Put another candle on the birthday cake

For several of my growing up years, at about this time of year, my mother would recite her familiar words in anticipation of my birthday. “You where almost a witch baby …….” and I imagine she anticipated a thrill to run up my spine. But, more often than not I would wonder to myself, (almost out loud,) “I wonder what she means by telling me this?” And so the tone of our relationship can be found in this simple exchange. The conversation changed little over the years.

On my sweet sixteen birthday she organized an elaborate custom Halloween themed birthday party. The invites included all of my closest girlfriends from high school and a few of our boy friends. I remember the party games included passing an apple down a line of couples without hands and bobbing for apples. It was by all accounts one of the kindest things I can recall my mother doing for me. There are a few photos of my tenth birthday but none of the photos include me, the cake, or any of the other trimmings, just pictures of my girlfriend guests.

According to my father I should have been illegitimate and he cannot explain why I am not. My parents were married on December 28th. The date of the wedding was chosen by my father. It was the same wedding day of his beloved grandmother. His grandmother had raised him from infancy to the tender age of 10 years.

Within the first few weeks of this marriage I was conceived. Years later I doubted my legitimacy and sought my parent’s wedding certificate. Yep, I am legitimate, that little piece of paper proved it.

I was neither illegitimate or a “witch baby.” God planned it and so the tone of my relationship with Him can be found in this simple observation of the facts surrounding my birthday.

Today was a special day for me and I thank all of the people who made it possible. And thank you Lord for looking over me.  Continue reading

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The House of Ruth: Childhood Home

2602 34th Street Santa Monica, CA

2602 34th Street
Santa Monica, CA

The earliest memories of our household would be found within these walls. My parents, myself and first brother, Allan, moved in the year mother was expecting George. Grandma Frances financed the down payment which allowed the three of us to move from her duplex at the rear of her residence on Euclid Street.

Looking at the picture, the shutters on the left framed the dinning room window, the window on the right would be the living room. Just beyond the dinning room would have been a small kitchen with a small service porch area, there where two bedrooms until a master bedroom addition was added after the birth of the third baby. The house could not have any larger than 1100 sq feet before the addition of the third bedroom.

In the kitchen I recall there being a gas four burner stove with the oven beneath the cook top. It must have been a weekend morning when one of my parents decided to cook bacon in a fryer pan. George could not have been more than three years old, tall enough to reach for the pan handle sticking out from the burner. Upon grabbing the handle the pan tipped spilling hot grease across his chest. The screams that came from him told of his suffering. Mother was panicked that her favorite son had sustained a serious physical injury. He was rushed to the emergency room and for weeks endured the torture of dressing and healing of the burn.

The back yard was the place for the clothes line, a swing set, and in it resided a huge pine tree the towered above the roof line (the very tip is pictured on the left of center at the roof top.) It rained pine cones nearly year long. I often looked up it vast trunk that reached to the sky and the thought of decorating it from tip to base in Christmas bulbs amused me often.

At Christmas the three slat open siding pictured to the left of the front porch, was the perch for a stuffed deer head. The thing was terrible and strange at the same time. It must have been a discarded hunters prize. Taxidermy had preserved the hide and fur and the nose had been replace with a red bulb that was wired. When plugged in the red bulb flashed and the prize decoration was living proof that “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” had in fact actually existed. If Rudolf had lived, then given the constraints of childhood logic, so did Santa Claus.

At the farthest border of the back yard there was a white washed plain wood rail fence at the crest of a small dirt mound that bordered the neighboring property. I can recall our mother out at the fence railing coaxing a blue jay to eat peanuts from her hand. With the bird won over she took a picture to commemorate the event.

Bird-Of-Paradise-Flower

Growing up I clearly recall the large Bird-of-Paradise bush on the left in front of the dinning room window. That bush will forever live in my memories.The flower opens slowly from a sticky pod until in full bloom.

