Category Archives: Growing Up

Not Raped

Never raped, not me, not yet. I don’t identify as being traumatized in sexual ways as a kid or young adult. Instead, I was an object or recipient of ‘little transgressions’ perpetrated by males. These incidents have surfaced from 50 years ago. Tiny sexual assaults and sexual harassments in my earliest work experiences –the life lessons about what it is to be female.
• Walking along a road at age 11-12 saw a boy riding a bike toward me on the same side of the street. I did not know him. He punched me in the breast as he rode past.
• I did a lot of babysitting. The husband was responsible for paying the sitter and taking her home.
On several occasions, different men, would try to kiss me, cop a feel or speak in ways that made me uncomfortable.
• While in grade school I was working in the concession stand at football games. Men or boys wanting to be men would leer and make salacious remarks about my body. I pretended I hadn’t heard or didn’t understand and gave them ordered items that were paid for with a smile.
• Sitting in summer school Typing class (pre-keyboarding), I noticed a boy swatting in the dark
Hallway trying to get my attention. We made eye contact. He gestured, spreading two fingers apart. When my face registered confusion, he forcefully pointed below my desk and rudely gestured to spread my knees, so he could look. I had on a skirt. I mouthed NO angrily.
He ran. I was rattled, sweaty and felt sick. This is the first time I have shared this from
56 years ago.
• At 15 my summer job as a soda jerk was always uncomfortable working alone with the owner
on Sunday nights. Business was slow the last couple of hours. I would broom the entire parking to escape to his creepy stare and create safe distance. This began the sharpening of gut speak.
• By 17, I worked at a downtown shoe store selling bags, hosiery and cashiering. The manager was a peeper, (voyeur) assigning me to dust and restock high and low shelving as he hid or positioned himself to try to glance up my skirt. I learned to navigate by calling him out in a humorous way. Unsatisfied he became bolder telling me what customer he planned to visually violate making me sickly complicit.
• At 18 walking with a few friends in broad day light, boys on bikes rode up behind us and goosed our behinds. Eighteen-year-old me thought this was racism, today I realize it was sexual.

I never told anyone. I reasoned this is a part of growing up. I think I remained confident and competent particularly about work. As I woman it was apparent to me this is a part of the world, the truth of being female. We females develop work- arounds, strategies to better protect themselves. The truth remains, the evidence cannot be refuted, even “tiny transgressions” teach females they cannot be safe of body, work, income, identity or freedom.

Cartoon Coping

As a kid,  I had no imaginary friend. I did have a constant cartoon station playing in my head.
It was a audio-visual processor with instant replay, color, speed control all set strictly for comedy.
This was before color TVs,when 3 TV stations existed and operated a mere 19 hours of the day.

My independent network was a big source of entertainment boldly satirizing characters, and reordering.
dialogue that regularly improved my position as hero. Instead of dreaming, I watched reruns and edited,
rewrote and directed in my head.

It was shocking, albeit satisfying to learn I possessed a gift of a that not everyone enjoyed. 
My network,Cartoon Coping, served me well.  It helped me be funny, to laugh at myself, to laugh at
and with others,process hurts and transgressions,to be playful and to be flexible.
It would wax and wane as life and work appeared (or pretended to be)  more adult.
It was the abrupt blackout of my personal network that initially went unnoticed and I later grieved
when treated for my first episode of depression.

Cartoon Coping never returned with same reliability under the adjusted network owner. Character drawings
and fun loving story lines appeared during more elevated moods and temperament. Perhaps watching was
no longer useful or was replaced with new found amusements.  Fortunately both my capacity and appetite for
humor are well intact as I rely more heavily on real friends and family and study for coping. Life is funny
in moment and in the retelling.

 

 

 

Hold Your Thumbs

Our dad was a giant of a man, both in strength of character and body. Standing six feet tall he was strongly muscled with meaty, thick hands, a killer smile and a heart the size of a small nation. He could be fierce and ominous to an opposing lineman on a football field but to those who knew him, he was the safest place in the world. As a young man he worked in a meat packing plant.  He was often seen carrying a side of beef hoisted over a shoulder.

