Archive | July 2012

1961/1962 BECOMING A TEENAGER

1962 St. Edward’s Junior High School

I go from 6th grade to the 7th at St. Edward’s Junior High School and turn 13. In the 7th grade, we no longer stay in one room for all our classes; we change rooms for every period. I have many friendships now and spend most of my free time with Anna listening to the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and Ricky Nelson. We have abuse issues in our home  life  while our outside world feels dangerous and unsafe, having this in common bringing us closer than anything else could. I feel safe with her and can tell her anything, she is a great example of how to stand up for yourself.

My youngest sister is born with poker straight blonde hair and when I rub her head it stands up from the static electricity. It seems like I am always babysitting, if it’s not my sisters it is my cousins. When I go to My Aunt Louise’s her boys are hard to handle, I leave them in the bedroom because I get so mad, I am irate, luckily I have control because one of the boys was not so luck with another babysitter who abused him. When I go to my Aunt Lucille’s the girls do not listen to me, they hide in the closet, telling me I am no fun.

My mother sends me to Singer’s for sewing lessons saying “you will always be little and need to know how to sew, you will be glad you learned”. My first project is a 3 piece light green linen suit; jacket, vest and skirt, it came out great and I will wear it for Easter. My meme died recently from Cancer, she was an excellent seamstress and made us great dresses and coats when we were young. My mother is also a great sewer making dresses and coats for us especially for Easter and we always have hats, shoes and purses to match. We are poor but mother always manages to provide for us. It is wonderful coming from a long line of seamstress it has contributed to having a sense of style an ability to make whatever I put my mind to and a great sense of accomplishment.

In my own country the political environment is changing. President Kennedy initiated a 17 billion dollar nuclear missile program, advising Americans to build fallout shelters, increasing aid to Indonesia, invading Cuba at the Bay of Pigs which was a failed mission, so we start underground nuclear testing all of which creates a lot of fear and anxiety in many Americans. When Kennedy announces the creation of the Peace Corps I feel hope for humanity which gets me dreaming about living in far off places helping people in other cultures with feelings of peace and cooperation rather than war and hatred. What are your experiences and feelings around love and hatred?

In the south things are heating up. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) has begun sending student volunteers on bus trips to test the implementation of new laws prohibiting segregation in interstate travel facilities. One of the first two groups of “freedom riders,” encountered its first problem two weeks later, when a mob in Alabama sets the riders’ bus on fire. The programs continued and by the end of the summer 1,000 volunteers, black and white, have participated. The Freedom Riders force integration of Interstate and Travel facilities in the South. I identify with those who are suppressed and controlled and revel in their successes. Freedom what does that mean to me, and you my reader?

In the world around me Yuri Gagarin of the USSR is the first man in space which seems to irk my American patriots. In East Germany border guards begin construction of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall physically separated Communist East Germany and Democratic West Germany. It seems that fear, anxiety, and separation are going on all over mother earth creating an uneasy feeling from within contributing to my feelings of insecurity and not safe or secure. Have you ever experienced that?

As 1962 rolls around I finish the 7th and go into 8th grade still at St. Edward’s and turn 14. The country continues to experience much conflict. The Supreme Court, in the case of Engel v. Viatle, rules against prayer in public schools focusing on the separation of church and state. I am thankful to go to Catholic School where I can pray openly and that my classmates have the same religion. John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, it is like there is a competition for ownership of space; it seems there is a wild race to be the first. The Cuban Missile Crisis happens: The Soviets establish missile bases in Cuba; Kennedy orders a naval blockade to divert any missiles from arriving in Cuba, pointing to an escalating conflict in my world; the powers that be always seem to want to be in control and have the upper hand, being the top dog. Then there is Timothy Leary who found the International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) to promote LSD research as well as publish The Psychedelic Review. Internal Freedom is an interesting concept, reinforcing the importance of keeping things to myself that upset others while having a right to think the way I do. Do you have internal freedom or is there some internal voice telling you to think a certain way?

