Monday, March 10, 2014

Musical Monday #2

Growing up as a child of the 1960's something scared me more than the boogey man...more than a werewolf, Frankenstein, Count Dracula and invading aliens from outer space all rolled into one huge, very real threat.  The Cold War between United States and Russia had escalated to a fever pitch. I remember having air raid drills during school hours in case of a nuclear attack.  Since Bangor was home to Dow Air Force base we, Bangor residents were very aware that our small city would be just one of the many ground zero targets. Even as a small child I knew that there was no bomb shelter secure enough that could save me and those people I loved. What I saw in the faces of the adults around me was that we really were on the eve of destruction and our fate rested in the hands of our elected leaders. The whole world held its breath while the nuclear scenario played itself out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Cry For Help

Each summer during my mother's vacation from work my family would go stay at my Aunt Leah's camp on Eddington Pond (what's the difference between a lake and a pond anyway? depth? size?) or at some other family member's camp. As I got older, my brothers stopped going to camp and opted to stay home so they could have legendary parties. While the cat's away the mice will play! The highlight of my days at camp as I got older were the boys who had a camp next door. As with any 13 almost 14 year old girl, I immediately developed a crush on one of the boys and I immediately learned how rejection felt. How humiliating it is to feel like the ugly duckling and the odd man out. I hated feeling not good enough. I hated being me.

I've always had self-destructive tendencies as far back as I can remember. Although I've only half-heartedly tried the big "S' a few times, I do wonder now what really was my goal when I downed a whole bottle of aspirin chased by a massive amount of straight whiskey. My mother had brought a whole gallon of Canadian Club whiskey along and now I wonder why she did that. My mother wasn't a drinker. Did she have plans of entertaining after the children were tucked snugly into bed in the loft overlooking the pond? Were my actions a cry for help or was I just looking for the attention I obviously wasn't getting? So many questions in hindsight, but never in foresight!

After going on a very animated teenage tirade that probably resembled the Tasmanian Devil going after Bugs Bunny and ingesting the only things available to me at the time, I remember continually vomiting until all I could do is dry heave and heave and heave. At that point the desire to die was more than just a fleeting impulse. I felt so bad, dying would have been a welcome relief. The next morning when asked about my "illness", I passed off what was wrong with me as being some type of intestinal ailment when in reality I probably should have been in the hospital. It always amazed me how strong my mother's sense of denial was. She was a nurse and never "saw" all the classic signs I exhibited of a teenager in crisis. All my stunts went unnoticed until I eventually overdosed on barbiturates at school a couple years later and was rushed to the ER. Since she worked at that hospital, it was out of the question for me to try to cover up that one. Oops! I got too high and forgot how many I had taken! Actually that was the truth. I ate pills like candy. If 3 were good, 6 were spectacular. Who knew how many drugs I had in my system at any given time? Like an alcoholic, one could never be too high unless unconscious or comatose. Oh, what a wonderful genepool from which I come!

My ears rang for the better part of a week and I felt like I had a severe case of the flu. I hurt all over and I couldn't keep anything in my stomach for several days. A friend who was with me during my dark period and who accompanied me to camp that summer, fretted over me and when I look back, I wonder how close she came to ratting me out. That must have been hard for her to watch me be in so much pain and self-destruct. (I'm sorry, Margie!) Now, I look back and wonder where my mother was during all this and why she had left my friend and I unattended that evening. The unattended theme carried through the next summer as well when I did have a boyfriend and that boyfriend was allowed to come stay at camp with me. Oh what a summer that was! Skinny-dipping, frolicking in the summer sun and lazy nights and early mornings spent listening to the loons while wrapped in each other's arms. For awhile, I got the attention I needed and wanted and then poof! It was gone and so was I. And to this day just the smell of whiskey makes me nauseous.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Musical Monday #1

Mildred Ratched's idea of Musical Monday is an excellent way for me to chronicle my younger years in Maine.  My first selection for Musical Monday is a song that has stuck with me since I wrote Where Have All The Flowers Gone.  Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations reminds me of the hours I spent with friends doing our own version of American Bandstand. Instead of rating the song, we'd rate each other dancing ability.  Now, that's a hoot because I cannot dance, but I thought I could then and I guess that's all that's important.  Of course, we all gave each other high marks for all those dance moves we had perfected.  We weren't shy or self conscious while shaking our tail feathers...I guess all those insecurities come later when a person finally gets out of their comfort zone and around strangers who might not give them the high marks their friends did.
My mother had bought me a portable record player when I was young and that thing got sacked around everywhere I went. Most of us had collections of 45's because they were cheaper than buying albums. Besides, albums in those days seemed to have only a few good songs on them at best.  My cousin, Debbie had a collection of 45's to die for.  I think I might have stolen a 45 or two from her (sorry about that Debbie) to supplement my own puny collection.  I believe that might have been the start of my days as being a light-fingered Louie (another story for another time). 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is There An Artist In The House?

I've always prided myself in being an aware person, but some major things in life seemed to have escaped my keen observation early on in life.  Growing up I really did think school came easy to everyone.  I had no idea some kids struggled to learn.  I also thought everyone could draw and write.  It wasn't until I was much older that I discovered some people really can't draw a straight line even with the use of a ruler nor could they write a short story or poem if their life depended upon it. For some reason I kept everyone on a level playing field where no one had an advantage over another person. The only area I can say that I recognized some people "had it" and others didn't was in their athletic abilities.  I was awkward and uncoordinated when it came to sports and physical activities. My older brothers were the jocks in the family and I grew up paling in comparison to everything they could do and eventually did do.

Because I didn't step forth and shine in anything, I felt I didn't do anything well.  In fact, looking back on it, sports seemed to be such a focus in my household I knew I had no way of ever competing for that limelight due to my inability to be an athlete.  I've asked myself many times why I never realized people really aren't created equal in all areas and I've also asked myself why no one ever recognized that I showed promise in some area unrelated to sports.  Maybe I wasn't meant to become a famous artist or author, but who knows what could have happened with some early encouragement.  Every kid deserves to be made to feel special and to have guidance while seeking out their place in the spotlight.

Shortly after Margie, my childhood best friend and I had reconnected after an 30 plus year hiatus, she showed me a picture she had kept that I had drawn when I was around 11 years old.  It appeared to be the head of a Barbie doll.  After I got over the shock of her having kept my picture all those years, I slipped once again into wondering why no one ever encouraged me to draw or to do anything creative when I was a kid.  Sure, I doodled and dabbled whenever the spirit moved me, but I was never encouraged to continue drawing and I never tried to take it to the next level until June 2012 when I announced to my mother one day that I was going to paint a picture. 

I figured how hard could it be especially since I had been able to draw my entire life.  My mother just smiled at me and said, "okay!"  I'm sure she was expecting my first attempt to be nothing short of a hot mess.  To be honest I'm not sure if she even ever noticed I liked to doodle when I was a kid or that her only daughter could draw a straight line without the use of a ruler.  I'm sure I was noticed in many ways, but to be honest, I never felt that way.  I never had the spotlight except for all the negative things I did. 

This one of my latest paintings
During my mother's middle aged years she become an accomplished local artist and spent many years being the star of the family.  She enjoyed her stardom until she gave up painting after a bout of cancer and the rapid succession of several other harrowing tribulations. As I  left to go plunder her studio for art supplies that had been sitting there unused for about 5 years, I told her it was my turn to shine. She laughed at me until she saw the finished product.  Her comment then was, "I think you have something there, kiddo!"