Sunday, August 22, 2010


Last week I wrote about growing up in a military family and the close relationship I had with my parents and sisters. My childhood probably sounded like a fairy tale to some readers; and, in some respects, I suppose it probably was a bit Brady Bunch-like. However, life for me was not an absolute rose garden. You see, children can be very cruel. They can be especially so if you are different in some way...and I was.

I started life as any normal, healthy child. Things seemed to be fine for me and I was an active, ordinary kid...until I was about 9 years old and I hit the pre-pubescent stage of life. My body began to change and what everyone thought in the beginning was "blossoming" had morphed into a not-so-normal ballooning. In hind-sight, I was not nearly as fat as some of the kids I see at that age these days. By today's standards, I was a lot closer to average. But back then, I was a fatso.

I suppose it was a very good thing that my family life was somewhat stable and peaceful, because life out in public was anything but. I was entering the time in life when the opposite sex becomes a bit more interesting...and I don't mean for playing with Match Box cars and trucks in the dirt and mud. But I was a nearly red-headed, freckled-face fat girl with pimples. Not exactly the kind of girl an appearance-conscious pre-teen boy wants to admit is his girl.

Kids had various names for me. Fatso, Tub-o-lard, Tubby, Piggy, Fat Pig, Hippo, Cow... you've probably heard names like that before. I'm sure there were many more, some of which I was not given the chance to hear. They were so endearing and playful. (/sarcasm off.) And the proverbial Kid-They-Always-Picked-Last...yeah, that was me, too. That is very hurtful when it happens every time the situation presents itself. You no longer have to wonder if there is anything wrong with KNOW there is. These things did so much for my self-esteem and confidence. (Oh, sorry..I was supposed to have turned the sarcasm off.)

Thankfully, though, as it turned out I was talented in music and had an eye for art and a soulful heart with an appreciation for prose and intelligent thinking. Had I not been able to build confidence in those areas, the way I was treated by other children as I grew up could have had a devastating effect on me and my mental well-being. My family took every opportunity to build my self-confidence in those areas and it made all the difference.

I have some very hurtful memories from elementary school. While I was getting a good education in the classroom, I was also learning some hard life-lessons on the playground. I remember one day during recess we were playing Dodge Ball. Everyone forms a circle and three or four kids get in the middle of the circle. The kids that make up the circle throw a large rubber ball at the kids in the middle and try to hit them. If you're in the middle you're supposed to dodge the throws and if you get hit, whoever hits you gets to come into the middle and try to dodge the ball. I happened to be one of the ones in the middle at this particular time. (Now, back then, little girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. Dresses or skirts only.) In this conspiracy, I became the intended target of every throw. They weren't trying to hit anyone else...and the boys were aiming at my feet.

So, here I was, a large target within this large circle of "friends," wearing a dress and dodging balls being hurled at my feet. Then the inevitable happened. One of the boys successfully landed a blow on my foot just as I jumped into the air to avoid the throw. The heave had enough force to cause me to lose my balance (as my foot was knocked out from under me) and I fell to the ground in a heap, my dress flying over my head exposing my pantied butt to the world and causing my knee to come down with a crunch onto a sharp rock that embedded itself into my flesh. The crowd roared. As I struggled to get up I saw the other kids in stitches. I had been humiliated beyond belief...and to top it off, I was bleeding. I looked down at my knee and saw the rock that was trying to meld into me and calmly pulled it out. I got up and walked away as they continued to revel in my misery. I'm not sure what they think they accomplished with all that, but I'm not sure I was meant to understand it.

And then there was a guy I had a crush on in the eighth grade. His name was Gus. I finally worked up the nerve to let him know I liked him. He told me that there was no way he would date some fat tubbo like me and I was ridiculous to even think he would ever "lower" himself to that. The venom in his voice and the loathing on his face is something I have remembered my entire life. I believe that was the last time I ever let a guy know I liked him until I was a junior or senior in high school.

So I never dated. I had a couple of guys ask me out, but I would never go. After all, love hurts. I yearned for it, but was never brave enough to explore it. Love was not meant for people fat like me...or so I'd been told all my life.

I was 21 before I would ever open my heart to someone and let them in. We've been married for 32 years now. It hasn't been perfect; but, for the most part, we have been and continue to be happy together. I'm glad I finally decided to let someone in. Life would have been so lonely had I not.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reflections Of My Childhood

My birth certificates (yes, I have more than one) declare me as "An American Child Born Abroad To American Parents"…in both English and German. I was born in Germany into a military family with roots in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky, USA. I was the middle child of three girls. Hence, my quirkiness is not unfounded. Middle child. Military brat. Good grief. I didn’t stand a chance of being normal!!