Tom Keating, long time reporter for the Indianapolis Star, recounted the time “Kuntzie” cancelled the moving company Keating scheduled for a family move. Instead, he showed up with a truck and two young sons and moved the household. He even carried out a refrigerator by himself sans dolly. Our dad was full of the possible.

He was a big kid at heart. He loved to laugh. He was playful and full of mischief. He was an athlete, coach, teacher and a leader.  He was great with kids fueled by their wide eyed wonder, curiosity and innocence. He was a gentle giant who loved to hold babies, play and work hard and teach.  A lesson he taught each one of use as small children was the practice of holding our thumbs.

In our family when we wished, hoped, wanted or intended a particular outcome – those times when a prayer or good luck was needed, we held our thumbs. As youngsters, we couldn’t quite master crossing our fingers. He would show us how.  Try it now. Fold your amazing apposable thumb into the palm of your hand and gently wrap the other four fingers around the thumb creating a barrel-shaped fist.  It’s almost like a maraca at the end of each arm. This can be a subtle act, a terrific way to get grounded in a moment, harness nervousness, and build interior strength.  There’s confidence, comfort and sense of solidarity this little ritual.

So if someone says, “I’m holding my thumbs for you”,  you are in good hands. It may not have the power of a novena, but it’s pretty darn close. You can be assured that a particular saint, our dad, Bill, Kuntzie, Smiley, Coach is whispering into God’s ear on your behalf.

Short Video: Why Swing Sets?

 

Laughs Sealed the Deal

St. Agnes Academy was the high school determined to create “Women of Worth.” The all girl high school was directly across from the catholic Cathedral and next to the boy’s prep school that shared the same name. Some of the Providence nuns still wore traditional habits and all rules of etiquette were a very proper. While our freshman class likely all menstruated we were far from being women.
Study Hall for freshman was in the attic at high noon. The 1910 building had no air conditioning and we were in wool uniforms and full of adolescent hormones. Continue reading

Confidence Training

My dad was a hero to countless people because of how he made them feel. In his company you felt like you were the most important person in the world, his most treasured friend. I was absolutely certain I was his FAVORITE Child, or at least his Favorite daughter, I am the eldest of nine. Now that I am older and wiser, I know that each of my siblings will tell you the exact same thing about themselves. This phenomenon ripples throughout all cousins, friends, former students and football players and honestly out to those meetings him for the first time. He did not know or recognize anyone as a stranger. He was amazing.

When we were little, Dad would coach us up. He encouraged hopefulness, always fostering a can-do attitude- imparting confidence. He taught us to always turn to prayer first and holding good thoughts second. He didn’t mention the idea of LUCK as I recall. Since little kids struggle with crossing fingers—We were instructed to hold our thumbs! Continue reading

Flatland Girl Seeks Mountain Air

At 23, I was certain that I was all grown up, a full-fledged adult. Less than a year out of nursing school with a disappointing love life and more confidence than deserved I was convinced that a professional adult destiny was to strike out and leave home. Life loomed, an uncharted future required action. I snatched pieces and parts of others’ stories of travel, sport, adventure and position. Snow skiing was on my list. I planned, persuaded and cajoled trying to create a ski vacation.
It was a time (30 years before the internet)when there existed “travel bureaus” and talent experts called agents to provide ample color pamphlets about every kind of travel, often with personal testimonials or industry spin. Sometimes travel incentives were included in low seasons like an extra night’s stay, a meal or welcome reception. Amenities like this screamed elegant! Continue reading

Batty for Bats

bat-31963 Age 11 Bat

We grew up in the home where my dad was born. The middle room contained a door that opened to a short, steep flight of unfinished wooden stairs leading to the attic. It was dark, ominous and terrifying to kids who lived in more modern homes. I loved the attic. The best feature
the door, was completely camouflaged. Knotty pine paneling covered the entire wall including the door without a knob or handle. That corner of the room was always a promise of intrigue or surprise. Continue reading

Pansies

pansies-from-fernleaAn art project at age nine was using a sponge to apply watercolors to paper creating pansies. This child didn’t know pansies. But the process revealed heart shaped petals in purple and yellows. Ohhh, it’s a flower! A pretty flower. Her mother’s sincere acceptance of this gift of the pansy painting imbedded them into her heart. Continue reading