Lost to Someone Else: An archival Account of Childhood

There is an idea that if you lose something it’s because the energy of that thing isn’t right for you anymore and it is for whoever else finds and needs it.  I hear this as a relief from the guilt I feel and take comfort in it when I consider the things I have lost.  I am sure that this applies to houses I have lived in, and took memories from.

This journey back to the North Shore of Chicago has been a time of remembering, and a lot of letting go.  The other day, Mr. Henry, my faithful dog, and I toured around my childhood stomping grounds of Winnetka.  The following skims the surfaces of memories, with more to unfold some day.

This tour was on a warmer day than what we have had, all the snow had melted by 40+ degree weather. Henry and I stopped in front of each of the 3 houses I lived in during my childhood.

As I stopped to snap a photo in front of each house, I was certain that I was stealing something that belonged to someone else and I was sure someone would come out to yell at me for stalking or stealing the image of their home.

I was stalking.  Some part of those houses still felt as if they belonged to me. The houses certainly belong to my memories.

 

 

 

1083 Oak was the first house my folks owned from 1951-1960.  They moved there from an apartment in Chicago. I was one year old and my brother was turning five.  I remember that my parents paid $18,000 for the house and they talked about how exorbitant that seemed to them at the time. They borrowed from the matriarch, my great aunt, to make it work, as they wanted good schools for my brother and me, and Winnetka was touted as the place to get that.  My dad was a traveling salesman for Bell and Howell at the time, a step up from the bread truck driver he had been and was fired from for being in an accident.  I think my mom was owning and running a knitting shop with her sister or working at Carson Pirie, Scotts.

It seemed important to take a photo of the front and the back of 1083 as front and back are packed with recollections.  When we moved in, my Great Uncle Benny, one of the ten siblings from Ukraine, would come and remodel the kitchen, which was at the back of the house. There he put in the wonderful picture window, added a bathroom upstairs for the two bedrooms that were my brothers and mine, built a table saw in the basement for my dad, and a darkroom for my dad’s photography.  I took much comfort from having Benny around.  I remember getting a kiss from his scratchy 5 o’clock shadow each morning he came to work, and I remember my mother being happy that he was there.

 

 

 

It was at an early age that I knew things in the house were not right.  The Borden’s Milkman, Nick, came to deliver milk at the back door once a week.  He would always give me a free chocolate milk but that wasn’t why I liked him.  I liked him because every time he came, it was like a little adventure, he was a new conversation with me and my mom, and with his Borden’s Milkman uniform on, he brought in a fresh energy, a sweetness, a light, something about the world outside.  I wonder now if he knew what he gave us.

The back held lots of memories like digging to China under the plum tree, and when I dug enough and dreamt enough about where in China I would pop out, I would climb that tree and watch my dad garden. Around the edges of the yard were my mom’s Lily’s of the Valleys and Pansies and the Peartree my dad tried to train to grow a crooked way.  There were the times my dad could get my very reticent brother to play catch in the yard and I would watch, wishing I could drip sweat like the two of them.

We lived in that house in the 50’s, during the Cold War. I knew for sure that we could turn our garage into a bomb shelter. That or the hinged tornado doors to the basement would also work. I knew more than a kid should know about how radiation traveled, and how to design a safe bomb shelter. I knew as we all did, covering our heads while crouched under a desk, was just stupid. So I educated myself about radiation, it’s movement and bomb shelters via TV ads and World War III movies like On The Beach. My mom took the practical stance of not wanting to live if there was an atomic war. She said that she’d rather die than have to turn away people who had not built a shelter, for lack of food and room.  I’m pretty sure my dad agreed with her.

The front held the steps and front porch door embedded with other moods, yearnings, and desires. I was always waiting for something, really most anything; for my brother to come home from school, or my dad to come home from work, or someone I didn’t know, to just show up and be a new person around to talk to.

I felt bored a lot, something in me had closed down; my aunt said that at about the age of three I had become sullen.  I didn’t learn until much later in my life, that my mother would go into the garage to take Phenobarbitol to settle herself after one of my father’s depressive outbursts or just when she had had enough of him.  The garage served as her “bomb” shelter. I know she was grateful that her first cousin and best friend had married a doctor when in need of a prescription for Phenobarbital.  Though I am pretty certain that my mother’s air was trustworthy and sincere, and when asking a doctor for help, getting it really wasn’t a problem.

