My earliest memory was when I was about a year old; sitting in the doorway in-between my parent’s bedroom and our kitchen, naked from the waist down, wearing only a tee shirt with stains and snaps on it.I was peeling back small, brittle pieces from the worn, frayed edge of the gray linoleum kitchen floor and eating them.
My mother was putting fresh sheets onto her full-sized bed, and shouted at me to stop eating the floor… but I still sat there, content to keep peeling and munching, until she picked me up and put me into my crib where I began to peel and eat the wallpaper.
We were a middle-classed blue-collar family from Passaic, New Jersey.My father was a washing machine and dryer repairman for Sears Roebuck and Co.My parents married a few months after High School Graduation, and I arrived the following year.
I was a loud child; always making sounds and trying to speak before speech was a physical possibility, and my Mother swore I was an uncooperative baby due to my frustration at not being able to carry on a conversation. I learned to speak early (big surprise!) and I’ve never stopped talking.Yeah, I even talk in my sleep!
I have an incredible memory; able to recall obscure things from long ago in great detail, yet I forget what I ate for breakfast this morning.Go figure.
My Father’s parents lived upstairs from us, and when I was a little more than two years old, I remember my Mother sitting me on the sofa in the living room with my big plastic dog and a doll, telling me Grandma and Grandpa would be down in a minute to get me, and that I should be a good girl.
Dad lead mom through the house and out of the back door, but not before I managed to climb down off of our nubby sectional couch and run after them.I arrived at the door as it was closing, and I remember trying to turn the doorknob without success.I was screaming now, crying, and not understanding why my parents would leave me behind.Of course, I didn’t understand my Mother was in labor with my sister.
I stopped crying almost immediately when I heard the voice of my Grandmother calling down the stairs to me, “Bobbie-Ann, come upstairs for some chocolate.”(Daddy and Mommy WHO??)
I turned around, and ran across our apartment and out of the front door into the entrance foyer where I was swept up into the burly arms of my Grandfather.He swung me around, making me laugh, and carried me upstairs into their apartment.As soon as the door was closed behind us, Grandma popped a small piece of a Hershey’s chocolate bar into my mouth.Ah! Chocolate!It always worked its magic on me from the very start.
Spoiled? No.I was way beyond that.I was the Princess of that little 2-family house on Sherman Street.I ruled the roost, I got all of the attention, and could get away with standing in front of the television screen, ‘dancing’ in the middle of whatever show was on, whether or not music was playing.My grandparents would actually clap along, encouraging me to dance more.Sometimes my Grandfather would sing songs to me in Italian, and I’d shake my booty with the beat. I’d remain in front of their television set, soaking up their undivided attention, blocking their view of whatever show they may have been watching.I wanted to be on Television, and standing in front of it was the next best thing!
When I was downstairs in my parent’s apartment, they would not clap for me to dance in front of our TV screen, but they would tolerate my blocking their view during commercials.However, I would be ordered to get out of the way during one of my Dad’s favorite television shows. Daddy wanted to ‘Catch Max’ on the Soupy Sales Show, and he watched it faithfully every weeknight.I vaguely remember the details of the show, but a character (Max) would creep into the background of a skit, and at the end of the show, Soupy Sales would call a telephone number pulled from a cage of mailed-in postcards, and would ask if you were able to‘Catch Max’ on his show that evening.If you could tell Soupy in which skit Max appeared, you were showered with prizes, glory and fame.(Ok, well, maybe not glory and fame, but the prizes were pretty cool.)
I also remember with great clarity, that one fateful day we happened to switch over from SOUPY SALES to another show, and the telephone rang.I ran into the dining room to answer it, (Yes, at age two!) and I remember Soupy’s voice asking me if my Daddy was home!I turned to my parents and squealed, “It’s Soupy!” and as I jumped up and down with excitement, my parents scrambled to change the channel back to his show.I suddenly began singing the ABC song, just to hear my own voice coming over the television set.(Back in the 1960’s television was always broadcasted LIVE.)My Dad came over to me, and peeled the telephone receiver from my hand.We didn’t ‘Catch Max’, obviously, but I still remember the thrill of hearing myself on Television that day, all those years ago.
In August of 1962, my sister Nancy was born and unfortunately, had to move into our humble abode with us.Things drastically changed for me. Suddenly, there was this little bald headed, wrinkled up THING sucking up the attention of everyone in the house, and making a lot of noise as well.Not to mention the smell.IT didn’t “poopie on the potty” like I did!IT cried a lot, and IT threw up white stuff.And I was never allowed to play with IT.And to compound matters, that THING had its cage (crib) placed into MY bedroom, across the room from my new ‘big girl bed’.No, I was not happy with this new addition AT ALL.
Suddenly, I was ridiculed for still sucking on my pacifier, as “only BABIES need them!” and I was asked to get out of the way of the TV set when I visited my Grandparents upstairs, even when it was only during the “Doublemint Gum” commercials.(I can even recall the corny tune and the lyrics to their Jingle!)
But the worst possible change for me to deal with was the fact I had to share my parents and grandparents.I was no longer the center of attention in our house.A devastating revelation for a two-year-old Princess!!
I remember telling my Father I wanted him to bring that THING in the cage back to the hospital where he got it!He laughed, and repeated my comment to everyone that came to visit the new baby, bearing gifts and showering their attention on that little creature in my bedroom.
Undaunted, I would always do things to try and get the attention directed back to me by showing how I could do a summersault, or how I could dance in front of the TV set, sing the alphabet song or ride my tricycle in circles in the living room to no avail.That new THING was getting all of my attention now.And I was getting very pissed off.
So I began to try harder for attention… ANY attention.Even if it meant painting the wood around the doorjamb with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or picking my nose and wiping it on the couch cushions, putting the dog kibble into the sugar bowl, or stuffing toilet paper into the sink drain, and when my parents would use it, the water overflowed onto the bathroom floor.Sure, I’d earn a swat on my behind for my efforts, but my revenge somehow felt ‘GOOD’.
One spring afternoon, Mom and I were sitting on the front steps of our home, and she was holding my now 8-month-old sister on her lap. My mother said she heard the baby making loud sucking noises, and put her finger into my sister’s mouth and fished out a very large carpenter ant!She looked down at me, sporting my uneven pigtails and my sweet, chocolate smudged face.And to her horror, she realized my innocent, impish grin had changed into an almost demonic look of satisfaction, as if to say, “Yes! I put the ant in that THING’s toothless maw, and I’d do it again if given the chance!! Ha ha ha ha!”
In the days following the Ant Incident, my mother would need to remove peas from my sister’s ears, wipe lipstick from my sister’s face, and find small toys shoved inside my sister’s diapers.
But once my sister began to walk, she was no longer ‘off limits’ to me, and I was allowed to play with her. I actually began to tolerate that little THING in the cage in my room.I had fun showing her how to play with her toys (and mine), and I soon proudly fell into the role of ‘Big Sister’.
Before I knew it, the two of us would be standing in front of my Grandparents television set together, dancing along with the Doublemint Gum commercials, blocking the view of their favorite television shows. And the applause would always follow our performances.
Once again, (if only temporarily!) life on Sherman Street was peaceful.
Fetch all the News and Updates to this web site by by joining the CelluliteQueen.com E-Mail list. You will be notified via E-Mail when something new has been added! Just click on the words below CONTACT CELLULITE QUEEN or use the tab in the GREEN COLUMN on the left.