Experience, strength and hope (My story continued – Birth to 4)

My parents were the first in each of their families to go to college. My father put himself through, working as a boxer (!) and selling ice cream on the beach. My mother had her school paid for by her parents. Her older sister chose secretarial school. Actually, I shouldn’t say they were first. My mother’s mother went to nursing school in Philadelphia. That’s where she met my grandfather. She graduated in 1929 – I have her class ring. Nursing school was not then what it is now. She signed on with a hospital, lived in the dorms and worked at the hospital while going to classes at the hospital. I have some of her notes and text books also. Back then it was of course nursing or teaching for women, mostly. My grandfather’s father (clear?) was supposedly some kind of engineer, but I have no idea what that entailed in Germany in the 1800s.

My mother went to school to be a teacher, and she taught for a short time before I was born. I know she wanted to have more than one child. I don’t know if it was in her plan to work or stay at home. They were married in July and I was born the following May. We lived in an apartment in a city. I have some memories of living in that apartment building. We moved to the suburbs before I was to start school, so before the fall of my fifth year.

I remember trying to give up my bottle. Yes, my baby bottle. I had severe allergies as a child – eczema, asthma and hay fever. At something like three weeks old, I was reacting to orange juice. This was 1962. I had soybean formula as my main food in a bottle for years. I have a very embarrassing picture in my baby book of me at about three years old, dressed in a coat and hat for Sunday school, holding a patent leather purse and with my bottle sitting next to me. My mother took this picture in order to shame me into giving it up. Didn’t work. I remember playing around my father’s desk, putting my bottle into his garbage can, telling him I was done with it. I remember taking it out of the garbage can, saying I would quit after this one. Foreshadowing?

I remember washing the night gown my aunt had given me in my Susie Homemaker washing machine. I loved the night gown, because my mother always made me wear feety pajamas and tights, no matter how hot it was. Seriously, the memory of the pajamas and tights makes me want to cry even now. It was awful. I don’t sweat much, and I can’t take high heat. My family (mostly my wife and son) have made fun of me over the frustration these memories can make me feel even now. My mother did this so I couldn’t scratch my eczema. How hideous. When she wouldn’t let me rewear the hallowed night gown because it wasn’t clean, I washed it myself. It had senoritas with castanets on it. I loved it!

I remember being in a black out (that is, a time without electricity, not the alcohol induced kind, not quite yet). My aunt was stuck in a subway. It was exciting! I remember being put to bed with a candle and my friend, Eric. I guess Eric’s parents had joined my mother or parents in the apartment for the occasion. Eric and I were two weeks apart in age, and he lived in the same apartment building. Our mothers were friends. I remember Eric telling me to take the record albums (LPs) and frisbee them against the walls. I remember doing this. A different time, Eric told me to pull my mother’s hair while she was driving, and I did. Another time he told me to let go of my very special helium balloon. It was a Mickey Mouse balloon within a balloon. He told me to let go. And I did. I wonder how Eric turned out ………….

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