None of us seemed happy including my brother and I. The best thing was that we had our dog, Peppy, a part Collie and part Shepard rescue. Really, I had our dog, Peppy, he was my appointed protector, he followed me to school almost every day, spent the night on my friend’s front porch when I did overnights and just stuck by me.  It was as if he knew what I needed, even more than I did.

After about 6 years in that house, my dad had seen Death of A Salesman and decided to stop being a traveling salesman as he didn’t want to miss out on my brother’s and my childhood. So he borrowed more family money and opened a camera store, Powell’s Camera Mart #2 on Elm Street, just down from The Fix-It Shop.  He kinda missed our childhood in some ways anyway because when he was home, he was in an angry depression…a lot. Many years later he was diagnosed with diabetes and I have wondered if his blood sugars were causing his loud yelling and bad behavior.

stern-ellen-file1.jpeg

Some years ago, I had visited the Oak Street house with my girls.  We knocked on the door and we were invited in by a lovely elderly lady.  She told us that the house was called The Stern house. Now that was a fun fact, as my parents didn’t build the house.  So who did and who was there before us? And why did my parents get the recognition?  I knew dad did good things in the community like supporting The Hadley School for The Blind, the Lion’s Club, and some other charitable causes. I also knew his store had a great reputation. So there is that.

After achieving success with Powell’s, my dad decided to take a big, risky step and buy out his partnership in order to open his own store. He struggled for weeks over whether or not to use his own name.  My mom and I said, of course, he should and so Stern’s Camera and Sound Center became the name.  He was on his path of success.  Though he had had only a few classes in business, he had a natural ability to run a camera store.

1442 Asbury Ave, Winnetka, IL

1442 Asbury Avenue was purchased for $42,000 and we lived there from 1960-1969.  I couldn’t get a picture of the backyard without asking permission and I wasn’t in the mood to do that as this was one of my moments of wanting to be more private. But the backyard once held the Japanese garden my father made and took great care in raking and making patterns in the sand.  The backyard also held the fence between our house and the kid that lived behind us.  My parents always disparaged his parents saying they were shysters so of course, I dated the kid.  There weren’t many ways to rebel in my family but this was one.  He was a jerk, so it didn’t last long.  Quiet parental pressure worked on me and I needed it.

While living in that house, my brother went off to college, after his high school years of drinking, while making straight A’s. On his visits home, he asked to have use of the attic room, asked for the paisley bedspread from India, and the arty hooka my parents had sitting around as an interesting artifact decorating the living room.  They happily and naively gave it all to him and there lay his den of iniquity.  He would invite me up to have a smoke but between no desire to lose track of an already off color reality and being a good girl, I turned the offer down, at least while I still lived in the house.

905 Grove St, Winnetka, IL

905 Grove Street from 1968 to 1982 really wasn’t a home I lived in but I visited often.  My folks bought it after I left for college for a whopping $68,000. My brother was already out of the house.  My folks again did a major remodel adding a second level.  In the backyard, despite my father’s encouragement for us to “live together longer”, I got married at the age of 19, barefoot with a flower wreath on my head. The guy I was marrying was not a jerk, but we were not a match.  He was a wounded guy doing his best to make life work, and couldn’t seem to help the fact that he didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t talk.  The marriage lasted a long seven years, with a lot of suffering due to the fact that I had had such a limited vocabulary when it came to speaking up for myself and I was so fearful that I couldn’t even tell myself what I wanted, let alone anyone else.

There is a storehouse of many more memories, suffering, wounds, and joy that is being asked to be told another time or not at all.

You Are Not Confused!

 

Let’s be clear, here in America, the land of the “free”, nearly, or I dare say, every woman has experienced some degree of degradation because of her sex. According to the very adult, mature man, who I met at the dog beach, he claims that EVERY man has done some kind of sexual or other assault to a woman in his life.

So what is there to be confused about.  Certainly, not that it happens, rather, the confusion is rooted in the “when” it happened and the “how” it happens and our culture and our personal histories.

My teacher, Angeles Arrien, would say, “You are not confused.” and I would add, I just didn’t really want to know what I knew.  Angeles spoke a truth to me, bare, open and clear. There was the permission to know what I knew, what I had spent years pretending to not know or be confused about. And the most difficult thing was that I believed I was confused.  And, I was!  Because when you are asked to mask or hide a very important part of yourself, you become confused.  You can’t find your allies or anchors, you are not sure who will believe you, understand you, or hold you as an upstanding human being who only wants to speak her truth.

