Archive for the ‘The 60’s’ Category

And The Cradle Will Rock

In The 60's on September 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm

It all started when I was born the size of a three year old. It was the early sixties, and  I’m sure the fact that their first child, a baby girl, was listed at 22 inches and ten-pounds-four-ounces came as somewhat of a shock to my parents. My father promptly nicknamed me ‘Moose’, and lamented that my bulk would be so much better served had I been a boy, ensuring my future as a linebacker for the New York Giants, and his future of free football tickets. As it was, an over-sized female was not ideal, and certainly less than desirable, as my entire future would attest to. I was literally born needing adjustments in order to fit in.

My Dad was a six-foot-three ex-football player (high school and college) so my size was attributed to his side of the family. They were of hearty Lithuanian stock, straight off the boat, and (I’ve always assumed) sepia-toned. I’ve examined pictures of my ancestors-particularly the women, and rarely have I seen a more intimidating bunch. Wide-bodied, dressed in frumpy, dark dresses, babushkas on their heads, aprons tied at the waist and wielding rolling pins-these were not ladies to be messed with. Their facial expressions went one of only two ways: Grim and Grimmer. I don’t know the exactly what went on in Lithuania, but as a child, hearing my grandmother’s stories I had my theories. I imagined cobblestone streets, with sheep and chickens roaming free among the crowds, children in knickers, livestock, and mobs of dark cloaked adults.  I imagined my large and in charge ancestor women-folk stirring boiled potatoes in large iron pots, grabbing chickens off the street randomly (through the kitchen window! By the necks!) with arms the size of Christmas hams. Then, in one fluid motion, axing off said chicken heads on blood-stained, wood-block counters in dismal kitchens, under pictures of Jesus, the reluctant witness, who hung in several places on the kitchen walls sporting different poses (portrait, panoramic, nailed to cross)  I assumed their lives to be difficult and stark, and secretly thanked god (and Nanny’s mom) they had gotten on the boat! (I didn’t know what boat, but pictured it  tied by a rope to the Statue of Liberty. As for the grim expressions:  Even when I eventually learned it was common practice to command people not to smile in the days of early photography, I had a feeling these women didn’t need to be reminded. No smiles were on the docket for that, or any other day. How do you say ‘dodged a bullet’ in Lithuanian?

On the day I was born, my mother was given a puffy, fabric covered baby book- little lambs danced across the cover, frolicking over the pastel word ‘Baby!’, the exclamation point seemingly demanding an exciting story. Inside were spaces to fill in all moments ‘baby!- height, weight, first steps, first words. I’m sure my mother intended to fill out all of the entries as they happened, but she became pregnant again- six weeks later!-with my brother, an ‘Irish twin’ and flagrant interloper- whose existence I would never NOT know. Oh well! At least I had six weeks of ‘me-only’ attention- God knows I didn’t want to be greedy! (In fact, rumor had it, I was pretty self-involved during that month and a half- thinking nothing of crying for bottles in the middle of the night and too lazy to even use the bathroom!)

Anyway- the baby book remains practically empty to this day, save for little tidbits. For instance, the first sentence ever written about me by anyone, is in my mother’s lovely cursive under the ‘First Impressions’ category, where she earnestly wrote:  ‘She’s really isn’t as fat as the picture shows!’ Somehow- my mother had nailed my life’s underlying theme, after knowing me for less than 24 hours!


Depicted here: Me as a baby, completely floored that I’ve got critics before I’ve even left the hospital for home.

It was also height that  set me apart.  I was roughly the height of someone twice my age, and there was constant dialogue about this from family, friends, and especially strangers. ‘She’s how old?!’ a ‘friendly’ neighbor would squeal, upon running into my mother shopping at  Grand Union, while I sat in the back of the grocery cart, chewing on a rattle or babbling incoherently . I’d already outgrown the shopping cart’s front seat by eighteen months. (Which was a good thing, because Brother was sitting up there anyway, riding shotgun, and rarely looking back- the perfect metaphor for his life!)

“Whatever are you feeding her?!’ a Donna Reed wannabe would gush, white gloved hand to her rouged cheek in mock surprise and catty judgement. And then-predictably the jokes would swirl: cliches about Miracle Grow, Popeye’s spinach and Baby Huey-we’d heard them all. An original -and may I say-sassy!bunch of amateur stand-ups they were, so clever and original, as comedy gold sprang forth! Right there in aisle 3, by the Eight-O’ Clock coffee grinders at the Grand Union. I hear Jerry Seinfeld got his start in Produce but understood the risk going in.

My mother was used to the reaction and always defended me (because a girl must always be defended from the implication that she is not petite and dainty!) by saying, ‘Oh! She’s just tall’ but it got old, the same remarks over and over, and she later confessed that sometimes she would lie, and up my age to strangers. In fact, up until the end of middle school, the revelation of my age could always be counted on to cause a gasp, a squeal, a ‘You’ve gotta be kidding!’- a constant conversational ‘commotion’. It was a huge pain in the ass. And it was the fabric of my life….

‘This turkey feeds 8-10’

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