I turn to Music to open my mind, giving me alternative ways of seeing things, putting me into a different space. I really get into the British pop group the Beatles who attain their first number one on the British charts with Love Me Do. I learn all their songs by heart for they are simple, and positive. I find Folk singer Bob Dylan’s words on his first album expressing my inner turmoil, helping me reflect on what I want to believe in. I love dancing to the songs of The Four Seasons who have release three straight number one hits in a row.

Many things are changing and breaking down in my culture, reflecting what is going on internally for me; seeking freedom, peace and harmony through whatever means are available, as time marches on.

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1960 THE SHADOW

We move again creating a lot of anxiety from within, those butterflies in the stomach, a jittery vibration throughout my body, my mind get fussy making it hard to read, constantly having to reread paragraphs over and over again before it makes any sense to me, interfering with my optimum functioning. I have to get use to another neighborhood, school, church and making new friends.

We now live on Lawn Avenue still in Pawtucket, R.I., on the other side of the railroad tracts, parallel to Mineral Spring Avenue. Right on the other side of our back yard is the pizza place where the kids hang out, dancing to the blasting jukebox music. I save many Dentin wrappers to go the Chuck Berry’s concert. Our neighbors who live down stairs are the McCarthy’s and the Mathews’. A few blocks west and south live my mother’s friend Monic, who is my Aunt Sis’s sister (who is married to my Uncle Bert). Next door are the Chin’s who own a Chinese restaurant downtown; my sister teases Frankie calling him Frankie Avalon, I become close friends with his cousin Ginny, and many years later I run into Frankie and we laugh about a Chinese boy being connected to a famous white boy singer.

We live in another triple decker on the 3rd floor, which is covered with fake looking dark colored bricks possible tar paper. I climb the back staircase to enter the flat. As I walk in there is a large dining room with windows facing west, letting in the setting sun in the evenings. This is the central area from which all others rooms are connected, the bedrooms are on the east side so the rising sun beams us awake; Barbara and I shared a room at the south end while mother’s is at the north end and in the middle room is Tina and Joanne. The kitchen is very small, connected by a door to the bathroom which is in the northeast corner of the structure, with another door leading to my mother’s room. The living room takes up the south end with windows on 3 sides, there is a door leading to the patio and the front staircase which we rarely used, mostly it is for storage. The banisters are worn carved wood where many hands had already hung on while going up and down.

I am in the 6th grade and attending Saint Edwards School. I walk east on Lawn then turned left going north on Lonsdale Avenue, then turned left going west on Baldwin Street then right going north to Hancock Street. At first I struggle with making friends because everyone has been here since the first grade and are a tight nit group of kids, besides I wear these popular cat’s eye style glasses which I get teased about so I stop wearing them. The nuns are very strict and mean without compassion or caring for our welfare, they are more concerned with rules and orderly conduct. They have a tendency to pick on the boys grabbing them by their ears and pulling them down the aisles when they are the least bit disruptive. I excel in most of my studies, especially math, while my weakest subject is English. My mother’s original language is French Canadian and she did not finish high school, so our sentence structure is a little off kilter.

I turn 12 years old and am developing new friendships. Barbara and I go to the Leroy Theater on Saturdays; mom drops us off, paying 25 cents to get in, seeing all of Elvis’ movies. Barbara is 10 and has made friends with the kids down stairs who are her age. Tina will turn 6 after Christmas, and is always on her tricycle wanting to follow me around so I pay her a quarter to leave me alone and not tell on me. Joanne is a cute little baby with curly dark hair spending many hours in her playpen.

