Daily Archives: July 13, 2012

A year in my early life

Greetings, readers. I’m glad to see that WordPress is back up and running at full force. And I have a blog topic to share with you that I was thinking about last night. So here goes.

Usually my year begins in September. Now I know that sounds odd and is completely incorrect. However, let me explain. You see, as some of you might know, I have vacationed in the state of Maine since I was five years old – that was 1970. My two weeks at camp to me felt more like Christmas. It had that special feeling to it. Like when little children come downstairs and see that lit up Christmas tree.

Anyway. Come September the new school year would begin. New classmates, new friends, new teachers and books. And for the first couple of days everything would be wonderful. Then, of course, came the homework assignments and that first dreaded test. September still had that new feeling to it. But by the third week, friendships had been formed, cliques had been made and you were either accepted or you weren’t.

October. Leaves began changing colors. The temperature began to get a bit cooler and the days a bit shorter. Looking back on it now, October was one of my favorite months. I love Halloween. The last time I went trick or treating, I was fairly old for such an event and no costume you could buy from a store fit me. So I took my dad’s old grey raincoat, an old hat, and a toy machine gun that clearly did not look real, and I went as Al Capone. I still remember scaring the poor old lady in the house up the street. She screamed, slammed the door, and turned off the porch light. When I told my mother what had happened, she made me go apologize the next morning, which of course I did.

November. The trees are now either bare, or the few leaves that are still on the trees are mostly brown. It is cold, dreary, and the whole landscape begins to appear dead. Though football season was still in full swing, the first two weeks of November for me were usually depressing, because I enjoy warm weather, green grass, and trees in full foliage. I could not wait for Thanksgiving. Every year, my parents and I would sit in front of the television and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Having Cerebral Palsy, I had a devilishly hard time controlling my emotions, and even into my early teens, when Santa Claus passed by the Macy’s store on 34th street, signifying the beginning of the Christmas season, I got emotional. Am I embarrassed to say that now? No, because now I know what it was; it was simply what I mentioned – a weakness caused by a brain injury. Thanksgiving would be topped off with two great football games and a scrumptious dinner with turkey and all the trimmings made at home. Nothing like the holiday meals. : )

December brings Christmas. Yes, snow and cold is now fully entrenched and there shall be many months of it to come. More times than not I would stay inside warm and snug. Can you all say, “Joe is not a cold weather person.”? To get ready for my favorite holiday of the year, my folks and I would always choose one day to drive to K-Mart and allow me to push my own cart while they walked behind me, pretending not to see what I was buying them. Most years I actually saved up enough allowance money to get everybody something half-decent. One year I remember buying Pop a lighted replica of the Old Main building. I don’t think he know that it lit up. When I showed him, he smiled and kept it lit in his office for weeks – I guess until the bulb burned out.

Christmas music is especially important to me. When I would go to Christmas Eve service with Mom and Dad as a child, I would always delight in singing “Joy to the World,” “The First Noel,” “Hark! The Harold Angels Sing,” and “Silent Night.” When the Christmas service was almost over the very last hymn was “Silent Night, Holy Night.” One of my most cherished childhood memories was of the lights dimming in the church, everyone taking their candles and lighting them and singing that beautiful song. I was always afraid that I was going to drip wax on myself, scream, drop the candle, and set the church on fire. Luckily that never happened. When the song was over and the lights would come up again, it would be midnight and Christmas morning. *

December 31st going into New Year’s morning is truly my favorite time of year, folks. I remember sitting in the living room watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s show, sipping either Champagne or sparkling grape juice, while ringing in the new year with hugs, kisses, and my mother’s un-patented, traditional, Happy New Year’s shout on the front porch, followed by a whooping yell.

Then came the down time. After all the college bowl games were over in January came the long winter. Complete with cold, snow, and ice. Today it doesn’t seem to snow as much here in central Pennsylvania as it did in the 70s and 80s. Throughout the rest of the winter my friend David and I would either listen to records or play a short game of Nerf football outside. I certainly didn’t like being cold and I don’t think he did either. Now let’s jump to early Spring.

April. Hooray, hooray. It’s the beginning of baseball season. That truly is my favorite sport. With the boys of summer back, this time of year also brings the Crocuses, the fresh green buds on the trees, and the smell of spring. To me winter has no smell. It smells dead. Also the Easter holiday rolls around. All the men, women, and children would arrive at the church that we would go to in their Easter best. Little boys in suits and ties, looking miserable, and little girls in dresses, white stockings, black shoes, and ribbons in their hair. I must admit somehow I think the little girls liked to dress up for Easter.

May and June. The last couple months of school had finally arrived. Projects were beginning to wind down and everyone was excited about the summer to come. Kids started talking about where they would go on vacation. Some teachers eased up on homework just a bit and during my elementary years, we could all finally go back outside for recess. My favorite game was kickball. I was fairly good at it and only once did I hit someone with the ball so hard that it hurt him. I felt terrible. I remember he said something like, “Am I bleeding?” I answered, “No.” And he told me to forget it; no harm, no foul. The last day of school was always more or less of a joke. A formality. There was not going to be any homework, there would be no tests. In my early years of schooling, we actually had parties. In junior high and high school, we might watch a film or all hang out in the auditorium and reminisce about the year that was.

July brought my birthday. Some years, Mom would take me swimming to the local pool. If there was a carnival in town, we might attend that. But most years it was steaks on the grill, Hires root beer, and lots of happy memories with the neighborhood kids, playing Wiffle ball, lawn darts, and Nerf football.

And then, lo and behold, August would roll around once more. It would be my second New Year, as it would be time to go back to camp and recharge my batteries for another year. I would count down the days until we packed up the car and left for Maine.

Hopefully this longer than usual post has made up for a few days that I did not post anything. If any of you want to share your memories of childhood, religious celebrations, school, or anything else, please feel free to do so in the comments. As always, take care and happy reading.

*The paragraph on Christmas music came from the earlier blog post The importance of music in my life, from May 10, 2012. It said what I wanted to say for this piece so well that I copied and pasted it.