What happened over the years I was pretending? The years I sacrificed some part of myself or a lot of myself to get through a moment. The years I had a complete and utter inability to ask to go to the bathroom in elementary school. Which always led to a mad dash home when school got out, sometimes getting to the back of the tall bushes in front of my house on Oak Street, and against every struggle to hold it, peeing in my pants as I fumbled for my keys.

There were the boys that would chase me home every day, thinking it was fun to terrify me.  Oh, just “boys being boys”, right!? ( Isn’t that the same camp as “It’s just locker room talk”.)  I ended up with nightmares about figuring out where my mom’s friends were on my way home so I could stop just in case the “boys just being boys” were really going to catch and hurt me.  Their names sting in my memory like an allergic reaction to a bee bite, Tim R., T.and J. Sawyer.  I knew a few things about them, they weren’t Jewish and I was/am. In class, they seemed pretty nice except Tim. I think all 3 had military buzz cuts which frightened me though I didn’t know why. The Sawyer twins were a bit more finished than the Tim guy. The twins were less rough around the edges.  I was certain the Tim guy came from a house where there were guns. But what if I hadn’t been so afraid, so intimidated? Might I have turned and faced them, faced my fear, and yelled, “Leave me alone!”  Definitely risky, and it certainly would have taken some gumption which I had learned to pack away many years earlier.

There is more to this story; Like the guys in high school who I dated just because they wanted to date me, or the story about the train conductor who was about 20, and I was 15. He was black and he started to make out with me without asking and without me saying yes or no. It was 1965 and god forbid I would look like a racist, or mean girl, and reject him.  It was a long ride, a really long ride. The whole time, not knowing how or where to escape to and disliking him for intruding on me and hating myself for letting him.  Not one person on the train did a thing. And, after…well after… I didn’t tell anyone. The thought of reporting him didn’t even come to mind. That would be very scary at the time. I thought I was responsible for this happening.  I mean I was the one with no words, no NO’s, no voice.  I never did say No, not even quietly, not once.

It amazes me that I wasn’t more hurt by my inability, my incapacitation to speak up, to form the word No in my mouth even though NO was shouting from every pour in my body.

To put a finale to my adolescent years, there was the very sweet, kind guy, I dated my senior year of high school. This put all the popular girls in a knot.  I wasn’t cool, I was Jewish, and I was dating the Varsity football captain and President of our class. A few of these “know it all” girls, in the gym locker room, said with a sneer, “Are you dating him?”  In an almost inaudible voice, I said, “Uh huh.”

Then, there was his mom who told him he shouldn’t go out with me because I was Jewish and would get fat after we married. It might be important to note that she was a complete alcoholic but I feared she could be right anyway.  Not because I was Jewish, but because I grew up with Barbie Dolls and was certain I was fat at the age of 7, especially when I learned that food had calories and my comfort food, Jay’s Potato Chips, had a lot.  And, oh, my dad’s very affectionate nickname for me was Tubby O’Neil.  I loved my dad and desperately wanted his attention, and learned that even a weird, really bad nickname could be a way to connect with him.

I married the first time at 19 and we stayed married for 7 years because I couldn’t utter the word No. I was afraid.  I was afraid of my life alone, my life ahead, MY life.  The couples therapist we went to told us about her problems living with an alcoholic, so we quit and then, I quit the marriage.

No wonder I thought I was confused and my head was swimming with confusion.  I couldn’t find my voice and I was certain I was alone in this.

 

FEAR. THE DARK ROOM WHERE NEGATIVES ARE DEVELOPED

 

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Is This The Place?

Is This The Knowing Place?

Is this a place to talk about dreams?  A dream that I had last night. As if staged for a film, the light shone brightly on a printed, typed page with rough, worn edges, surrounded by dark ominous lighting. And my thinking was about how I could transform the work into a piece of fiction for HerName Blog.

Is this the place to ask these kinds of questions?  The questions about where to write about a dream, or tell a dream about one’s life. To wonder out loud for other’s to witness?  To ponder what is true, what I know and what I don’t know? To know things just under the surface of not knowing; Waiting one minute after the words, “I don’t know.” and then to know what I really do know.

I had a teacher once that seemed to not believe that people were confused when they said they were.  Angeles Arrien, with a edgy, soft touch would say, “You are not confused.” and I would add silently, you mean I am not confused, I just didn’t really want to know what I knew.  There was the truth, bare, opened and clear. There was the permission to know what I knew, what I had spent years pretending to not know or be confused about.