Children can be rambunctious and there was a day when one of the large blooming flowers broke off. It was hell to pay from mother until the culprit could be found that caused the unfortunate loss of the flower. I have never liked the Bird-of-Paradise plant since. They are large, sticky with oozing sap and too tropical for any pleasure that can be found in them.

On the simple cement sidewalk I spent many an afternoon riding a skateboard, setting off a roll of caps (for a cap gun) with small stones, and playing with the neighborhood children. I recall walking to Pico Boulevard and frequenting McDonalds. Cheap simple hamburgers and chocolate shakes where a favorite.

Walking in the opposite direction to the top of the block where Ocean Park Boulevard intersected our little world I would wait for my father to return from his work day. He was within walking distance of his employer Douglas Aircraft at the edge of the Santa Monica Airport. He long legs did not break stride as he made his way down the block. It was a delight to keep pace with him, swinging my legs in unison with his as far as my pelvis would allow.

Facing east at the city and landing aircraft.

Facing east at the city and landing aircraft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I grew older I learned of the movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” and thought our of home on a street by the same name. In retrospect there where many miracles that where manifest within these walls, namely that our mother did not outright murder us, at least not physically. I guess it would have been a little tricky to explain a dead child. But then again, maybe not, our mother had a way with words.

Copyright  ©amanoffamily.com 2013

The House of Ruth: Baby G’s Arrival

2008-03-10-2054-35Why do I want to write this story?

I asked myself that question expecting an answer that I could tolerate.

The need to tell the story is found in the essence of my family, I am living in a broken hurting family system. Families are essentially systems of people and the relationships they are in. My broken family is not the only story to be told and at this time it feels a lot like a vacuum I am at the mercy of tolerant friendships.

Families represent the people who are closest to you in the world because you are biologically related to them. As this is a mandatory fact of life they are also the most capable of inflicting the most pain and harm, and in more functional, or healthy family systems the people you are related to also can create the most supportive and loving experiences of life.

Well enough of Psychology 101.

I will start with one of the first most vivid recollections of my mother.

At three years old the second brother was born. George arrived almost 12 months to the date after the birth of brother number one, Allan. I cannot recall the pregnancy but I was just old enough to understand that this person was a distinctly different person than me. But the circumstances of his birth and the emotional decibels rose considerably at George’s birth. He was “jaundiced,” and that meant to me that the baby was near death. Mother’s panic was palpable. She was frantic and I recall the infant being, “in the hospital.” I was panicked as well at the thought of a baby dying.  It was the first of experience when  I felt the unvarnished state of my mothers being.

That is how George came into his home. One older sister and brother to welcome him, glad to know he did not die.

Writing exercise #2

I see her through the years through the tears

Tender chest, willful eyes

Pudgy hands, pretty hair

Unsteady gait, curious mind

Brilliant with the promise

of exuberant wonderful life

The horizon laid before her parents

Hope upon hope

The air of privilege and prestige

Was filled with the stench

of decaying feces seeping through his flesh

Laid in his arms

He stroked her pretty hair

Filling her with the stench

of his rottenness

Eating her soul

Left with a gaping gasping wound

She railed against the endless pain

and against everything close

Like the beating sound of rain

The unyielding frantic pitch

Yielded only to death

I see her now through the years

Through her tears.

 

A Christmas Memory

There is one Christmas event that persists from my early memories.Frances (my mothers mother), continued to work beyond her retirement years as a Registered Nurse taking on temp nursing home positions. One afternoon while she was away from her house,  my mother, (and her only child,) decided to surprize her with a little Christmas tree.

After buying a small set of twinkling lights and a small fresh table top tree with a crossed wooden stand nailed to the trunk, my mother let herself into the empty house. With my help we proceeded to set up the little tree complete with the lights and small blown glass balls hanging from the branches.
This apparent random act of kindness was in stark contrast to the overt contempt that my mother displayed for her mother on a regular basis. And this is why the memory remains clear to me after all these years. I loved setting up that little tree knowing that my grandmother would be so pleased to find it waiting for her arrival home.

copyright ©amanoffamily.com 2010