Monday, June 28, 2010

Chapter 2, Part 5 - THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

Frankie returned to Seattle with the four of us children. Doctor Shay had committed suicide by hanging himself. I don’t know why. It always seemed strange to me that a doctor wouldn’t find an easier way to do it. Frankie had since met a man, Dave Caldwell, who was a cab driver, and they had fallen in love. We all moved in together into a low income housing development in Kirkland, Washington a suburb of Seattle. I never knew for sure if they had married, but I don’t think they did because I do know my mother was on Welfare.

Dave started staying away more and more because he had no tolerance for the four children. When they were together both Dave and Frankie were very heavy drinkers…..alcoholics. Even though I was very young, I do have memories of that time and that neighborhood. I can remember them arguing and fighting a lot. I remember my mother hitting him on the head with a cast iron frying pan and blood everywhere. I also remember my mother bleeding during their fights. She also would fall down a lot.

Everyone in that housing development was poor. Each apartment was in long row that connected 10 apartments side by side. All apartments had the same exact floor plan. Everything was bare bones basic. My mother cooked on a wood range which also kept the apartment warm. I don’t think there was another source of heat but I could be wrong. There were 3 bedrooms and one bathroom. The kitchen and living room were all one room. Each apartment was probably around 600 sq ft. total. I remember my mother giving me baths in the kitchen sink.

We had an “ice box” to keep things cold. An Iceman would deliver large bricks of ice that he placed in a compartment at the top. As the ice melted, it ran into a pan that was under the ice box and had to be emptied regularly. We had dairy products delivered by a Milkman. Our next order would be written on a piece of paper that was stuck into the top one of the empty glass milk bottles which always had to be returned. He delivered Milk, Eggs, Butter and other things such as Cottage cheese and Sour Cream. Everything was left on our front doorstep early in the morning. The milk was raw milk and it would separate so the cream rose to the top.

Margarine was a new product and at first it was not allowed to look like butter. It was white and in a plastic bag that had a red ball inside. We would squish it until the ball broke and yellow die came out which we would squeeze and squeeze until the product ended up looking yellow like butter. We all loved to do it so we would have to take turns. I remember clearly that sometimes when we cracked an egg, there would be a chick embryo inside and it would have to be discarded.

Back then there were no televisions and it isn’t likely that we had a telephone. We all would gather around a radio that we listened to regularly at night. There are a few that I remember very well. One was Baby Snooks with Fanny Brice (who was played by Barbara Streisand much later in Funny Girl). Also very popular were Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Phil Harris, Alice Faye, Groucho Marx, Milton Merle and their sidekicks in a variety of comedy sitcoms. We always loved George Burns and Gracie Allen and Amos and Andy. Henry Aldrich, Abbott and Costello, Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy and Superman were especially for kids. Inner Sanctum and The Shadow were thrillers. It was the highlight of our entire day to sit and listen to the radio.

There are only a few incidents I remember about my mother. They must be ones that for some reason had an impact on me. Once when we were in a grocery store, she shoplifted a can of tuna. Somehow she was caught and the police arrived. I was scared but that is all I remember about it. I also remember riding on busses quite a bit with her and having to walk a long ways from the bus stop home. Once I pretended I was asleep so she would carry me – she did too! She took me to two movies. I vividly remember parts of each movie, but it wasn’t until many years later, when I saw them again, that I recognized the scenes that were locked in my memory. That is when I realized which movies they were. One was Gone With the Wind and the other was Unconquered with Paulette Goddard and Gary Cooper.

When I was five, one morning at the breakfast table, my mother had a serious stroke. She was taken away in an ambulance. Like I said before, she was only thirty-four. The stroke paralyzed her entire right side and took away her ability to speak. That was the last time I saw her for at least five years.