Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time there was a girl named Michelle. She was born in 1963 in Pennsylvania to Robert and Judy. They loved her very much. She had a brother, Bobby, who was born in 1967 and a sister, Sarah, who was born in 1974. Her mother was a stay at home mom and her father was a construction worker. She had the best family in the whole world.
*insert the sound of the needle screeching across the record as it is pulled off.*
This is the story of my life. I am Michelle. I was born in 1963 when the United States was still a peaceful place, when we were safely between wars, before the sexual revolution, just before JFK was assassinated.
I was born at a time when instability was just beginning to brew. My early childhood memories include watching rocket ships take off and go to the moon. I watched men walk on the moon. I remember sitting in front of the TV as President Richard Nixon resigned from office. I remember feeling sorry for him. I don’t remember seeing really bad things on the news. My parents kept us safe from the Vietnam war and from the race riots and assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy.
My earliest childhood memories are of a close knit family. My maternal grandparents had 6 children, 5 girls and 1 boy. My mom has 4 sisters and 1 brother and these sisters did everything together. My uncle is just 6 years older than me so he was more like a son to his sisters than a brother. My uncle was very doted upon because he was the only boy. I remember having great family get togethers, picnics, parties, vacations at the shore, playing in creeks, baby showers, birthdays, holidays. I felt like we had the best family in the whole wide world.
I have equally awesome memories of my dad’s family, although his mother and father died when he was a boy. My dad had 2 brothers and 1 sister and from my tiny perspective they had a perfect family too. My dad and his brother, Mike, were very close. My uncle’s wife died when we were very little. She contracted the Hong Kong flu and developed pneumonia. She was very young when she died. There were so many friday nights we would go visit Uncle Mike and my 3 cousins or go bowling with my mom and hide under tables and run around the gigantic bowling alley world.
Those were the days. The days of not knowing what it was to be hurt or let down or disappointed. The days when if my mom and dad had a fight and my mom walked out the door, my dad could fix it by giving me a cup of soda, a special treat, telling me not to worry, everything will be all right. The days when I would surround myself with all my stuffed animals for comfort.
I remember going outside in the winter, watching my dad and his friends build a giant, 7 foot snow man. I remember running around the labyrinth like basement of the apartment complex where we lived. I remember going outside in the summer time. The sun would stay up for what felt like forever. Indeed, those were the days.
When I was growing up, my mom took us to church almost every Sunday. We would go to Sunday school and then sometimes we would get to play in the nursery while she went to grown up church. I remember really liking church when I was little. The pastor was a wonderful, loving man who loved all the children. I even remember liking grown up church a little, although it took far too long for me. Time as a child seemed to go much more slowly than it does now. I know I learned about Jesus when I was little, but I don’t have much memory of what I learned.
My most vivid memories are based around my family. I remember family vacations and picnics and parties. I remember lots of road trips on the weekend. My dad would say, “who wants to go for a ride?” and we would all pile into the station wagon and head out for an adventure. Those road trips were the best, sitting in the back seat, saying, “are we there yet?” I remember hiking on the Appalachian trail. I remember my first ride on an airplane. I remember trips to the ice cream shop and nights at the drive-in movie theater.
I also remember being a mean spirited girl. I was jealous of my brother Bobby when I was little and remember telling him how much I didn’t love him. I liked to make him cry. Then I would comfort him and tell him I didn’t mean what I said. Remembering this makes me want to cry. What makes a child mean? I remember locking my cousin Cheryl in the bathroom and not letting her out until she was crying. For some unknown reason, I just liked to make children cry. I was very little, between 4 and 8 years old, when I did these things.
These were the foundation years of my life. I felt loved and had an awesome family. I don’t think there was anything out of the ordinary in my early childhood. I was disciplined, not ever abused. My parents rarely had to spank me because when they did, I learned to stop the behavior that caused the spanking in the first place.
Looking back, I would say I lacked hearing my parents tell me they loved me, being hugged, seeing affection of any sort. Even with all my happy childhood memories, I was sullen and moody. I don’t know if I will ever be able to understand why I was so mean. But actually, I do know. We are born in sin. Nobody ever has to teach a child how to be mean, she is just naturally mean.