12/5/05
Since I resolved to post more often and I don’t have anything interesting to say today I will post this random piece of an autobiography I started, forgot about and then found just now.

My Life or something like that. So where to begin? I guess most people would start at the beginning. A life can have so much to tell: love, hurt, trust, betrayal. In most lives there’s some of each, mine’s no exception. I’ve had some difficult times, and come out on the other side of them tougher probably, for good or ill. I don’t know.

So might as well start at the beginning as much as I know and can remember.

I was born in 1954 in Southern California. It was the post World War two years and young American families were growing. The suburbs were growing too and at the time it seemed to me to be heaven on earth. The third child, the youngest, I was not planned, though mother said she had wanted four children. (I don’t think any babies were really planned back then. This was before “the pill”.)

My parents were young to have three kids. Mom was only 24 when I was born. My sister Carolyn is six years older and my brother Phillip is four years older. Mom and Dad were 18 and 22 respectively when they married. Today people are waiting well in to their 20s and 30s to marry, and then children don’t come along for several years. That’s a bit worrisome for lots of reasons, at least to me. Though I think that it’s a trend that may change in time.

When I was born, my dad, Marlin (or Mel) was working at Lockheed Aircraft doing some kind of assembly work. I think that job went away, because I remember that we were not very well off. Not poor exactly, which I equate with being unable to meet basic needs. But there was no extra money for certain. So when he applied to the Fire Academy and was finally accepted, my parents were very, very happy. I remember when my father got a job with the fire department in Ontario, California, I was four. I remember this clearly because he was required to live in that city.

This meant we had to move from the neighboring town of Montclair, and I remember moving to a little house on Berlin Avenue in Ontario. We would live there until I was 10. In fact we moved every four to five years for as long as I lived with my parents. Not because we had to, but because Dad had run out of things to do on the house. I think I inherited my dad’s itchy feet.

I have vague memories of the tiny house we lived in before the house on Berlin. My very first memory is of sitting in a high chair in that kitchen while Mom was cooking. I remember this highchair very well, it was wood and painted white and had a decal of a bear or bunny on the back of the seat. It pinched my fingers once! I remember that.

My mom, Betty, was young, though at the time I certainly didn’t know it. She always seemed middle aged to me! I wonder if that’s how all kids (my kids?) see their parents. She reminded me of Snow White. She had dark, dark hair and very white skin. When I was little, her hair was long, shoulder length. Though I remember her wearing a bandana, Aunt Jemima style to wrap up her hair when she was working around the house.

Unlike most children today, we had the benefit of a mother at home to care for us, at least until I was in kindergarten. I don’t think Mom really was “into” kids very much. Though she loved us certainly, it seemed at times that she was not very confident of her child rearing abilities. She did fine in truth, and by the time I came along she knew what she was doing well enough. Though Dad had more than enough self-righteousness for the two of them.

I have a distinct memory about lying on the couch in the afternoon, naptime I guess. This was when I must have been about three years old. Somewhere nearby there was a fish tank or bowl, and across the room was something big and red. For the longest time I recall thinking that the big red thing must have been a fireplace. I know now that it was an upright piano. The piano was an old one with an ugly red-brown finish on it. As a small child, and at three I was small, the rectangle of the keyboard and legs made me think of a fireplace mantle and hearth. For years I had rationalized in my head that it was a hearth when I tried to remember these early years. I don’t know when I realized it was not.

That piano was sold when I was five or six. Something I’ve never quite forgiven my parents for to this day! During that nap we must have been having a Santa Ana windstorm. In that part of California in the Autumn there are hot winds that come in from the deserts to the east. Mother called them “Santanas”. These were very strong winds, loud, powerful and frightening. Old houses then had thin copper weather stripping on doors and windows. It wasn’t very effective. When the wind blew hard, the copper strips would hum and whistle. Sometimes the strips on several doors and windows would shriek together and set up the weirdest harmonics. Dissonant harmonies, like singers trying hard to sing together but in different keys. Funny… the things that stick with you.

The house on Berlin remains a fond memory. I loved it there. We had a big back yard and when I was five I wanted a pet. We didn’t have a dog at the time. I can’t recall if I actually asked for a duck, but for some reason that’s what I got—in fact two of them. Fluffy and Flappy I called them. They turned out to be a pair, and in a couple of months there were 14 ducks! Uh oh. (I wonder if Dad had designs on eating some?)

The backyard was my happy sanctuary. And my ducks followed me about like puppies. One day Dad started digging a hole back there. I mean a big hole—with a shovel. A really BIG hole. I didn’t know what he was doing. Then I learned we would be the first family on our block to get a swimming pool! In the ground! Things were looking up.

It took a long time to build that pool. I don’t remember what we did with all the dirt. There were mountains of it, and my brother and I loved them, much to my mother’s dismay. But the pool did eventually get done and suddenly we were popular. Very popular. I think building a pool in working class suburban Southern California in the 60’s was a bit like winning the lottery is today. We had friends and relatives showing up on our doorstep we never knew we had.

I was all fun to me. At five I learned to swim, and so did my 12 baby ducklings. Dad said the ducks had to go. We didn’t eat them. We took them to a farm, Dad and I did. It had a pond, so the ducks were happy, though I wasn’t. The ducks went. My parents decided to keep me.

So should I keep writing it?

Advertisements