This morning, after writing about my mother and brother yesterday, I remembered an incident that happened even before my little brother’s surgery. It was the summer of 1959. I was three years old, making him barely two, still wearing diapers. I can picture him, shirtless and barefoot, long before Pampers were invented.
On the corner of our gravel street stood a large, looming two-story flashing memories of the Amityville Horror house. A mother lived there together with several young daughters. The rumor was that the woman’s husband was in jail. One of her daughters was my age. Years later, we went to middle school together. She was a nice girl. Her name was Maureen.
At three years old, I was probably jealous of the girls. They lived in a great big house. We lived in a teeny-tiny house only a few yards away. They had an apple orchard. We had a couple of shade trees. They had a play house. We had…….well, at that time we were lucky to pay the bills.
One afternoon, I went inside the girl’s playhouse where I smashed rotten apples from floor to ceiling and all in between. There was no reason to do so except perhaps jealousy. That’s the only one that makes sense to me. Or, I must have craved attention. Even negative attention is “attention” to a toddler. Having a very sick younger brother at the time, his needs must have come first in my family unit of four. How could they not? Regardless, not a word was said about the “Play House Disaster” for the next several days. I thought I had gotten away with it, playing on as usual. My parents and baby brother knew nothing.
A few days later, the morning sun was shining and the gravel road kicked up clouds of dust. It must have been a Saturday because I remember my father being home from his factory job. Kids played outside in front yards then without worry. I was headed to the playhouse, the same one where I had smashed rotten apples a few days before. My baby brother David, waddled behind me, a cloth diaper pinned with yellow ducks hung from his bottom. Wherever I went, he went. Suddenly, out of nowhere the wicked witch woman (mother of the young daughters), grabbed me harshly by the arm, dragging me several yards to her home. Once inside, she perched me atop a wooden, kitchen counter stool. The curtains above the sink were white, parted on either side.
This skinny woman’s voice was loud as she shrilled at me, pointing a bony finger in my face. She had long nails, the length I had never seen before. They were painted in bright red polish, although I didn’t know what it was at the time. On top of her head, yellow hair was shaped like a bird’s nest except it didn’t move. I remember wondering if wee birds might try to escape, like I wanted to do?
When this woman yelled, spit flung from her mouth, hitting my face. I tried to wipe it away with the front of my blouse, but she wouldn’t let me. My actions made her face get red. She puffed on a cigarette, nearby. She was angry, scary angry. She told me how she was “gong to take me for a long ride” and that I’d “never see my parent’s again.” I believed her and started to cry.
Suddenly my dad, my “savior” burst through the screen kitchen door to rescue me. He scooped me up, yelling words I had never heard him say before. My nose dripped clear dribbles on his shirt shoulder, but he didn’t mind. He carried me home to my nervous mother, gently laying me into her waiting arms where she kissed me every which way. “How did you know, Daddy? How did you find me?” I asked. “David came back to the house,” my father answered. “He tried to tell us, pointing to where you were.”
My baby brother, barely two, tiny for his age and still sick before heart surgery may have saved my life. Like my father, he was my “savior,” too!
Sometime later, this same woman’s husband got out of jail. They had a fight in that two-story house. She got a gun and shot him dead.