When people ask me how I feel about being raised by a military family and moving from place to place, I've always have to say there were many advantages as well as disadvantages. I think the biggest advantage was likely the education. I attended school in some of the best school districts in the country. I finished off my elementary school education in West Point, New York at West Point Elementary School. West Point of United States Military Academy fame. It was an on-post school and afforded a level of education that would rival any private school. I attended there from the middle of my fourth grade year until I graduated from the eighth grade. I am thankful for that solid foundation for my education.

I think one of the biggest disadvantages to being raised in a military family was moving around so much. Granted, the moving was also responsible for one of the *advantages* to being military, which is being able to experience and see parts of the world I would probably have never been able, had it not been for the moving...but that is another paragraph. The moving around probably caused a lot of the oddities in my personality. I have a hard time establishing deep relationships. I have few friends that I have truly considered confidants with whom I could trust my most inner secrets and feelings. I shy away from intimate relationships on most levels. Not because I don't trust or like people (I actually love people); but because, in my experience, friends are temporary. Just about the time you get to know someone and feel comfortable with them, **BOOM** have to leave. And I mean leave for good....far away. And back then long-distance communication was slow and arduous. Strangely, I *hated* writing letters, so when we moved the relationships died. There are many people I have met in my life that I would love to contact again. It's not likely I will ever find most of them. I hate that part.

Because of all the moving, there wasn't much stability for us. The only stability for us was each other. The family core was the only thing we could depend on. For that reason, we became a close-knit family. We got along, for the most part, very well. I can only speak for myself. My sisters may have a totally different outlook on our family life as we were growing up. All I can convey is my own perspective. My guess is that I have at least one sister (I only have two) that may feel differently about how close we were, but I am glad I felt secure in our relationships. I'm not sure I would have survived without that.

So, we got to see some interesting places. We've lived in places like Germany, Japan, Virginia, Colorado, California, Hawaii, New York and Kentucky. I wish I had been a little older and more able to appreciate what an opportunity it was. I have few memories of most of those places. I remember Hawaii, New York and Kentucky; but the memories of the other places are disjointed and fractional. I only remember certain events or circumstances regarding living there. I seem to recall Colorado a little more than California.

I have recollections of playing in the dirt with toy cars and trucks outside our back door stoop in Denver. I recall having a cat named Pixie. She was a trip. She used to get inside a stuffed ottoman whose cloth under-lining had developed a slit (by cat-design?) and she would slither her way into the snug confines of the ottoman bottom and rest without fear of molestation by loud, obnoxious and taunting youngsters. Of course, once those youngsters had figured out where she was, the tease was on. We would see her curled-up, sleeping self hanging as a rounded circle in the cloth of the ottoman lining and put our hands under her and start gently (or maybe not-so-gently) bouncing her up and down. It only took a couple of times before the crooked length of her front paw would come shooting out of the slit, claws exposed, swatting at whatever was in the way and demanding peace. Poor thing didn't realize there *is* no peace when children are near. When my dad got orders to be stationed in Hawaii we had to give her away because Hawaii has strict rules about bringing in animals. That is the last pet I recall us having until my dad retired from the Army.

I feel very blessed to have had the childhood I remember. If there are false memories associated with it, I hope there is no one out there to spoil them for me. I think I would rather be ignorant. My parents were a solid foundation for us and I do not recall *ever* hearing them fighting or arguing until I was in high school. And never much of it then, either. I'm sure they did it...they were simply very discreet about it. My mother grew up in a totally opposite atmosphere and had vowed very early in life that her children would never witness what she did as a child...and she was true to her word. I love her for that.

I remember a happy childhood. I remember two parents who loved me. I remember two sisters that I loved dearly...even if I did make their lives miserable at times. (I was a brat, I admit that. But I was allowed to be. It was not necessarily what I *wanted* to be.) When I reflect on some of the things that could have happened in my childhood, I am thankful to my parents for the way they raised me. Things could have been absolutely terrible, but life was a fairy tale to me. A good, happy fairy tale. So good, in fact, that I sometimes long for that simplicity in my life again. But you can't go back, so I simply hold I embrace with covetous childhood and the memories within my mind. I will cherish them for as long as I have a functioning mind and the ability to take them out of storage, play them over in my head, and re-live the most magical days of my life. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I love you.