Monday, November 21, 2005

My Half Century: Part Four

Jonah in Whale
Whale carving courtesy of the esteemed Rt Rev Dr Omed.

1965 – 1975

I bet you’re wondering whether I have any happy memories. Tell you the truth, I kind of wonder as well. If anyone else was relating this sob story, I might worry about their emotional stability.

I suppose it’s a nature/nurture type question: am I predisposed to see only the sad bits, or has my life been somewhat sad from the beginning. Do I primarily perceive sadness because life has more or less programmed me to expect it?

I leave this question to more adept philosophers than myself. In any case, I will highlight the significant events as I did yesterday, then focus on at least one happy memory.

As I move into this decade, I begin to date things according to what school I was attending, which does not exactly correspond to the years within the decade. If my calculations and memory are correct, I went from elementary school to high school in this decade.

Let’s see: James Madison Elementary for 1st and 2nd grades. I attended kindergarten elsewhere; don’t remember where. I also repeated first grade. As I recall it was because I was "immature", but it may have because of when my birthday fell. Or, it’s possible I had some behavior problems as a result of the divorce. We’ll come back to these years tomorrow.

The conditional phrases "I think" or "I can’t remember for sure" should be assumed from this point forward.

Windsor Hills Elementary for 3rd and 4th grades. This is the school I attended after Padre married WL. They married the summer of '66 or '67.

The main thing I remember about Windsor Hills is my fascination with Winnie-the-Pooh. My mother had taken me to the movie, and I read the books around the same time. I can’t remember which came first. I remember some flying dreams during this period, and at least one time that I dreamt I was a girl (or had gone to school dressed as a girl). I suspect this latter dream had more to do with sexual curiosity than with sexual identity.

I attended a parochial school for fifth and sixth grades. I had a crush on the headmaster’s daughter, and Rosalie had a crush on me. At the same time, Rob and I were inseparable friends and were often caught holding hands. This latter offended the teacher’s notion of same-gender relations: she made comments to the effect that we were like little girls, no doubt intending to shame us out of this activity. It didn’t.

I’ll note that I was not attracted to Rob, and I feel comfortable as a heterosexual.

I went to Putnam City Central Junior High for 7th and 8th grades. Those were the years I discovered the 60s, even though they were practically over. Brother Dave, or someone else, had led us to the head shop near downtown, and I discovered Rolling Stone magazine – which lead me in all kinds of interesting directions (this was when Rolling Stone was still counter-culture, rather than one more advertising slick).

It was in Junior High that I rediscovered my love of performing. I took Speech, because I was very self-conscious about my speaking. Although Padre told me Speech Class was not related to Speech Therapy (which is what I actually sought), I enrolled anyway.

Primarily the class consisted of giving speeches on various topics, and learning some debate skills, but there was a section where we put on a play. I was the father in a "fractured fairytale" version of Hansel and Gretel. I was smitten.

This led me to become one of the drama geeks when I went to PC West.

My introduction to West was through Driver’s Ed, which I took in Summer School, 1971.

That was the also summer WL attempted suicide, as described here.

The remainder of my high school experience was colored by that. One of my responses to the event – which would get me shipped to the counselor’s office these days – was to cut myself. I was imitating what WL had done. Clearly I wanted attention, and should have been sent to a therapist. In retrospect, I wish I had asked for it or that Padre had insisted on it.

As mature as I was, I may not have had the skills to deal with the aftershock of a suicide attempt.

Being a drama geek put me with a crowd that was fairly tolerant of my strangeness. Like, for example, going to school in my pajama top. I think that was freshman year.

I had a crush on the drama teacher, who we called Mrs. Lady. She made us keep journals. One day, I wrote (or copied) one of my poems in the journal. She complemented it, and that began two years of writing poems for her.

I still have most of those poems. Rereading them is not comfortable. They suffer the excesses common to teenage poetry. Either she had low standards, or she believed in encouraging students. Many of the poems were directed to her, which I guess was flattering. But, aside from the poetry, the relationship was entirely appropriate.

In spite of the cloud of the suicide, and my inappropriate method of responding to it, I mostly remember high school as a good time. I had a fairly large group of friends. I was active with my music, song writing, poetry, and acting. I was the most engaged with society that I had been up to that point.

I started dating Susan in Junior year. We had poetry in common, as well as shared taste in music. We were sexually active only up to heavy petting. I learned about ten years ago (from Susan) that she deflowered every boy in high school who asked. I never asked. I guess I thought it would happen when it was supposed to.

I started smoking pot just before going to high school. I joined the older kids out by the football field and got high my first day of classes!

WL and I had been on very good terms up to my high school years. She was much more the traditional motherly type than my biological mother. In spite of a demanding full-time job at the Okla. Tax Commission, she still cooked our dinners practically every night. And they were good home cooking.

WL had the misfortune, I think, of being the focus of my teen-age rebellion. Considering how kind and loving she was towards me, it really wasn’t fair. I think I also experienced some cognitive dissonance because my mother’s family gave me the distinct impression I was being unfaithful to my mom if I loved WL.

Well, I wanted to be a good son. I wanted to be good to both women. I wanted to please my maternal grandmother, who had been the mothering figure prior to Padre’s remarriage.

Yeah, people pleaser. Still haunts me.

Oh yeah. The happy memory.

We were living in the house on 34th street when Padre started dating WL. She’d often come to the house, and sometimes play with me.

I was a fan of monster movies. I felt a strong identification with Frankenstein’s creature (more on this tomorrow). Though the movies and magazines sometimes gave me nightmares, I sort of enjoyed being scared. Plus, since I identified so much with the monsters, their "existence" helped me feel less alone and unique.

So, WL and I were wrestling on my bunk bed. WL got wrapped up in my white bed spread. She reminded me of a certain movie character, so I said "Mummy!"

Of course, she thought I meant something else and was totally charmed. She asked if I wanted to call her that, and I said sure.

The name stuck until around high school, when the bad teenage boy hormones kicked in.

WL lived up to what she thought I meant. It may be a bitter sweet memory, but the emphasis is on the sweet.

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