My parents, little brother and I moved to Springfield the summer I turned nine. Springfield is a suburb of Washington, DC, only twelve miles away, but at that time, we were totally out in the country. Now it is home to the “Mixing Bowl”.
The happy/sad house in Springfield as it looks today
It seemed like we were all happy at first, my brother and I had lots of friends to play with and we even played together some. I remember one day, at the Sunday dinner table, he said “I am going to follow you everywhere you go forever”! I was practically in tears, ” No, no, you can’t! Mom, tell him he can’t”. He loved teasing me and I always rose to the bait. But maybe that day his words were providential.
My parents entertained a lot and they had friends in the neighborhood and I got volunteered a lot to babysit. Maybe it was good practice because the spring before I turned twelve my mother had another baby boy.
I always loved animals and I dragged home every stray I could find from the time I was old enough to catch them. When I was eleven I was finally allowed to have a dog but it was a dog my mother picked out at the shelter, not the one I wanted. However, I was thrilled to finally have a dog and I faithfully walked her and fed her. Lady was her name but she was no lady, and, in fact, not a very nice dog at all. She bit both of my brothers and she had to be kept away from little kids.
I’m not sure exactly sure when things started to break down. My dad progressed in his career at the Veterans Administration and was a member of the board of appeals. He was on a panel with two other lawyers and a psychiatrist, who he seemed to have no respect for, and this panel was the final review for a veteran’s benefits. The job became very stressful and when my father came home in the evening, he and my mother would sit in the kitchen and drink martinis while she fixed supper. Supper would get later and later if he had a bad day. My parents demanded that we eat supper as a family and I can remember my dad sitting at the table just staring at his food and twirling the martini glass with his fingers.
I was going through puberty and becoming somewhat rebellious and argumentative. If I said anything to annoy my father after he had a few martinis in him, he would slap me hard, right in my face, or he would try to turn me over his knee and I was too old for that and I would fight back. My mother never lifted a finger or said anything to help me. It was drilled into all of us, “what happens in this house stays in this house”. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to leave home.
I loved my dad so much when I was little. He sang songs to me, taught me to read and ride a bike, and he also taught me to drive a car with a stick shift without losing his patience. It was much later I realized that he always had my back.
My mother on the other hand, not so much. When I was an adult, after my father had died, she told me that when I was about six weeks old she found out that my father had wanted a boy. I had never felt that from him, only from her. She had a stillborn daughter when I was two and somehow I felt responsible for the child’s death. She would say things like, ” this would have been your sister’s birthday”. Of course, I would feel guilty. My mother always favored my brothers. I couldn’t wait to get away.
Finally I was old enough to go away to college and I thought I was finished being built and was ready to join the world. Oh how wrong I was.