Tag Archive | Childhood

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.

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MY FIRST DECADE OF LIFE

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness month so I am sharing this story about my traumatic experiences that happened in the first 10 years of my life. Also it’s father’s day and I am floods with good and bad memories and how they have contributed to my healing and transformation journey that my soul chose for this lifetime. The good helps deal with the bad. Being a seeker pushes me forward.

 

My parents lived in Columbus, Ohio at the time of my birth. It was in the last 6 months of mother’s life when we shared ourselves deeply, for the first time in 40 years, the first time in our relationship and our last time together. I am very grateful I had the courage to be completely open about myself, even telling her my deepest and darkest secrets. The stories my mother tells about my early life contributes to my understanding of who I am.

 

She shared how during the birthing process “when my labor would get painful they would medicate me and the contractions would stop. Eventually after 3 episodes of this pattern, I asked for natural childbirth and not to be medicated”. When I was in my 30s I tried group Re-birthing and experienced being frozen and unable to move, this happened 3 times, it was extremely uncomfortable and I saw how true to my birth it really was. Wow, what a confirmation. Freezing is one of my coping responses, which I have worked hard to overcome, and deal with. In intensely stressful situations I have learned to use mindfulness, awareness and breathing in order to rise above my neurological responses and create new healthy pathways in my brain.

 

Mother told me “I was breast-feeding you and you were always crying. I felt you were starving so I told the doctor who disagreed and told me just to continue. I did not believe the doctor so I put you on formula and the crying decreased”. I have had digestive problems from the get go. I love milk and during childhood after meals I would be bent over in pain, which I believed was just a normal thing, later learning I am lactose intolerant. Back then you never heard about this. In my 20s, while in nursing school, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was instructed that they did not know much about it so I would need to learn what foods my body did not tolerate. This was very helpful suggestion-rather than taking an addictive substance named Phenobarbital, which is a barbiturate used for seizures, which they wanted to prescribe. I have always used holistic approaches to self-care.

 

“You would sit quietly in your crib for hours on end. By 9 months of age you were potty trained, you didn’t like being dirty, and when you got a spot on a dress you would cry and insisted on changing. You threw away the bottle and would insist on drinking out of a cup.” Recently I realized that I was trashing that formula and the high fructose corn syrup that was added to my water, listening to my body. IBS has been my companion into my 60s when healing occurred after consulting with a Naturopath, who treatment the Candida in my intestines and with a whole foods diet. I am a sugar freak which has caused many distressing symptoms, and getting off all those addictive foods has taken away my stomach pain. YEA! Being introverted and enjoying meditation/quiet moments is my major self-care technique my life raft. When in my 20s I took to the wilderness and learned to love the feel and smell of the earth, being alone with Mother Nature, basking in her nurturing qualities was healing by connecting with the universal life force.

 

When I was a year old my mother lost my baby brother who was born a “blue baby” my mother had RH negative blood factor, my father and the baby had RH positive, which resulted in my mother’s body experiencing the baby as a foreign body and he died the day of his birth. These babies were blue because of their circulatory problem of having poor blood flow, and not getting enough oxygen. This was due to poor fetal development because the mother’s immune system attacks the fetus, as if it is something foreign the body needs to get rid of. My parents really wanted that baby boy and they were emotional distraught over the loss of their dream. I feel as though I was always aware of emotions in others and myself, ever since childhood, which proves to be one of the driving force leading me down my path to healing.

 

1951 was a difficult year for my parents. My mother had a miscarriage when RH negative reared its ugly head again. This created a hospital bill, “We were in over their heads”. This resulted in my father having to work 2 jobs so Dad and I had less time together. “You would cry when he would leave and we had decided to tell you ‘He is doing it to get you a bike’. This conversation happened over a Weegie Board experiment that wrote out “It is not your fault”. I was in my early 20s, learning to be a psychiatric nurse who loved group therapy. This information she shared lead to understanding where my feelings of guilt were coming from, the underlying cause of my poor balance and aversion to riding a bike, for I have many great memories of my daddy teaching me to ride. Creating my prosperity consciousness has been difficult due to the influence of these early experiences; money has been a major issue in my life that I work on like an onion: peeling back layers after layers of fears and limitations.

 

While in the terrible 2s, I tested the limits placed on me. I remember disobeying my father. He told me “Stay on the top of the stairs, do not to go down the stairs to the sidewalk”, while he was working on his car. Well I have a rebellious nature so I slowly and quietly went down each step on my butt till I got to the street amazed by my success. All of a sudden he was scolding me, carrying me back up the stairs, telling me “stay put”- that was not the last time I ever disobeyed him. I so wanted to be with him, enjoying our times together, happy just being near him, feeling secure and loved. I learn to create that sense of safety and security within thru living in my car while visiting some of the wildest places in the US.