It seems a timely topic given all that is going on these days.  Given all the people that seem to not know, all the people that forgot something very important, all the women who have come out from under the veil of pretending confusion or not recalling or not remembering, all the women who have found the Voice of Knowing! These times call on us to know and know what we don’t know and high time to be dropping the veil of confusion.

 

Celebrations, Endings, ​and Beginnings

After my divorce, I left behind a comfort I had relished in childhood in which I fully knew I would be with family for holidays and birthdays and there would be great food.  Life changes in unanticipated ways, pain shows up where you think you can avoid it, and celebrations happen anyway.  Healing happens, joy returns, holidays are filled with fun, awkwardness, conversations you wish you didn’t have to have, some you are happy to have, and jokes go round, making for laughter, grimacing, and oh no’s, he really didn’t say that or tell that one again.

The anticipation of my trip to Portland and the Bay Area was initially filled with excitement and also felt daunting with concerns of how long my visit would be.  I was looking at being with my youngest, Molly, for a week over my birthday and Thanksgiving and then with my eldest, Nina, for another week in the Bay Area.  I love my kids but sometimes the amount of time spent in each other company needs attention.  And, it is possible that this trip has been designed with too little attention to time.  But there is more to know, as the trip is not even halfway through.

My birthday was the day before Thanksgiving, yesterday. I was feeling very happy to be with Molly.  Happy not to share the day with a Turkey as it is, about every 7 years.  Molly and I  seemed to figure out a way to be together without hardly a hint of annoyance and a sense of connection and love.  Our talks, shared desire for food, spas, movies and some political conversation were all good.  Molly treated us to a morning at the spa with a much needed sauna and foot bath, met my daughter’s boyfriend for lunch and a viewing of Pixar’s Coco where Nina, who works for Pixar, placed a picture of my mother in the end titles where there is a collage of many photos.  It was such a gift as if it was orchestrated by my mother from the other side and how appropriate that it is a movie about Dia De Los Muertos. Nina submitted the photo for the movie without any knowledge that the movie was to be released on my birthday.  So there I was with my youngest at Coco, seeing a picture of my mom, made by Pixar, the company my eldest works for. Love, love these women in my life.  And, well for Lasseter and sexual harassment, that is another blog entry, when I have figured out what the f___ to say.

I feel a relief from not being in Chicago. I am pretty sure my karmic healing there has had its time. That is both good to know and a bit scary as I have no idea where is next.

I have come to an end of an unspoken contract with a very long time, dear friend in Chicago. It was one of those all too familiar experiences where the lag time of what I knew needed to happen and when it happened felt way too long.  And the contrast of a warm welcome here in Portland from family and people I barely know feels so good, so healing, really so warming to my soul.

I can feel a lot, and sometimes it takes me a long time to get to why I feel what I do.  I have been told a few times now that the debilitating cold I had gotten 2+ weeks ago was about grief and the lingering cough, the same.  I feel less grieving now over a friendship lost and more sunshine, but the foggy shroud is still needing time to dissipate.  As usual, I want it to all happen faster and once again have to suffer with the fact that I have no control over that.

I am excited and edgy about what is next.  Right now, all I know is that I will be in the Chicago area until about April.

Name Change @ https://wordpress.com/posts/hername.blog

Nellie Evans was having another crisis of identity.  It was time to change her name, again.  She was re-raveling herself into something else.  She didn’t know what yet, but she knew Nellie didn’t speak to who she felt herself to be.  After trying on names like Melinda, just Nell, or Augustine, the name Maime seemed to speak to her.  It was an old fashioned name, but it spoke a strong, yet quiet peace to her soul.

She found out that the meaning of Maime had a Japanese meaning of real, genuine. “ma” meant dance or flax, “i”meant clothing and put with “me” meant bud, sprout, shoot.  The name seemed to mean something of the earth, a dance with the earth, something real with roots.  That would work just fine for her.  So she let Nellie drop away, which wasn’t difficult and she began to recognize herself as Maime.

 

 

A Change…Again

I have decided to keep this blog: Whatifitwassacred.com for my personal journey and I will be moving the third person story of Nellie or Maime or who knows, to another blog: https://hername.blog

This where Nellie or Maime can work out who they are, what name is best and the importance of a name.

 

Light on the Aging Adventurer Archetype

The First Person Blog morphed into a Third Person Blog ( Both will still be working Blogs from Different View Points)        For Third Person Story see: “Her Name”

The Personal Stuff stays right here.

