MY FIFTH GRADE BUDDIES WITH THE CUSTODIAN. People were a study to me from early in my life. Time moved slower then, giving me lots of time to take note, eavesdrop, and think about the people in my life. Being alone a lot fed that too.
I took tap dancing lessons for about 4 months when I was 7 or 8. I could get there because the bus stopped near the front of our house. It was always the same driver. He promised Mom that he would tell me when to get off across the street from Mr. Tucci’s house, wait until I crossed safely and be sure to pick me up a half hour later on his return run. There were five other girls my age in the class in Mr. Tucci’s basement. I was a klutz much better at climbing trees than tap, tap, tapping. I loved the shiny patent leather shoes with the metal tips that held a penny inside. But the dance routine was too boring. I didn’t belong and never got to perform at the end of the year. The tap shoes went into the drawer in the old oak bureau in the attic.
Athletics were much more my style. With two brothers in the house, I brought home the only baseball trophy. At this time, my one-day-to-be-step-father Joe had brought a bat for my brother Bob. I whined that he didn’t bring me anything. I really wanted a set of paints and brushes. He didn’t know anything about paints and brushes so be took me to buy a baseball glove. I couldn’t get to all my games because Mom didn’t drive and I rarely had a way to get there.
When I was 12 Joe took me twice on Friday nights to watch wrestling matches (not anything he enjoyed) that a friend of mine was in. He thought I liked wrestling, but it was the boy I wanted to see. I promised him I would come see him wrestle. Joe was helping me to keep that promise.
On a summer day I rode my bike several blocks to play with Marilyn. She couldn’t come out to play because she suffered from asthma. Sometimes she was okay enough to play board games. This was my first exposure to the Ouija Board. Finding Marilyn healthy enough didn’t happen often enough to make the long trek out to her house more than once a week. Her parents thanked me for coming, telling me that I was important to Marilyn and the only girl who came to play with her.
Within the year she moved across the Delaware River to Yardley, Pennsylvania. Her folks came to pick me up at home to spend a day with her and then brought me home again. That was just a one-time happening. But it took me to see new territory, opened my horizons, let me know there was more than my neighborhood. It also taught me compassion for the restrictive life Marilyn had to live.