As with all babies, security was a tightly wrapped blanket, a cozy room, a dry, sweet-smelling, soft bed with mom and a family to cuddle and feed me. My first lessons in love came, as to most of us, at home with an adoring family shielding me from the world.
My first clear memory as a preschooler was finally being able to leave my post at the window to have the day broken by daddy arriving home from work on a burst of fresh air mixed faintly with oil from the refinery. He greeted mom, settled into his easy chair, and opened the newspaper. I busied myself with his metal lunch bucket because he always left me a scrap of bread or another little surprise, a leaf, an acorn. By the time he got to the comics page, I was on his lap. He read and clarified where necessary each panel to me. Then I unclipped his mechanical pencil from the pocket of his blue work shirt, and we began drawing what he called “pumpkin eaters” on the edges of the newspaper. Circles with funny features, spindly limbs. A daily ritual and the beginning of my lifelong love of drawing. What joy I felt sharing that mysterious, fine-lead pencil that, miraculously, never needed sharpening. It was the anthesis of the yellow, banged-up, tooth-imprinted stubs from around the house that always required mom’s paring knife to make a gray, sooty line. We always had drawing paper because daddy brought cast-off from work rolls filled on one side with zig-zag lines from some machine.
Food was security and represented abounding love. Mom was a fantastic cook and took pride in it. She would often say of food eaten elsewhere, “And they call themselves cooks!” Her specialties are too numerous to list, but it is mother, moving quietly and efficiently in the kitchen, I remember best. Stovetop and baking aromas mingled with the popping sound and exotic smell of fresh coffee brewing in the percolator. Love was exemplified in mom’s ritual of fixing daddy’s hot supper. With my two older sisters and baby Sue in her high chair we were all accounted for and the whole group gathered as we always did at the round kitchen table. Once, when I had measles, I remember being kept apart in a dark bedroom to protect my vision until the quarantine lifted. I could hear the silverware occasionally clinking against the plates, (I thought to myself, they’re pitching forks) quiet chatter, and soft laughter as the family dined, so near and yet so far away. How I longed to be with them.
On normal evenings we gathered in the lamplit sitting room. With crayons, scissors, a paste jar at hand we kids sat on rugs coloring, drawing, or reading library books near the circle of heat formed by an electric stove in cold weather. My older sisters did homework and my parents listened as the radio quietly broadcast music and news. As the evening progressed, we younger ones drew closer to the big radio to catch each word of dialogue and various amazing, realistic sound effects enriching serial dramas or comedies. It was the archetypal, nuclear family bonded by trust and unconditional love. Best of all fitting right in, knowing we belonged, that our place was secure.
Our beliefs, mannerisms, and values are formed in these early years. We become who we are by being part of the family. We learn about love because in those days, prior to the ‘80’s and letting it all hang out, the word love was hardly spoken. Before long, we grew older and ventured outside ready to take on the world happily and eagerly. Today, especially with the war in Ukraine, floods, and earthquakes affecting so many children, I am especially grateful for this quiet, unshakable early life.
The new series of journals about Love by Bobbin-Olive Productions are entertaining and loaded with thought-provoking quotations making them educational as well. They analyze the classic Greek concept of the 7 Types of Love and invite you to write about your experiences and beliefs in journals, on heart-strewn pages that you will enjoy owning and look forward to filling. If paying tribute to your life is long overdue, now is the time to begin. This is a love letter to Bob and Olive, our parents.