Tag Archives: girlhood

My two favorite childhood books

I grew up in a house surrounded by books. Holidays and birthdays always came with books and I have vivid memories about my favorites. Two titles which greatly impacted me are Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House. Now, these are two seemingly different books, but, I’ve recently realized they have a consistent message about the importance of home.

The story of Miss Suzy is a sad one. Poor Miss Suzy, a grey squirrel, is forced from her home (complete with acorn lamps!) because of a rough group of red squirrels. She is able to find a new place to live, a home she realizes she shares with an army of wooden soldiers.

Miss Suzy befriends the soldiers and, in appreciation for the kindnesses she shows the soldiers, they reclaim her home from the red squirrel gang. They lived happily ever after, but I still harbor negative feelings about red squirrels.

The Little House is a completely different tale. In this book, a lovely home is built in the country. As times passes, development occurs and the house transitions from rural to suburban to urban. Eventually, the little house is surrounded by skyscrapers and busy roads, in a fashion which is similar to a recurring nightmare I had with frequency during my twenties. Change is scary. Finally, the little house is purchased and loaded onto a truck and taken to a new country setting and everyone is happy again.

DSC_0040I hope there is a similar outcome with this house on New Scotland, near the intersection with Whitehall Road. What once must have been a beautifully located home is now sadly wedged between an Amedore built condo development. I know nothing about the circumstances which caused this to happen, but the property has been on the market for quite some time and I would hope that it will ultimately have a conclusion similar to that of the Little House.


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Not shaken or stirred, but blended

Q’s favorite Bond

My 7 y/o is currently obsessed with James Bond.  He gave up Star Wars at about the same time that George Lucas sold the galaxy to Disney.   Coincidental?  Perhaps.  If you offer him something to drink, it is completely plausible that he will request a martini, shaken not stirred.  It’s adorable.  Well, to me it is because I’m his mom.  Someone else might find it obnoxious or cheeky, but I’ve always had a soft spot for 007.  And my children, of course.

Over the recent holidays, I did some reflecting on my own memories of the Christmas season and I thought about a family from my childhood who taught me what a blended family might look like.  There was a mom and a dad and a daughter.  And an ex-husband and the children shared by he and the mom.  And the ex-husband’s son from his second marriage.  And also the son from the Dad’s first marriage.  The kids all referred to each as brother and sister and the relationships seemed pretty relaxed and fluid, kind of like a well mixed martini.  They were Italian-American and Westchester Jewish, a combination which resulted in great food and wonderful traditions. I loved them and everything they taught me about family and love and backgammon, truly.

As a divorced parent*, I might one day find myself in a similar position.  You know, blending children and families and friends with a partner.  I’d like to think  I can do it with as much tasteful grace.  I know that none of those relationships was perfect, I mean what is?, but the central thread of children which wove them all together created an inspiring family fabric, a patchwork quilt that gave at least as much comfort as a familiar cocktail, I imagine.  How about you?  Do you have any experiences like this to share?  Grab yourself a cocktail and share, why don’t you?

*I’m not a “single mom.”  The boys very much have two parents.

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image: beyonebabedome.com

About thirty-five years ago, on an autumn night when the skies got dark surprisingly earlier than expected, I found myself in the storage lean-to where the barrels of bird feed were stored, at the farm that neighbored our house. It was damp and there was the strong smell of must and dried corn. I wasn’t alone.

“Uncle” Oscar was somehow there in the dark, too. The smell of his pipe completed the trifecta of aromas in that small, damp space. I wasn’t afraid of him. He was familiar, with his belted khaki pants and tan-colored Volkswagen, just another part of the scenery to which I had become accustomed. I think that sense of comfort was why I didn’t make a sound when his hands touched my chest in the area where my breasts would eventually reside. I was speechless with disbelief. It was only later, much later, after I refused to accept his candy on Halloween, that I began to examine that moment and what had happened. How I had been completely complacent and what that meant about me. Was I passive? What if he had tried something even more invasive? What would it have taken for me to react?

Today, I was in a bakery with some friends. We were hungry and planning a feast – a little of this, a little of that. What I hadn’t anticipated was the older man behind us in line – most definitely not a gentleman as he so blatantly revealed, touching me. It was the oddest thing. One moment he was merely another human being looking to satisfy an appetite and the next he was a predator invading my personal space.

His game went like this: he grabbed my bare shoulder with his hand and held it for a couple of beats, pretending that he had mistaken me for someone he knew. When I looked at him in utter disbelief, he attempted to persuade me that it was a joke, just a lighthearted goof. I quietly pointed out the need for personal boundaries and how he had crossed mine. I made it clear that it was an unwelcome touch and stepped a way from him. My male friend got much closer and inserted himself to provide a physical barrier between the perve and me.  The man continued to explain why I should I find his touch a benign act.  He wouldn’t shut the hell up about why it was ok for him to have friggin touched me.  He went so far as to point out that I was “very attractive,” almost as if it were my fault that he had put his hand on my exposed shoulder.

I was so rattled I couldn’t even think clearly.  What should I have done?  Should I have created a scene?  Called him out on his inappropriate behavior?  Had the surrounding people get involved?  Despite the brightness of the summer sky, I was immediately right back in that feed shed smelling something that was most decidedly “off.”

Fair warning: the next person who lays a hand on me, without my invitation, will be touched with 35 years worth of disgust.  I’m not taking another emotional bruising without leaving an external black and blue lesson.

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