rm_art_tchr_phx 68F
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7/23/2006 9:40 am

Last Read:
7/23/2006 1:41 pm


Scroll down to the Foreward to read this book from the beginning

Who Was I, Who Did I End Up Being,
and How the Hell Did That Happen?
I never intended to become the Wilt Chamberlain of Catholic School Teachers

I grew up in a place where mud wrestling was considered a cultural event, and a romantic evening started at the Stuff Your Face Grand Buffet and ended up with breakfast at the counter of George Webb’s. I knew I had to get out when I went to a wedding and the groom was wearing a No Fat Chicks baseball cap. I lived in a sitcom. My mom was June Cleaver. She would put on high heels and lipstick after cleaning all day. No wonder my dad came home right after work. Damn, I never realized it back then but mom was a tart! Go mom!

I grew up Catholic. I hated to go to confession when I was a kid. Bless me father for I have sinned, I swiped change from my mom’s purse so I could chase after the ice cream truck. I guess things are a lot different now. Bless me father for I have sinned. I swiped money from my mom’s purse, bought a gun and shot half the kids in my gym class. My parents signed up for digital cable. Mom discovered that there are tons of music stations. So, yep, mom is using her TV as a freakin’ radio! Mom and Dad both have pacemakers now. My greatest fear is that someday they will short each other out!

My father worked in a factory as a machinist and would scavenge some of the earliest dot matrix computer paper for me because he knew I liked to draw. It was large, thin, pin feed paper covered on one side with numerals and although I never told my dad, it was kind of insulting to draw on “used” paper. I know he was trying to be nice and that with a large family, art supplies were not in the budget. I would sit there with the stacks of perforated paper, carefully separating the large sheets and then folding them in half so that the numerals were concealed as much as possible considering the thinness of the sheets. I guess even at age eleven I had some anal retentive qualities.

I took those folded papers and folded them into fourths and with all my Girl Scout bookbinding skills I turned those folded papers into my very first diary. I honestly do not know what compelled me to begin chronicling my life, but each day before I went to bed I picked up the pencils my father also scavenged and set down the activities and thoughts of a short, overweight, badly permed, buck toothed adolescent who wore atrocious hand me downs and dark green prescription lenses in frames only a father could pick out.

My girl friends all had boyfriends by then, but I didn’t realize that I was such a tag along because my girl friends all really liked hanging around with me. Our main winter activities were listening to records and dancing in basement rec rooms, ice skating, bowling, movies, walking, babysitting, and going to my school’s social center. My closest girl friend and I would go to the Gimbel’s department store at the shopping center and spend hours picking out our favorite towels, sheets, silverware, dishes, etc.

Social center was a Friday night school sponsored event which was chaperoned by an elderly couple from the neighborhood. The boys played basketball in the school gym, and the girls gathered in the music room and danced to the latest 45’s. We did the Twist, the Pony, the Locomotion and we even slow danced with each other. A couple of times a year it was just a large co-ed dance in the gym and then while my friends got asked to dance by boys in our class, I ended up sitting on the sidelines and since they all lived the opposite direction from school, I would walk home alone most of the time. One week a boy I liked named Terry asked me to dance. Wow! I was in heaven all weekend. That ended Monday morning during recess when I found out it was just a joke. Terry didn’t like me. I went home and snuck a few pre-dinner Oreos from the cookie jar. Why couldn’t comfort food be something like carrot sticks instead of something that would make you a future candidate for Weight Watchers?

My biggest 7th grade accomplishment was writing the lyrics for a Washington-Lincoln program at school. I went through the month of February and made up rhymes about all the famous things that happened in history. I also helped with staging and costumes a bit, so that was fun. For Valentine’s Day, one of the boys sang “My Funny Valentine” to the prettiest girl in the class. Years later he would become very well known as a military correspondent during the Gulf War, but back then he was the class clown and one of those who teased me.

It was at this time in my life I had my first grand passion in the form of a young actor turned singer. There were a ton of TV westerns on during the early 60’s and I fell hard for the son of The Rifleman, Johnny Crawford. When he came out with the song, “Patti Ann,” pubescent stirrings began in places I didn’t even know existed. My stomach got all fluttery and I swear my spine melted briefly.

I knew my parents loved me, but I also knew I was not an attractive girl. I was talented and creative but no one ever told me I was pretty. When I was in 8th grade, my mother put me on a diet so that I could fit into a nice dress for graduation. She did it in such a way that I did not feel deprived or pressured and before too long we saw results. I had spent the past two years as a crossing guard at my school and found out that there was a special crossing guard banquet and dance coming up. I discovered that everyone was going with a date. One of the girls in my class offered her 6th grade brother as my date and thank goodness for my mom as my personal trainer, he was willing. He danced with me and held my hand when he walked me home from the banquet. When graduation rolled around, my father took me out shopping for my dress. I will never forget this as long as I live because there were two dresses that really looked good on me. My father decided to buy them both. I couldn’t believe it. Both dresses were full skirted but the graduation dress was pure white. My mother got some white ribbon, and went into her garden and picked some red roses and proceeded to make me a corsage. I almost felt pretty that day and I will always be grateful to my parents for the feeling.

During the summer before my freshman year of high school I was completely cursed with hay fever, braces, and a skin condition. It wasn’t just my face, it was my forearms as well and I felt like a total freak. My sores would weep and so would I. My father tried just about everything he could think of for months but nothing worked including the special skin medications he purchased. Eventually we had the best luck with calamine lotion and by winter I was able to go to all the dances without feeling like the elephant man. My girl friends and I went to school dances, YMCA dances, and CYO dances. They met their boy friends at the dance but there were always girls with whom I could dance fast. We mourned the tragic death of our beloved JFK together that year. Seeing our president’s life cut short made us all the more eager to live life to the fullest, but we lived during the last vestiges of innocence. For us there were no drugs, no booze, no guns, no violence, and no sex. There may have been booze and sex in private but I really believe that I lived in the last innocent times of the world. Parties, dances, skating, tobogganing, going to the beach or the zoo were the only kicks we wanted.

The summer before sophomore year I was able to lose a bit more weight and during that year some of the boy friends would ask me to dance fast because I was a pretty good dancer. We all hung out as a big group of friends so I still didn’t feel like a fifth wheel and I usually had enough guts to ask at least one boy to dance slow during a Ladies Choice. By now I had one minor encounter which included necking in the movies with a boy from a different high school. I crushed on him for quite a long time but nothing really came of it. But now I felt that fluttery stomach for real and wanted more of that.

In September of 1965 I was thinking how my 8th hour study hall was going to be a total drag because no one I knew was in there when my eyes traveled across the room to the cutest boy I had ever seen. It turned out his name was Mark and he knew my friend Laura’s older brother and would be hanging around with us. Before I knew it, Mark was dating Laura. I had a crush on Mark from the moment I first saw him. He and I became very good friends but I knew I could be nothing more to him. At parties, Mark and I would dance together because Laura didn’t care to dance much. From time to time Laura would flare up in jealousy for no real reason. Mark would confide in me so I was always in the middle, but sort of invisible. That went on for the entire school year and when she was absent we had some alone time but always just as friends.

Many of the group graduated but we still got together for a big Fourth of July picnic. That day Mark introduced me to his best friend. They knew each other from grade school and the high school Mark transferred from. Knowing there was no hope for Mark and me, I decided to give this new guy a chance. He was very sweet and considerate and I had no way of knowing we had both been crossing guards on the same bus trip back in 8th grade and that in a year and a half I would be pregnant and we would be married for the next 32 years.

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