This is when the horror begins; my mother’s boyfriend is starting to pay attention to me, I am uncomfortable and freaked out. I wake in the middle of the night from the sound of heavy breathing, the stench of alcohol invading the air and there is a dark shadow in the corner of the room. I become very still and quiet, frozen in panic. I decide to tell my mom about the night visits. She is at the stove preparing dinner, I approach her and tell her what is going on- her response is “well, he hasn’t touched you, so nothing is happening”. I can’t believe that she is not coming to my rescue, I am speechless and angry. I am also afraid of her so I usually do the right thing so I do not get into trouble. I decide that I have to look after myself and I will never bring it up with her again. She does intervene after that, some nights she calls out to him, while he stands over us, and he leaves. I no longer feel safe or secure and I am suppressing my feelings deep inside of me. Mother feels safe and secure with this man around the house. He had come into our life taking her away from us leaving me vulnerable and frightened.

American culture is changing all around me: at Harvard University, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert begin experimenting with psychedelic drugs while the Food and Drug Administration approves the first birth control pill for sale. More permissive attitude is developing in our country.

The American government is turning to the left. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act. John F. Kennedy: a staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms such as civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and poor, narrowly wins the Presidential election over Vice-President Richard Nixon, he is the first Catholic  President, pledging to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. Lyndon Baines Johnson is elected Vice-President.

In music Elvis Presley gets out of the army and resumes his musical career by recording “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”
Motown Records is created: with it’s first top 10 hit “Shop Around” by the miracles and peaks at number2 on the Billboard Hot 100 which is their first million-selling record. Folk Singer and activist Joan Baez releases her debut album on Vanguard records in December.

I love reading about nurses. Sue Barton is the central character in a series of seven novels for adolescent girls written between 1936 and 1952. The series follows Sue Barton through her nurse’s training and her work life. In Sue Barton: Student Nurse, Sue begins training as a student nurse. She meets her friends Kit and Connie in this book and also her husband-to-be, Dr Bill Barry. Sue manages to have a number of adventures as she trains, including falling down a laundry shaft and saving a feverish patient from jumping out of a window while recovering from appendix surgery. In Sue Barton: Senior Nurse, Sue finishes her training, which includes psychiatric nursing and obstetrics. She also becomes engaged to Bill at the end of this book. Sue Barton: Visiting Nurse follows Sue and her friend Kit as they venture to New York City to join the Settlement Nurses. Connie gets married in this book and Bill pressures Sue to marry him. Sue refuses, wanting a chance to repay the training she received from the Settlement Houses. At one point, Sue helps an elderly patient fulfill her dream of travel by using the money for her wedding clothes. Sue Barton: Rural Nurse follows Sue as she ultimately leaves the Visiting Nurses and returns home, only to find that a tragic accident has left Bill with the care of a disabled brother. He cannot marry Sue until things are settled. Sue sets herself up as a visiting rural nurse in the town of Springfield, New Hampshire and winds up in the middle of a typhoid outbreak. Sue finally marries Bill at the start of Sue Barton: Superintendent Nurse and then works as the head of the nursing school at the new hospital in Springfield. However, her marriage to Bill is not plain sailing and Sue questions her ability to provide a proper nursing training for her students. In Sue Barton: Neighborhood Nurse Sue suffers regrets about leaving her nursing career while she cares for her three children, each of whom has particular needs. She also helps a young teenager, Cal, to be more sociable and Cal’s mother, the artist Mona Stuart, to be kinder. Sue realizes that her role in her family and the wider neighborhood is also important. In Sue Barton: Staff Nurse (the final installment in the series), Sue returns to work to support her four children while her husband is in a sanatorium suffering from TB. He eventually recovers and the family is reunited once more, with the implication that Sue will return to her position as wife and mother.

I also read the Cherry Ames series stars a job-hopping, mystery-solving nurse. Cherry (short for Charity) hails from Hilton, Illinois was steered into nursing by Dr. Joseph Fortune, an old family friend. Cherry’s training at the Spencer Hospital School of Nursing is chronicled in the first two books. There, she meets the classmates who become lifelong friends. With the third book in the series Army Nurse, Cherry joins the Army Nurse Corps, and, after the war, she moves to Greenwich Village. Whenever Cherry isn’t working with the Visiting Nurse Service, Dr. Joe sends her on assignments in various parts of the country. Unlike Sue Barton, Cherry remains single throughout her career with an occasional boyfriend here and there. Cherry’s early adventures are set during World War II. In these early adventures, Cherry solves problems and captures criminals when men in authority have failed to do so, “demonstrating that women can succeed in the public, working world.”

