom was kind and sensitive and had excellent manners. A friend of hers told me years later that my mother had the finest mind she'd ever known. I never really knew what that meant but it sounded good. She was a great listener and was always attentive to our needs. You could bet that if I had the slightest sniffle mom was there with mentholatum, goose grease and a thermometer. She'd bundle us up and overwhelm us with nurturing. One of my fondest memories was of Mom sitting in a rocking chair with me on her lap when I was only a toddler as she hugged me and kissed me saying, "What shall I do when my baby grows up?"
Dad was intelligent, talented (he played the piano and had had 12 years of piano lessons), warm hearted, full of love for his family and teased his wife at every chance. He had delivered me when I was born in the middle of winter in International Falls, MN. It placed a bond between us and everyone knew I was his favorite. It made me arrogant, adventurous, and cock sure of my own abilities. He was the most knowledgeable person I'd ever been acquainted with and when we traveled from town to town (which was often as he worked for an electrical construction company that built sub stations and power lines and once a job was finished it was on to the next) played car games with us, invented new ways to entertain us, like the "state and its capital game" where he'd call out a state and we'd have to call out the capital. Whoever knew the capitols of the most states was awarded a roll of lifesavers. Yes, life was good. We didn't have much. Everything we owned could be put on the top of our
car and we children were so thin we all fit in the back seat when we drove. I wore my brother's hand me down clothes and only twice in the years before I became a teen owned a new dress, both times provided by a relative. The few clothes we owned were ordered out of a Sears and Roebuck catalogue. If it weren't for the Finnish relatives and my dad's father sending boxes of presents we would have never known a Christmas gift. Mom and Dad filled our stockings and they usually contained a tangerine, a roll of lifesavers, nuts, gum and other
such assorted goodies. We were poor but we didn't know it. Everyone else was poor too.
I think that is why I can bear the abuse that began when I was thirteen and my father entered my bedroom to rape the frail young girl with coltish legs, wispy hair and an air of innocence she would never know again.
Life is never all good or all bad but only a strange mixture that creates who we become as the years go by.