Monday, February 04, 2013
The anniversary of Mother’s death was a few days ago and while like any good Italian-American son, I hear my Mother’s voice in my head many times a day and any anniversary causes even more memories to stir. I think most Mother’s have the ability to implant themselves forever in their children’s brains in this manner.
I often wonder if I it is simply my imagination that causes me to hear my Mother’s voice or I am really channeling her like they do on the many paranormal, ghost, clairvoyant shows on television.
So, occasionally I do test; I ask my Mother to tell me the winning lottery numbers for the next huge lottery. Until my Mother gives me the lottery numbers so I can win millions, she is a welcome pleasant memory.
If my Mother tells me the winning lottery numbers for the next huge lottery I will be rich and share my wealth with my immediate and extended family.
I was the 5th of 6 children. The twins (Henry and Joe) are 6 years older than me, Tom is four years older, and my sister Theresa is a year older. Then there is me at number 5 and bringing up the rear 6 years younger than me is my brother Nick.
My youngest brother Nick has always done double duty, bringing up the rear and being one also. If Henry, Joe, Tom, Theresa or I touched Nick or any of his things, he would cry out to Mom for protection. The nickname “Rear” has stuck with Nick in our family. Both Henry and Joe claim that they gave him the label.
The First Five; (Henry, Joe, Tom, Theresa and Marty as we called ourselves after Nick arrived) had many epic battles. Henry and Joe were usually on one side, Theresa and I on the other and Tom was the swing battler. By the time Nick was ready to battle, the First Five was so much older that we had outgrown the mob battle mentality with a few exceptions.
Both Henry and Joe claim that they came up with the First Five name. They said that the President of the USA’s family is called the First Family, so we were the First Five.
In our family, Henry and Joe claim they did, had or saw everything first. When it gets to be too much for Theresa, she’d ask “How old were you when you had your first time of the month?”
If a battle resulted in a major injury such as broken furniture or household items, damage to a house wall or door, a cut requiring stitches (actual or imagined), bump on the head or large bruises, the battle was given a name such as the “Broken Ugly TV Room Lamp”. This battle is not to be confused with the “Broken TV Room Lamp That Only Mom Liked”.
The later was the result of Henry and Joe trying to “borrow” money from Tom (9 years old), Theresa (6 years old) and Marty (5 years old). The former was a result of Tom (10 years old) trying to take Marty’s (6 years old) basketball.
All of our battles consisted of the older kids holding the younger kids while the younger kids tried with all their will to escape or deliver a damaging blow.
When my children were young, they used to love hearing the battle stories and my Mother used to love recounting them in detail. Whatever Mom did not remember, she would make-up, sometimes reenacting the battles while providing a running commentary. “Well, your Uncle Tom had your Father tied up like this and then Aunt Theresa bit Uncle Tom here and he screamed so loud that Uncle Joe came into the room and grab them all like this…..”
My Father knows the names of every battle, who was involved and what started the battle, however his version of the battle is always the same, “They started fighting and (fill-in the blank) happened.”
The First Five always preferred my Mother’s method of stopping a battle, she would find us, yell for us to stop immediately (which we did…out of fear) and then while tending to the damage or wounded while telling us how much we hurt her. Once any damage or injuries were treated and any punishments were given, the post-battle session ended and we were free to go on with our lives.
My Father would demand we stop immediately, tell us to stay there is silence while he tended to the damage or wounded. Then he would either have a long discussion with us probing our inner feelings concerning the battle or if he did not have time to do it then, he would schedule the session later in the day with us. If was like growing up with an Italian-American Dr. Phil.
When I was 8 years old I realized that my 2 - 14 year old and 1 - 12 year old brothers did not want to spend the time in our Father’s soul searching sessions, so I would tell them that if they paid me in advance (what I charged varied pending upon who was involved, the damage from the battle and if Theresa had to be paid also). If they paid, a few minutes into Dr. Dad’s session, I would begin to tear up and ask my Father if I could talk to him and only him about it. My Father would then dismiss the others to talk to me. Of course if Theresa were being paid, since had to join the private Dr. Dad sessions. Theresa usually participated.
If the cause of the battle was possession or ownership of an object, sometimes my Father would try what I later learned in Catholic School Religious studies to be the King Solomon method to resolve the battle.
In the Bible the story is in Kings 3:16-28. Two women who both claimed that a baby was theirs came to King Solomon for a decision. King Solomon decided to get a sword and said that there was only one fair solution: the live baby must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. One woman said to divide the baby. The second woman said to give the baby to the other woman instead of killing the baby by cutting the baby in half. King Solomon decided that only the real mother would not want to have and baby killed and gave the baby to the second woman.
If my Father played King Solomon, those of us involved in the battle had to be careful. If it were a battle between my sister and any of the boys, in a King Dad situation, we always let her have it for two basic reasons. The older boys knew that upsetting their younger sister would eventually cause them trouble with Mom or Dad. I knew that my sister was the only one that of the First Five that could not out muscle me and I needed her support in the battles with our older brothers.
The older boys knew that our Father in his King Dad mode would dive an object if necessary. I was too young to remember Dad sawing a baseball bat in half and have been told that it only happened once, however the older boys did remember and learned you have to tread carefully in a Kind Dad situation.
At times, we would ask King Dad to let us talk for a while and we would negotiate a settlement amongst ourselves and then share the settlement with King Dad. Our Father was always proudest of these moments. He felt he was teaching us life lessons and he was.
The reason I knew the Bible as a child is that I attended Catholic Elementary School. In Catholic Elementary School along with the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, history, physical education, etc., we always had Religious Studies. Looking at the title Religious Studies, which was taught daily, you would think that we were exposed to the various religions of the world.
If you thought that, you were wrong. A better title for the course would have been Catholic Religious Studies, because if it were not Catholic, we were not studying it.
After I was born, my Mother decided to become a Certified Public Account and obtained her CPA license when I was 4 years old. My Mother went to work because she wanted to have a career and family.
From a life at home standpoint it was not a great loss to the First Five that Mom was working. My Mother could not cook. We had a saying, “If Mom cooks; you don’t eat!” This saying was adopted in a modified version by my Mother’s Grandchildren. The Grandchildren’s version was “If Grandmom cooks; you don’t eat!”
When my Father came home from work, he prepared dinner and Mom assisted him, under his watchful eye. I can recall sitting down to the evening meal and prior to taking a particular dish, asking did Mom help or did Mom try to cook this.
After my brother Nick arrived, my Mother was a working CPA with 6 children and a great husband. My Father was my Maternal Grandparents favorite in-law. Yet, my Maternal Grandmother was embarrassed by my Mother’s inability to cook. All 4 of my Grandparents and all my Aunts and Uncles are/were excellent cooks.
I can remember cooking and yes I mean cooking my own food if necessary before I was in the 1st grade. I could fry an egg, make a grilled sandwich, heat Campbell’s soup or warm-up leftovers, and clean-up after myself and not burn down the house! All of the children could.
Concerning my Mother’s cooking; anytime a member of her or my Father’s family teased her too much about her lack of cooking skills, she would respond “I do your taxes for free every year and I hope I don’t make a mistake this year that costs you a lot of money. Maybe you want to pay someone to do your taxes.”
Her comment was usually prompted a quick apology from the offending family member and laughter from those listening.