Today I was thinking back on specific moments in my childhood. I guess that probably most people do this routinely. As I watch the Honey Badger grow, the more I think and reflect on my own childhood.
I was born at a hospital in Northwest Indiana and my parents brought me home to their duplex in Griffith in 1982. My older sister was four years old. I don’t remember many things during my years while we lived in Griffith. When I was around five years old (or a little younger), my parents moved in to a small home that was built for my dad’s mother in Black Oak, which is a section of Gary; she was already deceased by the time I was born. I have more memories of our short time in this little house than I do of most of my Griffith experiences, which took up about the first 3-4 years of my life. From what I have been told, we only lived in the little house for around 8 months until my parents moved us still further east to Chesterton.
I don’t know why I have more vivid memories of our short stay in Black Oak than I do of all my previous years in Griffith. I don’t recollect my mom at the house, with the exception of maybe once when I asked her why the sky was so many different colors (during a summer sunset). I remember my dad in the basement. I remember the big, giant throw pillows on the floor (very 1970s now that I am thinking back). I remember chewing a piece of gum all day; I couldn’t figure out why the gum wouldn’t disappear. I remember the stove and fire for some reason, but that is about it. These memories are flashes in my mind and I think they are real and that they happened at the Griffith house. But I don’t feel truly confident of these memories the more time goes on. I wonder if I spent much time at that home with as few memories as I remember. Did I see my family much in those first few years? I know that mom took me to preschool every morning at Tom Thumb. I would usually sleep in the front seat; car seats weren’t required back then. I remember preschool at Tom Thumb. Boy do I have a lot of memories there. Those memories could probably wait for another day.
In Black Oak, I remember breaking a glass bowl on my head after coming out of a bathroom that I had locked myself in while my parents were on a much needed date. My poor Grandmother (mom’s mom)! She was beside herself and I remember her being very upset when she left. My sister wrote notes to my mom during this whole time detailing what a brat I was being. Can’t say that I blame her.
I remember my Uncle Grant coming over and helping my dad install a wood-burning stove. I remember that we had to have our coats on because it was so cold outside; during the installation of the chimney, the roof was exposed and the house was equally as cold as the outside. I remember the sand burrs in the front yard always sticking to my socks and I learned from an early age that going outside was not always a good idea because of the fear of snakes, bugs, and sand burrs! The bugs and snake fears were large in part because the back yard grew so tall during the summer that we lived there that it was as tall as I was (which seemed huge at the time but probably about knee high on me as an adult).
The entire street was the extended family of a wonderful Mexican family that lived next door to us–the Torres’. There was a young boy, who was about my age. We were instant best friends. He had an older sister that was my sister’s age and they played together all the time. My sister and her friend Sally kept in touch even after we moved out.
The two times I went over to the Torres’ house, there was always a Latino soap-opera on that their grandmother was watching. I remember being confused as to why I couldn’t understand what they were saying. This was probably one of the only times as a young child that I was exposed to such a different culture than my own. But it didn’t matter, Raul and I were friends and my sister was friends with his older sister. We had a Cabbage Patch House that kept the four of us busy for hours. We would run around that Cabbage Patch house and play tag. We would run inside and drink pretend drinks. That little house served as such great childhood memories during our summer in Black Oak.
Shortly before we moved to Chesterton, Raul’s mom had a little girl. They named her after my mother, who has a very non-Latino name. Almost twenty five years later when I was doing interviews for the Radiography Program, I happened to interview a student who had this very unusual Anglo-Saxon name with a very Hispanic-sounding last name. Could it have been the baby sister to my long lost buddy Raul? I waited for the interview to be over and then asked her if Raul was her brother. She said yes. I explained who I was and how I had known about her. She told me that she had always wondered how she had gotten her name, as it was so unusual and no one in her family shared this nontraditional name.
During our time in Black Oak, I remember my sister was threatened that my parents were going to give her a spanking. What she did doesn’t come to mind (sass off maybe?). She was bright enough to put one of our children’s books in her pants so that when she “got the wooden spoon,” she was prepared. I remember vividly how impressed I was at such a young age at my sister’s brilliance in this situation. I was proud that she was so quick-witted to grab a book to protect her bottom from getting spanked. Once my parents discovered the book, they laughed so much that they decided to forego the spanking. How could a younger sibling not be so amazed? It worked!