Friday, July 9, 2010


On December 22, 1966, we were celebrating my Grandma's birthday at my Aunt Frankie's house.  Aunt Margie, my Grandma's step-daughter, was around the same age as Aunt Frankie, and living in the same house.

The family joke was, that a guy from their church, named Jim, was dating both of them, so my two brothers and I were instructed to refer to him as 'Uncle Jim.'  He was bound to marry one of them, eventually.

I was twelve years old, and the oldest girl of the cousins, so it was assumed that I was in charge of babysitting all the other kids, the way it was in all family gatherings, no matter what the occasion.

We were always expected to play in the basement, which was fine with me.  I liked playing songs on the electric organ.  The only sheet music available was in a book of church hymns.  The song I played best was, "Near The Cross."  I knew that Grandma would be very pleased.

Uncle Jim appeared behind me, watching me play the organ.  My cousin, Donnie complained that I always play the same songs.  He said, "I'm tired of doing the same old things all the time.  Why don't we do something different?"  I was open to suggestion.  The next game became something that Uncle Jim decided.

He said, "Let's tickle Kathy," and proceeded to tickle my future breasts.  I thought that maybe he was aiming for my arm pits and just missed.  One should always give a person the benefit of a doubt.  In any case, it was annoying.

The next thing I knew, my feet left the floor.  He lifted me up and put me on his lap, while sitting in a big chair, piled with winter coats.  In the brief seconds of sitting on his lap, I felt this rather large lump.  Apparently, what was hidden underneath those cheap, tacky madras pants, was what I thought to be a wart, or a tumor.  It was some deformity that needed to be removed.  I jumped off his lap and stood up quickly.  He asked me what was wrong.  I said, "Oh, nothing," with the same politeness I practiced when Mrs. Taylor came over to gossip about the neighbors.  I pretended not to ever notice the long black hairs, dangling from the big black mole on her chin as she was talking.  Such was the same with Jim.  One musn't be impolite.  I excused myself and ran upstairs to the bathroom.

The door was locked, the water was running, and I was staring at myself in the mirror.  I asked myself, "What just happened?  I started washing my face and hands, combed my pigtails and bangs, and adjusted the white ribbons tied around each pigtail, that matched my white tailored blouse and socks.  My saddle oxfords were perfectly polished.  Still, there had to be a reason for what just happened, whatever that was.  I did something to cause it, and examined myself in the mirror, for any clues.

Voices from the outside were asking what I was doing in the bathroom for so long.  The kids were calling me to come back downstairs and play with them, and Uncle Jim.  My older brother, Chuck, yelled through the door, "Hey Kath!  If you're in there counting your pimples, don't worry!  I counted them on the way here.  You have about eighty-seven, so you can come out now!"  I could hear my mother's voice, as she was telling in the room how prissy and self-conscious I had become, and that I spend too much time in the mirror.  Other people were asking each other what I could possibly be doing in there.  I had to think fast, so I opened the door, and came out as if nothing was wrong.

Everyone in the living room was staring at me, except my father.  He was sitting alone on the couch, reading the paper that he brought with him.  I hurried over to the empty seat and sat next to him, not to move for the rest of the night.  The kids were begging me to come back downstairs and play with them.  They said that they were tired of waiting for me.  I told them to go ahead, and go downstairs.  I had to talk to my dad about something.

Jim was sitting in a chair directly across from us.  Without looking up from the 'Sports' section, my father said, "Bet you're tired of putting up with those brats, right?"  I said, "They're going to cut the cake, soon.  I just want to wait here, until they do."  He said, "Well, I'm going to have a talk with your mother about making her sisters leave you alone.  It's not fair how they always expect you to watch their brats.  It can't be any fun."

I looked over at Jim.  He stared at me, grinning, with a facial expression, saying that we shared a dirty little secret.  I looked away, ashamed for a moment.  Then, I decided that I did nothing wrong.  I had to do something to scare him away, and had my own secret to convey back to him.  I leaned over to my father, and began to whisper things in his ear, glancing at Jim, as if I were talking about him.

Jim sprang up from his chair and went into the kitchen, where the women were.  I heard both Frankie and Margie asking him why he had to leave so soon, saying that, 'coffee was brewing, and we'd be having cake in just a few minutes.'  The back door swung open, and Jim left.

The family was called into the kitchen to sing 'Happy Birthday to Grandma,' in front of a flaming cake.  Frankie and Margie were still pouting because Jim left.  Grandma said, " I was talking to Jim the other day.  I don't think I've ever met anyone who loves the Lord as much as he does.  He's determined to marry a good Christian woman.  If anyone can make it to Heaven, it'll be Jim!  Whoever marries him will be sitting up there right next to him, so you girls better get with it!  One of you better marry him!"

Fast forward to June, 1973, Stuttgart, Germany.  I'm alone with my mother, telling her this story.  I commented that, 'I often wondered what would've happened that night, if I actually told anyone about it.  Would they have believed me?'  She said, "Oh, my Lord!  Could you just see your dad?  He would've wiped the floor with that man.  He would've embarrassed me to death in front of everybody!  What would Mother think?  Frankie cooked and cleaned for days getting everything ready for that party, and you would've just ruined it!  They would never forgive you for the rest of your life if you did that!  It's a good thing you kept your mouth shut!"     

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Wonderful! Fantastically told story. This narrator has spunk, and she's is trapped in such a suffocating world! The mother's response years later lets us know just how suffocating it is/was.