As you can see there are many things in my environment such as current events on television, music, and books that influence me; creating visions and dreams for my future, while giving me a peek of a larger world view. What has contributed to your development?

These postings are being written in the present time. I have never written about this time period before so it doesn’t appear as polished to me as previous ones that is my perfectionist part of me speaking. I have verbally shared these painful memories; I have spent lots of time in these past experiences, feeling like I was in a deep dark bottomless pit that I could not get out of. I was stuck in this time, constantly wallowing in my grief, disbelief and anger about the loss followed by the abuse I had experienced.

I find myself procrastinating about posting it due to concern how I am coming across, how it will be interpreted resulting how others will see me. Since starting to write about it in context with what others things were happening helps me see myself differently, putting things in perspective.

I am anxious about sharing this for I know it will bring a lot of memories back that I have blocked causing pain and suffering and at the same time knowing I need to push through and share it in story form in order to move on.  I am fearful of the consequences of putting this down in written form for I will never be able to remove it from my history; it becomes a permanent record of my abuse. I pray that it does not contribute to future losses of family, like so many others have experienced when they have shared their stories of abuse. Spirit is pushing me to record it in order to see it in a new light, to not be attached to it, to no longer be concerned about how others see me, to let go and move on, to be an example of healing. As I write this emotions flood my being in all its aspects and I listen to the inner voice encouraging me on saying “It’s Time”, “It’s Now or Never”.

My Childhood Happens in the 1950s

This is a hard period to write about 1958 through 1959, my memory is poor around school, where I went and how old I was. When we moved from Columbus I was in the 3rd grade and when we arrived in RI I was kept back and did the 3rd grade again. It seems RI felt they were more advanced than Ohio. I probably took some type of test but not sure. So in order to jar my memory: I wrote out dates, connected my age to them, starting with graduating from 9th grade and working my way backwards. Pictures did not help because there are no class pictures to look at till I go to St. Edward’s School.

We moved from Central Falls to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, last year, after the death of my father. Before the funeral mother told me not to cry, so I never cry in front of anyone, keeping my tears to myself. I cry alone at night in bed, quietly so no one hears me. Praying and talking to my father in the quiet of the night helps me get through feeling alone.  I am following my mother’s example who I hear cry at night while talking to my father. My mother is uncomfortable talking about feelings and has unsaid rules about what can be spoken about. The loss of my father is difficult; he always talked to me about what was going on and encourage me to express my feelings, teaching me to communicate openly and honestly. One time I approach my mother to talk about feelings and her response is “you sound just like your father”. I do not want to cause her pain, so I have decided to keep things to myself, asking God why am I still alive, why didn’t I die instead, and when I am angry with my mother I wish she had been the one to die instead of him.

Living in a yellow triple-decker with green trim, the top floor is framed by a slanted roof making the inside like cathedral ceilings where along the walls only children can stand. My sister and I share a bedroom again. Now we live closer to Aunt Lucille and Uncle Ave. My family now consists of all females. My mother started dating 2 different men before we got sent away to the convent and when we returned she had made her choice which one she would be with. My sister Joanne is born 11/12/1959, so cute with her dark brown curly locks, bringing great joy and love into our home, feeling special because I am now a godmother.

As I enter St Mary’s Catholic Church on 103 Pine Street my spirit is lifted up into the light. The church is very ornate, as I proceed down the main aisle towards the front, taking center stage is an alcove where the Alter is raised up on a platform, framed by 5 stain glass windows high above, shining rainbow light on me. The pastels hues of yellow and gold paint everywhere reflect the light high up into the ceiling.

