My earliest memory is sitting in a high chair that seemed to be located in a screened-in porch in a woods or forest. I was being fed something with little cut-up mushrooms in it(green bean casserole? prison food?) by an older woman. I’m thinking it was my great-grandma, or one of my grandma’s sisters that looked a lot like my great-grandma. The next earliest memory is me lying on the floor of my mom and dad’s living room floor and my dad was helping get my pajamas on. I remember tilting my head towards the t.v. and seeing a commercial for the movie It’s Alive playing on their 27 inch Zenith console. I also remember my dad laughing uncontrollably at said commercial.
It was Christmas, 1978. I was 6 years old and I remember waking up early. I crawled out of bed and quietly opened my bedroom door and peeked my head out into the hallway, very slowly. As I turned my eyes towards the kitchen I saw Santa’s beard between the living room and kitchen. In most movies and commercials when this happens the kids are filled with joy and happiness and run to Santa and want to hug him. I was so astonished that I saw Santa because I was certain he didn’t exist. Second of all, I was horrified beyond all belief. I knew down to my bones that if he saw me he’d chop me up into little pieces, so I slowly closed my bedroom door and with a cold sweat beading down my 6 year old back I crawled slowly back into bed and proceeded to cover my head with my pillow hoping the bearded monster in red with the long beard wouldn’t find me and take me back to his lair and feed me to his flesh-eating elves. As it turned out, what I saw was not Satan’s…err, I mean Santa’s beard, but the white fluffy stuff around the edge of my stocking.
When I was a kid I had a 9pm bedtime. And like all kids, I was never tired enough to fall asleep at 9pm. So I’d lay there hearing whatever R-rated movie my parents rented that I was forbidden to see, or I’d hear the furnace kick on for the 3rd time since my head touched the pillow. Or, I would hear the phone ring and it’d be for my older brother who was usually in bed himself falling asleep to the soothing sounds of Dios Holy Diver blaring through his Walkman headphones. I’d imagine that my bunk bed was a boat and I was setting sail for the North Pole to hunt the elusive creature known as “Santa”, or that I was the pilot from the show Tales of the Golden Monkey. Eventually though, I would begin to fall asleep. I’d fall asleep to the sound of my heart beating in my ear. I’d imagine that the sound of my beating heart was the devil digging his way up from Hell with a pick axe. And when I imagined Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, or The Prince of Darkness himself, I imagined him to look like Count Chocula. I’m not sure why, but my impending damnation seemed a tad more pleasant that way.
Throughout my childhood I was friends with a kid that lived next door to us. For privacy purposes, we’ll call him Bitey.
I had a crush on the same girl from nursery school clear up to the 4th grade. Her name was Elizabeth Witzky. For some reason I found her absolutely stunning, and exotic. Not because she was from some far-off country -or county- but she had this rough-sounding voice. She was like a 5 year old Kathleen Turner. She had to have known I was head over heels in love with her. The sweat on my forehead every time she was near, my insistence that she could play with my Wookie(the action figure, you sickos), and my feeble attempts at getting Charles Gigous to play the villain to my hero when I’d ask him to go over and bug her( I would swoop in to save the day and offer my Wookie to console her). These pathetic displays of affection lasted for four years, from nursery school(it’s called daycare now…the “teachers” aren’t allowed to smoke anymore I guess) clear through the 4th grade when she moved away and broke my heart. So began my obsession with Jodi Foster and Holden Caulfield…
In the fourth grade I wrote a three-act play called The Birthday Party. It was inspired by my neighbor Bitey’s older sister. She was a “name that rhymes with witch” as I so eloquently put it to her one day at the chain link fence that separated our backyards. She was the antagonist of the story that did everything she could to ruin the protagonist’s birthday party(yep, I was the protagonist). Anyways, the play was so well-received that my teacher submitted it into a Young Author’s Contest and it was chosen. I was to go to one of the other elementary schools on a Saturday morning and read excerpts from my play to a group of adults and other kids that had stories chosen. The morning that I was supposed to go I told my mom I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to read in front of other people. She let me stay home and wallow in my shame with some cinnamon toast. This would become a trend in my life…the backing out part, not the shame wallowing.
To be continued…