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I didn't know Mike all that well when I was a child. He was four years older than I and that seemed a lifetime then. I was closer to my sister Mary, who is about a year and a half older than I.

I was a loner, probably from birth. It seems strange that I belonged to a family of seven, yet my feeling is that we each existed in our own little bubbles. We had fights and arguments and we occasionally did things together, but mostly we did things apart. I remember being together on major holidays and having dinner together at the table my mother created from a door (a nice design, by the way). It seems amazing that we ate together. I don't remember having a good time at dinner. In fact, our wonderful stepfather recorded our dinner conversation at least once so he could prove to us how horrible we were, how argumentative. He was such a sweetheart that he once drove us out into the country and pointed to a pig farm, saying to my sister Mary, "That's what you are, a pig."

I can't recall warm moments from childhood. The only times I felt that way were with a favorite teacher or coach. I visited my fourth-grade teacher, whom I just adored, at her home. Learned that not only did she actually have a life outside of school - a shock! - but that she was a twin. There were a few others who stood out for me because they recognized something in me and tried to bring it out. Not including the home ec teacher who tried to clean me up, or my fifth grade teacher, who constantly sent me to the bathroom to clean off my arms (I played jacks just before school).

Mike was something of an annoying force that showed up in my life from time to time. He must have been annoying enough, although I couldn't tell you any specific incidents - not one - because my sister mary and I, together with two "summer friends", created a club we called the "We Think Hugo is an Idiot" club. Where "Hugo" was our name for Mike. Not knowing the rules of acronyms, we thought you didn't have to put the letters in the order of the words, and thus the club was called the "WITH" club. Mike bugged us, I think for years, to find out what that name meant. I only recently discovered that he was hurt to learn the truth.

Mike was kicked out of school in high school. He didn't show up often enough. It was far from the policy of that school to kick anyone out, but Mike must have deserved it. A lot of the teachers seemed to like Mike at heart, could see his potential. He took off for California to live with his father and stepmother for a bit, then he joined the air force. All of this time, of course, I was busy growing up in my own little world. My world of piano sometimes, of the occasional poem, of jacks on the porch of my best friend, of visiting with another friend in her basement and seeing her little horse collection. I was probably about twelve when Mike left home. I was eighteen, I believe, when Mike came back, in uniform, confident and big-brotherly. He taught me to drive.

My mother wouldn't teach me. Our cars had manual shifts and the school's only had automatic. I was not like many other students in that I had never driven anything when I started driver ed, and I was terrible at it. I felt so uncomfortable behind the wheel that I just avoided driving. Mike took me out in our old Volkswagen beetle and I drove on back roads in Michigan. The back roads in Michigan really are. Hardly a soul on them, lots of room to make mistakes. By driving and driving, stopping and starting and turning and parking I learned how to drive with enough confidence to get my license.

After I started college I don't remember Mike being around. He was off heaven knows where, I think California. I moved to California myself at twenty but I don't recall seeing Mike then. Perhaps he was still in the air force. Oh yes, I recall he lived in Reno for a while, but I don't remember when exactly. It didn't occur to me to go visit him. We really didn't have anything in common.

I am hoping that by just dredging up what I remember that I will find more of a connection.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 14th, 2005 01:55 pm (UTC)
Re: We could have known each other
There was a lot of shouting at home but in general I stayed there. I holed up. I played the occasional game of kickball outside with "friends", and went to the beach, four blocks downhill, but mostly stayed inside. I played the piano, cooked, read books, ate. Sometimes I talked with the housekeeper, when it was one I liked.

What surprises me is that there are so many things I do not remember.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 14th, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC)
Re: We could have known each other
The housekeeper didn't change the fact that our house was a mess all of the time. The housekeepers vacuumed and dusted and washed dishes and did ironing but they could in no way keep up with us and our messes. There were too many of us and too few of them. Normally they came once a week, also.

One of the housekeepers, Mrs. Mackie, was mean. She threw a bunch of our toys out the window into the snow because we had not picked them up. She also insisted that all we had to do was to wash each dish as we used it...we were not ready to hear any of that. Another one, whose name temporarily escapes me, had some kind of burn on her face, as I recall, and a son at home, and she loved us. She always welcomed our activities, even though it meant she had to clean up after us. She loved doing crosswords and showed quite a bit of intelligence. A third - and I only remember three - Mrs. Johnson, had a grown son and adopted twin boys, young. She was round and motherly, the kind of mother I could never be but could appreciate. Her son later was killed when he was under a car hoist that failed and a car fell on top of him. I remember seeing Mrs. Johnson patiently ironing our clothes all the time. I used to wonder what the point was!

There was much i could have learned from them but absolutely did not. I do remember being valued by Mrs. Martin - she's the one whose name I forgot. That makes her pretty special, that I remember she valued me.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 15th, 2005 03:48 am (UTC)
Re: We could have known each other
I do. When my children were younger, I was afraid of being too much of an influence on them. I wanted them to have relationships with other good adults, to round them out. I recognized that I could not provide all of the "modeling" that they could use. So I liked it when they developed relationships with gymnastics coaches or girl scout leaders or teachers. I really felt that it was wrong for the raising of my children to be left to me alone.
Apr. 14th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
I love how honest your writing is in regard to family. It's always interesting to me.
Apr. 14th, 2005 08:26 pm (UTC)
Well, thank you! I write it as much to explore my feelings as for anything else, of course. It seems to be so hard to remember a lot of things and I wonder why. What I do remember was just me me me...what I did, not much about anyone else.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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