“You are a guiding light for us all, a symbol that (at this entrenched age where we get more and more attached to our routines) change is liberating and courage abounds. Thanks for holding that adventurer archetype!” ~From A friend on my journey

“The concept of the archetype, which is an indispensable correlate to the idea of the collective unconscious, indicates the existence of definite forms in the psyche which seem to be present always and everywhere.” (from Carl Jung’s 1936 lecture on “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious,” Collected Works, Vol. 9.i, pars. 87-110.

The friend’s comment made Nellie pause and scrunch up her forehead. She did not own being a guiding light for anyone.  And what does getting older mean?  She was puzzled by the idea that we become “entrenched”.  It was hard for her to wrap her thinking around becoming entrenched or held by routines that go unexamined.
Entrenched brought to mind her fight with the idea of “hunkering down”. She bristled at the concept, a concept that people, she knew, only wanted to hunker down.  It just made her feel squirmy, depressed, stuck, enclosed. It made her feel as if she was curled up with a blanket pulled taught over her head and she was pretty sure she would never, ever emerge again. In fact, she was certain that was true.  It brought to mind a life sentence of submergence, possible severe depression and in this case, the opposite of freedom and therefore the opposite of Nellie’s life

She knew life was that hard, from too much experience, and she was always trying to find ways to make life easier.  She was a seeker, a healer and a Scorpio who wanted to understand the dark, death, life and The Mystery.

“In the sweet territory of silence, we touch the mystery. It’s the place of reflection and contemplation, and it’s the place where we can connect with the deep knowing, to the deep wisdom way.” Angeles Arrien

Hunkering down made Nellie feel as if she would be surrendering to the difficulty of living and she, the Mountain Climbing Goat Woman, Capricorn rising, was not interested in succumbing, or surrendering.

She had so many questions about aging. Do people just get tired of how much work life is, so a routine is something they don’t have to think about? Do people decide that sticking to all that is familiar is the best bet, no more adventures into life, because who knows what could happen?  Or is it just about our beliefs and the stories we tell to make sure our beliefs are real. Perhaps it is simply the character we come into the world with. Or perhaps something about karma?
Nellie could feel her brain darting around to comprehend this aging business. She grew up with Aquarius parents, at one time young socialist, always interested in the new, the different, the interesting, conforming enough to live very comfortably and generously, which suited Nellie well.  Among the things that made up family life were jokes made about aging bodies but always there was due respect for elders, their wisdom, gifts, and talents.  There was something of a tongue and cheek acceptance about aging and criticism for those complaining too much.  So watching people age in her world, was not about slowing, hunkering or being entrenched.  Nellie learned that aging was yet another adventure; the wrinkles spoke wisdom and sometimes there were difficult, challenging and upsetting times, sometimes heart warming, sweet and loving experiences.
Nellie was indeed an adventurer, mostly solo, and sometimes a person might come along for a bit.  Her dog, Henry or The Mr. was always with her.  Her life journey was never about safe and this current stretch was a lot about the opposite of safe.  Nellie knew she had a propensity for wanting to do things differently.  Her character served her well this way.  She wanted adventures, she loved statements like Life is Art because it suggested embedding creativity into every moment of every breath.  With this, she was reminded to keep things sacred, stand outside, watch with new eyes, breathe, move to get a new angle or perspective and let the moment change her, even if for one second.  And that brief moment could be an adventure.
The forethought, which many people were naturally inclined to have, often eluded Nellie, which made her life both rich with adventure, including some necessary and some not so necessary drama.  When she was younger, she thought she should do something just because it scared her.  Now, she does things a bit less recklessly, but still trying things that aren’t about staying or doing the same as what she has known.
Nellie was a young girl when her family took the 2-3 hour drive to Lowden State Park, Il where her father snapped photos of her, her mother, brother, and cousin at the Black Hawk Statue.  Of that trip, she remembers being with her family, enjoying her father’s sense of adventure, the cigar smoke blown into the backseat which made her vaguely nauseous, the cool jackets her mom had made for her and her cousin offering the cozy comfort Nellie took in wearing what her mother had made.  And there was the angst Nellie remembers over wanting to play with her brother but thinking he just didn’t like her all that much.
                                      floellen056-lowden-state-park-ill.jpgRobert, Ellen Michael Lowden State Park, Il 1956?.JPG
Life, then, was hard for Nellie. And, why was that? What happened? What didn’t happen?  Was this story necessary to tell again? Really?