I am awed by the 14 Stations of the Cross, seven on each side, separated by 5 stain glass windows that line the left and right walls, bringing in more light to show the way. There are side aisles within these ornate rectangular alcoves, having 6 columns along the length of the building, calling attention to the windows.

As I turn around I see a second story where the old brass organ extends the width of another alcove in the back, in front of the most amazing circular stain glass area I have ever laid eyes on. The center window has eight scalloped edges, with Jesus kneeling in prayer, which is surrounded by eight smaller windows each with 4 scalloped edges. This is the darkest area of the structure, encouraging me to go within and pray. The pews are of solid wood with no padding to comfort the knees or behinds of the parishioners.

The outside is made of red brick; the windows are framed in white smooth rock and the roof in dark, with a great steeple to help you find your way. I enjoy mass every Sunday and attend all the holy days celebrations, singing all the Latin hymns, belting them out loudly for I know them by heart. I spend many hours here in contemplation and prayer.

Sometimes I walk along the ‘under construction’ I-95 south and go to mass at St. Jean the Baptiste Church, where they sing in French, which sounds so romantic and inspiring, even though I do not understand the language. I am really involved in the Catholic religion; reading the bible and especially enjoy the illustrated book about the history of the church, one of the few books we have besides the World Book Encyclopedia.

Walking to school we have to cross where I-95 is being built through Pawtucket. My sister the adventurer walks boldly across the girders. I hesitate; she encourages me to take this short cut rather than taking the longer way around. It is scary so I sit down on the steel beams and shimmy across to the other side, not wanting to look down at the ground, so far down that if I fall I will get really hurt. I am relieved when my feet feel solid ground again, dreading the return trip home.

We go to St. Mary School on 167 George Street where I attend the 4th an 5th grades. I enjoy school especially recess with the sound of kids all around me having fun. Even though the nuns are in control and maintain discipline they are calm, gentle and caring. I am really into learning and feel very safe in this environment while making friends. There is consistency now; I am less fearful and have some stability. I remember my first crush on a boy, how I admired his fearlessness, his abilities to do what he wanted to do, a lot like my sister’s courage and initiative.

Television is very influential in my life. During the 1950s, it is the dominant mass media as more people can buy them and the number of hours we watch steadily increases. What is portrayed seemed to be the ideal; family, schools, neighborhoods, the world, but my father had ingrained in me it was not reality and they were only acting. I enjoyed many shows with my family: Lassie, Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet ,I Love Lucy, Disneyland and The Ed Sullivan Show. TV also brings the real world to me: I feel like an “eyewitness” to historical events, because the newsmen have gone from simply reading the news to showing videotapes and  pictures of the events which are occurred all over the world, and there are live broadcasts happening at the time I am watching. I am fascinated by Reality vs. Fantasy being played out right before my eyes.

American Bandstand is my favorite show hosted by Dick Clark. The show featured teenagers dancing to Top 40 music; there is at least one popular musical act that appears in person to lip-sync one of their latest singles. Weekday afternoons for one hour, after school, I am allowed to go to a friend’s house, there are at least 3 of us watching and imitating all the dance steps: the Slop, the Hand Jive, the Bop, the Stroll, the Circle and the Chalypso. Dancing starts to become part of my physical activities and a great coping mechanism.

My strongest memory is of course around death! The death of my favorite singers, in 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are killed in plane crashes in Iowa. Holly and his band, the Crickets, had just scored a No. 1 hit with “That ‘ll Be the Day.” Holly, just 22 when he died, had hits like “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy,” “Maybe Baby” and “Early in the Morning.” Another crash victim, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, 28, most famous recording was the rockabilly “Chantilly Lace,” which made the Top 10. The third crash victim was Ritchie Valens, only 17 had already scored hits with “Come On, Let’s Go,” “Donna” and “La Bamba”. I knew their songs by heart and the dances that went with them.

My Childhood happened in the 50s, focusing on issues of security. My child’s self-archetypes are; an observer, dancer, explorer, bookworm, traveler, trekker, seeking and searching for the truth.