Farmer’s daughter, city savvy! Moving On: Part Two
Town living as a pre-teen was strange territory for me. A few miles from the farm but a different culture.
Farm kids worked hard from an early age, kept quiet at the dinner table, and were relatively contented with life.
Town kids whined a lot. They pitched a fit in the store if they didn’t get the goodies they begged for.
Town kids had little to do after school and on weekends. They played in the playground or in their suburban back yards. They watched a lot of TV, albeit black and white, all Saturday morning!
Back then, the town kids got bribed with an allowance to make their beds and help with the dishes. They got paid to work. Now there was a concept that was an interesting development in my tiny little mind.
Our “new” house was much smaller. Our backyard would have fit on our former home’s back porch. The three older kids still living at home slept in an open attic, boy on one side, girls on the other. As the youngest, I was allowed a delightful princess-pink twin bed in a room shared with my mother. It was on the main floor and was the only bedroom in the entire house. And as a bonus the house had a nice bathroom with real running water and a hot water heater. Imagine!
Life was peaceful bliss that first few months in town. With my father left back at the farm, there was little consternation. My mom went to work nearly every day at the phone company in a nearby town and we kids were left to our own devices.
One delightful summer day, sunny sky, crickets chirping … all that lovely peace and harmony was shattered.
Our divorced elder brother, accompanied by his two snot-nosed offspring, moved in with us. The blissful summer began to slowly crumble around me. In creating an entire new conundrum of inferiority for me, my brother and his family quickly wore out their welcome in my childish eyes.
The grandkids got the bulk of my mom’s attention even though they were grimy little beasts. How could I ever measure up? One of them surreptitiously fed his despised sweet peas to the dog under the table; the other got away with leaving her soggy cereal in her breakfast bowl and got excused from the table anyway.
Outside of the home fared no better. Assimilation in the town neighborhood was slow for me. The playground was full of danger and treachery. A well placed punch in the stomach from the little fourth grade bully knocked the wind out of me and the seemingly friendly pooch took a chunk out of my knee that self-same summer.
Third grade. The school was crowded, the nuns were a baffling combination of unpleasantly cruel and generously sweet. I never knew where I stood.
One afternoon, during an assembly hall presentation by a visiting monsignor, I, the ever vigilant law-keeper, raised my hand and dutifully announced that it was twenty past lunchtime. The nun was livid with anger, she marched me back to the classroom, brutally gripping my little arm. Her teeth gritted, she grunted, “you must be an only child, you are so spoiled rotten. How dare you interrupt a dignitary?” My innocent mind was whirling with clouds of confusion and fear. How could I have angered her when I deserved praise for helping her keep the time schedule intact? How could she think I was an only child when I had seven siblings?
Then just as confusing and soul stirring, the fourth grade teacher, sister Mark-Marie had a guitar and a gentle manner. She would teach us not only the approved songs from the official hymn book but would brazenly assist us in executing songs like Lemon Tree (very pretty) and The Lion Sleeps Tonight. How we laughed, singing “ a-weemah-weh, a-weemah-weh” with Mark-Marie playing rhythm on her acoustic six-string!
Then fourth grade came with a new disaster in the making. We had moved once to get away from the old man who was our inebriated father; tragically, he eventually followed us to town and back into our lives.
Then I was beginning fifth grade in the little house in the little rural town. The siblings were so much older than me that they one-by-one moved on to their own lives and out of mine. The brother with the little kids found a new wife and headed on out.
The siblings were my only buffer besides school that kept me safe from home problems. Parental dissonance was always stirring in the background. The parents’ screaming tournaments were becoming intolerable. In due course, mom became disenchanted with his narcissistic brutality and we moved closer to her work.
Closer to the Big City. Next time.
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