From reading here recently, one would think that cancer is pretty much the only subject on my mind these days. Sure, it's right in the forefront, as expected; I mean, it would be odd if it wasn't, given that I am in treatment right now. And since I use this blog partly as a communication tool to my family and friends, I've tried to make sure I keep my story up to date reasonably well.
However, when I started out, I hoped to also write about come of the other contents of my brain, for various reasons. One of the areas I'd like to spend more time on is memories. I'd like to record things I remember from my childhood and even young adulthood so that I can share them with my kids, as well as with those of you who were a part of my life back then. I recognize that these memories may not be particularly interesting to some of you, so you'll just have to bear with me when I wend my way down Memory Lane. Heh.
During 2009 there was a lot of attention paid to the year 1969. That year was a big one in my life, and probably the first year I was aware of the world around me, at least a bit. I turned five in September of that year and it jars me a little to realize that the 1960's are now 40-plus years ago. Yes, Virginia, I am middle-aged now... even if I don't feel like an adult lots of the time. Wow.
I recall the Apollo moon landing; my parents of course followed it on TV and had me watch with them. We had one TV in the house... imagine that... the TV came with only VHS channels so we had a "Finco box" on top, which was a little box that allowed you to tune in to channels above 14. Needless to say, this was a black-and-white TV. Anyhow, I remember seeing the grainy images.
Next on the TV was a new show that my mom wanted me to watch one day. She sat me down in front of the TV to have me watch this show called "Sesame Street". I thought the name sounded unpromising but then the program started and I was in love. What a great show! Great characters! Fun stuff going on! How ever did my mom know about such a thing? I liked to watch TV at that age but my tastes ran more to reruns of Bewitched, which was my favorite because not only was Samantha a good witch, but the actress's first name was Elizabeth, like mine. I also loved the Dick Van Dyke show; my mom said I had it pretty much committed to memory; also Dark Shadows, which scared the heck out of me but I loved, until my mom would make me shut the TV off. So this Sesame Street program was really special. And my then baby sister could watch it with me. I was scared of Gordon once; he was showing us how to do push ups or something. I didn't feel like trying so I just sat there watching him. Suddenly his face got close to the camera and he barked, "Don't just sit there! DO IT!" Oh my, I was sure he was talking directly to me!!! I ran around the back of the TV, easy to do when your set is on a rolling stand, and hid until the segment was over. I didn't like Gordon much for a long time after that.
1969 was the year I started school. At the time, we were living on the south east side of Cleveland, on a street called Prince Avenue. We were in the "old Slovak neighborhood" just a few streets down from the street where my dad grew up and my grandma and uncle still lived. My mom registered me for school in the Cleveland public school district, at Paul Revere elementary school. She prepared me well for going to school, telling me how much fun I would be having, and I wasn't afraid to go. She also taught me how to tie my shoes because I would need to change shoes for something called "gym class." Besides, there were lots of kids on our street, mostly older than me, and I was dying to go to school like they did. My "best friend" Michelle lived two doors east of us and was in the magical second grade so I couldn't wait to have school stories of my own to share with her. Mom and Barbie (little sis) walked me to school each day and picked me up to walk home each day. I can't remember my teacher's name, just an impression of her as young-ish with short brown hair. I do remember playing a lot, learning "hi ho the dairy-oh" and such. Once I saw Michelle when her class and mine were both in the "labratory" (lavatory) at the same time!
Then my parents rocked my world by looking for a new house. We were indeed part of the "white flight" out of the east side of Cleveland of the 1960s and 1970s. We would go with the realtor in her nice car and look at different houses. I remember going to see the house we ended up buying;, mainly because in the family room they had some kind of doll house sitting on the window seat and I thought I would be able to play with it if we moved there. The house was a small ranch in Orange Village, a southeast suburb. It sat on an acre and a half of semi-wooded land. There were 3 bedrooms, one bathroom, a two car attached garage, and a family room that had been added on the back but was not really usable in the winter because it had no heat! But the big, big deal about this house was an in-ground swimming pool, 32 x 16 feet, in the back yard. It was just the coolest thing as far as we kids were concerned. My parents ended up buying the house and we moved in a couple of weeks before Christmas. By looking at a 1969 calendar online I am guessing that we moved on about December 13 because I know it was a Saturday. I wasn't allowed to help move, but instead spent the day with my sister at my Grandma's house until my parents were done and came to get us. Our first night there, I can recall sitting on the couch and watching Green Acres on TV! Bless my poor parents, they managed to get a Christmas tree up that year. I can't imagine trying to move and do Christmas for 2 kids at the same time.
Moving of course meant switching schools. On my last day at Paul Revere I was very shy and declined to take my art projects home with me though my teacher had them ready for me. I was registered for a new school, Moreland Hills elementary. To get there, I had to take the school bus! Kindergarten was half-days so we had a special bus run for just the K kids. My teacher was a veteran teacher with white hair named Mrs. Doll. She was the nicest lady. We had more "work" to do at MH than we'd had at PR; we did a lot of worksheets which I had never done before. Of course we always had to write our names at the top of each page. I was not fond of this practice because I had to write "Elizabeth" rather than "Liz" in those days. Mrs. Doll had this funny habit of writing my name again above where I wrote it on all my papers and at first I couldn't figure it out. A boy named John with big green eyes sat across the table from me and would stare at my papers and a me when this happened. Finally I looked at his paper, then mine, several times and realized... she was showing me how to write my name using both upper- and lower-case letters. At PR we used all uppercase but at MH were expected to use both cases. And sure enough, all of John's papers said "John" while mine said "ELIZABETH". I decided to give Mrs. Doll's way a try and suddenly she stopped writing my name above my own version! Breakthrough!
Midway through the school year (getting in to 1970 here but it's my blog so too bad) we switched from Mrs. Doll's class to the class adjoining. The teacher in that room was also older, and named Mrs. Fitzismmons. She was nice too, though I really loved Mrs. Doll. I spent the rest of the K year there loving school a lot. One day we went on a field trip, on the bus. I have no memory of where we went, but Mrs. F sat with me that day. As we drove, I read the street signs to her. "speed limit 35" "yield" etc. She was amazed - how did I know how to read those signs? I shrugged; I had learned to read at home before starting school and assumed everyone could read. Turns out not so much... and one day every week I left my class for a while to work in a little room with a teacher and a few other kids, both in K and in first grade. It was the start of a school career during which I felt a mixture of pride for doing well, and embarrassment for being "too smart" or different from a lot of kids. Later additions of body fat (second grade) and glasses (third) made my discomfort grow immensely, but those are topics for other days.