The Winter Coat

My brother is on Facebook now, and uploaded this photo the other night. I had never seen this photo, and I found myself slipping Kent Road East, Wantagh, Long Island.  It is 1963...and I am  6.
It is a time of skywriters,  radio,  ironing boards, milkmen, skate keys,  and black and white TVs.
It is the year JFK was shot -my mother was ironing my father's shirts, put down the iron and cried.
She never cried save for that time and when her father died.  She learned to create a buffer with Southern Comfort. 

I  have a hard time seeing myself in her--and peer deeper into the face of this child.   Perhaps it is because my face is pudgier than I ever remember, and I am missing those telltale micro short bangs from my mother's bad hair cuts that I was given until I was old enough to run away from the scissors.  I know that inside that little plastic coat is a very sad little girl.

I did not like that coat which had no color, smelled of vinyl,  got stiff with the winter cold.  I hated always having the damn hood tied up around my head.  I remember fighting with my parents (as much as I dared to fight) over the hood..  To this day I have an issue with head coverings, probably from childhood. 

Snippets of memories drift by me.  Getting hit a lot.  Having my hair brushed so roughly that it hurt. Throwing up in the Mercedes.  Running away.  Being sent out to the garage with the spiders.  Raisins, liver, and stringy snotty egg and milk shakes for my anemia. Fear, religion, God, anger, violence---all mixed up together, not being able to head or tail out of it all. 

I remember spending a lot of time in my bedroom finding solace in my toys, crayons, and coloring books.  I remember having to eat in silence and loving when I had diarrhea, because my mother gave me paragoric, an over the counter opiate, which made me feel good, really good.  Already I was liking the escape.

Yet that little girl still knew how to smile:  I was a strong child, I was a survivor.  I had spunk, I had imagination, I knew how to escape into another world.

When I think back to those times, I no longer get angry or weepy.  I realize my past has formed who I am now---and I am comfortable in my skin and soul.   What happened was part of my journey, and I have to believe that they were doing the best they could as they both must have had very difficult lives to have been so dysfunctional.  It was like that in those days. 

And I just keep smiling.

Patti O


Jane Schott said…
Thank you. What a lovely and bittersweet post.
priscilla said…
Wow. I feel very luck to have the childhood I did. I think I'll call my mo (87!0 and say hi. Thanks

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