Jumping the Streams: Life Decades Project Pt. 2
Already I am cheating on the intent of this effort, which was to examine my student’s hypothesis that every decade we each are an entirely different person. I don’t doubt that, with the caveat that some aspects of us are as eternal as can be in mortal being. I decided to look at this “every decade different” notion closely in my own life framework from as many angles as possible and in as much detail as I could. It’s enlightening to mark your life progress carefully, at least I think it is. So here we are at Part Two.
The cheat part is that so much happened during my second decade that I have to split it in half to do it justice. If you are doing this with me then you may find yourself needing to slow down a bit through the years just to mindfully gather up the changes. Can it be that some or all of us are actually entirely different beings every five years on average, as opposed to ten? Hmmm. Anywhere here is a synopsis of my learning from the age of ten years to fifteen.
Reader, I became fat.
Just prior to the advent of corpulence, at the age of nine, I became, ahem, a woman. I was very young to handle all that, and at least one person who has contacted me on Facebook who knew me then asked if I still had big boobs (insert smiley face). There I was at St. Hubert’s School, too tall for grace, the only bra-wearer in a room full of t-shirts under crisp uniform button-downs, toting monthly sanitary supplies in my lunchbox to a fourth grade class headed by a nun that expected us to do bathroom duty only between classes; sitting through long days with a garter belt stuck up my behind (only some of us will remember those). I felt like an oddball crossing over too early and very uncomfortably into adulthood. I recall my birthday of that year. My nice friends, all of whom I would soon leave behind when I went to public school, brought little girl things as gifts to a party at our house. Later, I asked my mother why and she said, “The mothers don’t know you’re different.”
Going from chunky to fat from 10-13 afforded me some natural protection. I realize saying “fat” is unkind and politically incorrect, but for some if not all who have been there, especially in those days, it meant you could find no age-appropriate clothes to feel good in among your pre-teen peers. Not that we could have afforded them, but still.
Today obesity is more common. Back then were the times of uber-thinness and model-fashionista Twiggy as the ideal woman. Wearing my grandma’s hand-me-downs probably didn’t help me on the fashion front. Thick glasses, frizzy hair and lot of pimples rounded out my look. I used to sleep with Clearasil pads on my face I bought with babysitting money. I literally began to burn my face off with benzoyl peroxide, only making things worse. Cruel classmates bullied me and nicknamed me Twiggy those years.
My personality probably became whiny or needy, because I don’t recall any real friendships in 7th or 8th grade. No one cared to be associated with me. Here are the highlights (?) of age 10-13:
--I learned that bribes could be useful. I had to bring gum every day to Mr. Beckmann’s class to keep the boys from bullying me. That kept them chewing and quiet.
--I learned that a teacher could save your mental health if s/he made you feel worthy. Mr. Beckmann, I forgot the class you taught, but I never forgot the day I arrived to your class early to beat the bullies and you looked up from your desk and said: “Linda! How’s my girl today?” Today you might get in trouble for such a comment, but then, I felt worthy. I thanked you about ten years later. I don’t know where you are, but do so again almost half a century later and hope you can hear me.
--I learned how surprisingly abrupt life can be in ways that can never be fixed. My Grandpa Baillie died rather suddenly when I was thirteen. My last memory of seeing him alive was when he executed a surprise visit to our house mid- day to check rumors that we kids were under the influence of a mom who drank too much. (Dad wasn’t around a lot). I can still see him holding my then-baby sister Joan on his knee, looking sad. Yes. Mom was under the weather that day. Weeks later, he was dead and I know he was sad for us as he left.
--I learned I had the power to scare Dad. I had a fever and hallucination one night after we buried Grandpa. Dad came in about 2 a.m. and heard me talking to his deceased father. I don’t know if he was sober or not; he had been out drinking though. I told Dad I was sorry to awaken because Grandpa came to visit and tell me he loved me. Grandpa had held his hand out to me and there was circle on it. Later I learned Grandpa had been buried with my grandmother’s wedding ring between his palms, and that this decision had been made spontaneously before the casket was closed. Only my dad, his brother and my grandmother knew. After this, my father talked to me even less when he was sober. He had always been a bit under Grandpa’s thumb, and rumor had it that when his father dad, my Dad lost whatever control he had over whatever it was he struggled with in relation to his family – at least during that decade.
--I learned dreams can foretell events sometimes. One Sunday in that special time between asleep and awake, I dreamed that Grandpa Stanley died. Having just lost my paternal grandfather, I thought maybe the reason was I was still dealing with that. I woke up relieved that it was only a bad dream. I went to get breakfast before going to Mass . Within a few minutes the phone rang and Mom got the news about her father’s sudden fatal heart attack. In the years after that, Mom would ask from time to time if I thought I was psychic.
I don’t know about “psychic” with respect to me or anyone else. In retrospect I would say I think there are times each of us might be hooked into a different level of being aside from the obvious. It’s possible more children than adults are able to jump the streams separating the worlds, but who knows. I do think occasionally it is done.
At the age of fifteen I began to starve myself to get thin, and I did. I learned thin is everything when you are a needy kid in a shallow world. This is before the enlightenment times. My breasts stayed big and I got a whole lot of attention. What happened then? Stay tuned if you like for my life from 15-20. It’s a doozy. But I remind all young people (<25 years) that the later teens are when you are just getting ready to really learn, and in retrospect and upon reflection, those early hard-won lessons clarify to become something valuable--and a bit closer to the truth.