 

My life was transformed in 1950 when my sister Barbara was born, I was 22 months old.  Barbara has always been a leader with great courage to try new things, something I have always admired. She taught me to get out of my crib, following her on many adventures that I would never have done on my own. I have great memories and wonderful pictures of us in our matching dresses that our Meme made for us. We loved to dance, do the can-can and play together, especially in the park with our mom & dad. We are sisters & friends. It was a wonderful time and I remember it well. To this day I honor my Meme and my ancestors for giving me those seamstress genes. I am ever so grateful for my first sister Barbara, I am forever learning a lot about relationship, communication and acceptance. Thank you little sister.

 

 

My second Trauma was at the age of 4, back in 1952, being a care-giver became a strong force, when my father got polio. I can remember that day when night fell, I was awake and praying when a woman appeared to me, I knew it was a vision; it was comforting and scary all at once. I did not know how to handle it; I did not tell anyone about it, I just told her to go away because I was scared. A few weeks later I woke up believing that I was paralyzed and saw my first psychiatrist. I felt responsible for my father’s illness because he was working a lot to get me a bike. I thought that he got polio because people got polio when they overwork. Later I would learn that he did not get the vaccine, while Barbara, Mom and I got it. Thus the responsibility for his illness really lied with him & karma. Deal with my angry at him and the healing of my abandonment wound was a difficult process due to the fact that I idealized him.

 

My father was in the hospital in an iron lung for a year and we rarely got to see him. I have a memory of that Christmas, when we visited him in the hospital, and how big the iron lung towered over us, how different he looked for he was just a head jutting out of a massive contraption. We now knew he was still with us. All we saw was his reflection in the mirror above his head. He was looking up and into the mirror, which looked down at us. I remember the joy I felt seeing that he had a picture of Barbara & I, which was taped to the cold metal cylinder, and I knew he loved us still. That old torn photo is now in digital form on my computer, we look very happy and without a care in the world. There is a lot to be said about being surrounded by love when there is a trauma; it’s easier to heal when you are surrounded by unconditional love. This I learned from a Chinese Psychiatrist who shared about his PTSD experiences. He was a young teen, escaping the Vietnam War with his family, fleeing on a crowded ship, people getting sick and dying, creating horrendous living conditions: that was countered by their tight family ties and support of each other.

 

When I was 5 years old my father was back home with us. Our life was very different because he was a quadriplegic in a wheel chair, he live in the living room, unable to get upstairs to the bedrooms. Barbara, Mom & I cared for him. We had home care because father was getting therapy on the parallel bars which were a permanent fixture in the living room. I loved being with my father and wanted to help so the care-giver in me blossomed. Back then in 1953 my mother had to go to work to support us. This was the beginning of my dream of becoming a nurse, which has proved to be my life saver.

 

1954 was a joyful loving year, I was 6 yrs old and my sister Tina was born, my mother and father shared a great love and mother always called her “My love child”. The next 3 yrs were wonderful and filled with love; dad and I would care for Tina together, on the tray he had attached on the arms of his wheel chair. What a special time it was learning to care for a new soul from a man, such an unusual experience during those times. Babies bring new life and energy to a difficult situation making life worth living for all involved. I was awed by my father’s ability to accomplish his goals with a positive attitude, using him as my role model for developing coping mechanisms that were helpful and life affirming.

 

At the age of 7 yrs I experienced my third trauma that had lasting ramifications for me in the years to come. Barbara & I were playing; she was riding a bike while I was running along beside her. We were going down a grassy small hill when I fell hitting my chin on the curb of the sidewalk, taking a bite out of the cement. This was very traumatic Jaw Injury, breaking my 2 front teeth and having the dentist say they can be fixed when I am 18 years old, creating self-esteem issues for many years. When I was in my 40s a dentist took a circular x-ray and pointed out that I had chipped a piece of bone in my chin and dislocated my jaw sometime in my childhood. Talk about symbolism and my difficulty with communications and expressing myself with others. Later when I started to do energy work, I drew a stick figure of myself with a dark line across my neck, showing how I felt; my energy was cut off between my body and mind pushing me to seek healing and understanding. Living in my head, no longer grounded in my body and leading me to body/mind approaches for healing.

 

At the age of 9 my father died which was my fourth trauma and was the most difficult to deal with. The LADY IN BLUE appeared to me again, the night of father death, my rational mind took over and she disappeared; due to fear, not having any spiritual guidance in these matters, and creating a symbol for healing. I know now she was the Virgin Mary. At that time I prayed to her and especially loved the story of the children of Fatima, and when I received my confirmation I took the name of Bernadette for it was my mother’s mother’s name. The seeker within me starts pushing me down my spiritual path. That’s a story for another time. Having shared my traumas with you helps me feel a part of the bigger picture for I know you have experienced your own and together we can light the way to healing.