Saturday, February 29, 2020

My life - Part 1 - an overhead view

I was born on February 13th, the oldest child of two oldest children.

My first brother was born 13 months later...the child that my maternal grandmother was convinced SHOULD have been aborted...who later ended up being the Golden Child.

My second brother was born when I was 6 and in first grade.  He was born with a congenital heart defect, which was discovered after a month or so of failure-to-thrive, and he died on the operating table at 5 months of age.

My third brother was born 18 months after the death of the second one.

My only sister was born 12 YEARS later, after 5 or 6 miscarriages, born when our mother was 43 years old, and I was 19, and in college.


My mother grew up in a family that looked perfect.
Grandpa's family was a Presbyterian family with generations of Presbyterian ministers.  He broke that tradition, eventually becoming a professor, after working for the Presbyterian church in their TRAV (Television, Radio, and Audiovisual) department.  They lived in Arkansas and moved to Atlanta, GA when my mother was 8 years old.  After she was out of the house, my grandparents moved to Austin, TX, where Grandpa was a communications professor at the University of Texas until he retired.  When Grandpa retired, they moved to their newly remodeled vacation home in Montreat, NC.

My mother graduated from high school, and went off to college in St. Petersburg, FL, and graduated from there 4 years later with a Bachelor's degree in Spanish and Russian.  The way she told the story, she was offered a job at the UN, but instead wanted to get married.

She met my father at the church she attended in Atlanta.  Daddy was a college student in Atlanta, originally from Staten Island, NY, but having moved to St. Petersburg, FL, when he was 17 years old when his father sold the family hardware store and retired.

My parents were married on June 25, 1966, and immediately moved to South Carolina, where my father had a job at Regal Textiles as an engineer.  They lived in Fork Shoals, on a "lake", and spent a lot of time skiing on the lake. While they lived on the lake, my uncle Brent came and spent some time there, but tragically committed suicide as he was mourning the recent suicide of his girlfriend.  My parents moved from that home quickly thereafter, living in Ware Shoals until they bought the farm in Due West, SC, which my father still lives on more than 50 years later. 

My mother was 24 when I was born.  Daddy was 28. 

They moved to The Farm just prior to my was one of two places I lived before leaving for college.  The Farm was the scene of almost all of the abuse I suffered...though The Dairy Farm also saw some of the same behaviors in the 5 years that we lived there. 

We moved to The Dairy Farm when I was 10 years old, and lived there for 5-ish years.  The years at The Dairy Farm were long and hard.  There were endless 18-hour days, injuries, losses, and financial hardship, as well as unexplained illness for Mother.  During those hard years, she experienced 2 or 3 miscarriages, and a kidney infection that could very easily have been fatal. 

At the end of the years on The Dairy Farm, we moved back to The Farm...back into the 150-year-old house with leaky walls, wood heat, and a dying well.  We never lacked for food...there was always meat in the freezer (that we had butchered), eggs in the refrigerator (that we had gathered from our chickens), fresh veggies from the garden, and fruit from the orchard.  But there was never enough money.  Daddy kept the cars running by constantly fixing them.  We stayed in the private church-affiliated school by the contribution of other church members.  We gladly wore hand-me-down clothes.  We never went on vacations, and rarely did any of the entertainment things that our friends took for granted. 

For a few years, we attended a local Presbyterian church, but my parents became concerned about the direction the church was headed and started looking around for another church.  We visited a local Baptist church but landed in a newly-planted Mennonite church. 

Adjustment to Mennonite life had to have been hard for my Mother.  She never quite forgave the very restrictive rules or the fact that some members of the church could get away with the blatant flaunting of them, while others were punished for minor indiscretions.  She was never comfortable in the clothing dictated by the rule-book, but never quite gave it up once they made the decision to leave many years later. 

My school years started with homeschooling.  My parents found Calvert School's curriculum, and did a very unpopular thing for that point in time, and decided that they would educate me at home.  Technically, that would have been my kindergarten year, as I entered first grade with my peers at Cold Springs Mennonite School, where I finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades, prior to our church starting their own school, and my brother and I transferred there for my 4th-grade year, and his 3rd-grade year.  This school was where we graduated 8 years later. 

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