Through A Child’s Eyes

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The further we get from our past, the kinder and more forgiving we become of our memories. Haven’t you had someone pass from your life, that has either moved on or really moved on from this earthly life? Looking back on that relationship isn’t it easier to see both sides and be more forgiving now that enough time has passed to retain more of the good memories involved in that relationship than the bad?

I loved my mother. I left home when I was eighteen to attend college , and although I never lived at home again, Mother was the constant force that kept me moving forward in my life, no matter how many miles separated us, or how hard my circumstances became. She was always my best cheerleader. In my heart, she was always someone I wanted to emulate.
A perfect woman.

She pushed me to audition for Romper Room when I had little or none of the required background that the other’s seeking the job had. She had a ‘feeling’ about the man I married, yet when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, she was there emotionally, a pillar of support when I thought I would not survive mentally or financially through it all. My mother walked through the fire with me. She was my rock. And it was this super strength and will that allowed her to love me unconditionally. No matter what stresses I brought into her life, she never abandoned me. And never a day goes by, that I don’t think if her and wish I could pick up the phone to hear her assuring voice again.

New Jersey…..1987

Studies reveal that as we get older our personality traits become more pronounced. Because I left home at such an early age, the impressions I had of my mother were established through immature eyes. And until I brought her to live with me after my father died in 1987 that is the unrealistic image I had of her.

But it did not take me long to be able to see my mother within an adult’s perspective. I soon came to realize that Mother’s strength actually was a form of control over everything in her environment. As a child, I welcomed the attention, but in my 50’s I needed to breathe on my own. My childlike view that Mother was a saint and could do wrong would slowly erode throughout our remaining years together.

Little things like hiding candy under her chair so she wouldn’t have to share, I attributed to her life as one of ten children where sharing would have left little for her. That never really bothered me, but her strong will finally became quite problematic when she stubbornly refused to give up driving even after mistaking the gas peddle for the brake causing her to break through my double front gates and land in the middle of my side lawn closest to the ocean cliff. She was late for a ride to a wedding, so she walked away leaving the car with its wheels dug into the dirt of what remained of my torn up lawn. A wonderful present for me when I arrived home from New York two days later. Somehow she ‘forgot’ to tell me before I came home.

Mother had a mild stroke later that year and under doctor ‘s orders, she entered a rehabilitation facility for physical therapy after that stroke. This was only temporary, but one would think we had sent her to Siberia. What was I thinking!

Had I been clairvoyant I would have prepared myself for what followed. Just three days into her stay at the facility, I got a call in New York close to midnight from the center saying my mother was missing. My husband an I jumped into the car and sped through Lincoln Tunnel back to New Jersey. I was a wreck, thinking the worst.

Well, we finally found her. There she was, nestled cozily back at my house, looking so innocent. She had talked a friend into taking her out on the guise that she would be returning.

But, in the end, I really should have known better to think she would stay there, because she pulled that stunt once more a few weeks later. She remained totally defiant until we decided to let her do what she was determined to do, forget rehab, and remain master of her own fate.

I was not strong enough to go against her, but I knew we had to somehow make her life safer. Whether she liked it or not. She had to accept that living alone in my big remote house was not good nor the best lifestyle for her. The only thing we could do to keep her somewhat independent was to move her down the hill into our small borough where she would have neighbors to check on her and walking ability to all of the comforts of her day. That was the only concession she allowed me, but I don’t think she ever forgave me, either. And on top of that, made sure she told the world how her daughter had betrayed her.

Mother died two years later of another stroke, but she left me, the way she wanted. Living on her own terms. She asked her nurse for her lipstick. Then, a force greater than her’s came and she slipped off quickly and quietly.

In the end, Mother was in control as much as she could ever be facing the unknown powers greater than herself. And I was left with an overpowering, overwhelming loss. Loss of her, her touch, of her strength.

My having to let go of my childhood vision of who she was, was a hard revelation. Probably the hardest lesson I had to learn. I was faced with the reality that she was indeed only human after all.

July 17, 1953

Life in the summer of 1953 in Ohio

It was summer. It was hot. It was Friday night in 1953. My friends and I boarded the bus downtown to our local YMCA and scampered down the outside stairs to the basement Swing Haven. It was the place to be. The rainbow-lit juke box would be blaring and swinging with Dean Martin, Perry Como, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Eddy Fisher and Hank Williams. We could count on it. Our teenage hearts were pounding with excitement as we entered the darkened abyss.

Duck-tailed boys on one side and poodle skirts and pony tails on the other. The biggest worry for us girls was that we would be left standing alone and not get picked to dance.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that, other than being rejected by the opposite sex, we had so few fears in those days. We rode the bus alone at night and walked home on dimly lit streets and came home to unlocked doors. No cell phones or alarms. My parents never worried that I would be anything but safe in Steubenville in 1953.

At the same time a world away in Berlin, my pen pal Ursula, was living an entirely different life.

July 1, 1953

Dear Sandra, Berlin, 7th Juli 1953

I have the letter from June 18th not can send to you. Here in the sovjet-sector from Berlin we had a big demonstration of all people here. I send now the letter from the west-sector (american-sector). I hope very, that you now became it. Escuse me, that is so a long time continues.

Please write me directly, therewith I wait that the post goes. The next letter send me please to my aunt in the west-sector of Berlin.

Sincerely yours,
from Ursula Thie

On June 16, 1953 construction workers on Stalinallee in East Berlin downed their tools and went on strike. The initial strike spread quickly: by the morning of June 17th 40,000 demonstrators were marching in East Berlin, with a wave of similar strikes and protests recorded in numerous cities.

Berlin, June 16, 1953

By the afternoon, the situation had escalated to such an extent that Soviet tanks had rolled out onto the streets of Berlin, the conflict leaving more than 40 dead and 400 injured. By the evening it was over. Seven hundred protestors were arrested for their involvement. The level of discontent took both the East German authorities and the Soviets by surprise. And people like Ursula were caught in the middle just because she lived in a sector given to the Soviets.

Ursula lived through the violent fall of Berlin in 1945, loosing her father. The Soviet Army held little interest in taking prisoners, which seemingly played well into the German mentality of “fighting to the last”.For her hard times were a well-etched part of her 17 year old life so far. She seemed to take it strangely in stride.

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The letter I received from her written during the uprising talks matter-of-factly about the mini-opera houses, cinemas and her life living in the heart of ‘the chief city’ of Germany. In closing, she notes that in Germany the modern music of bogies, bops, and other dances grows. Jazz has only found ‘some friends’. They like waltzes, fox trots, polkas and tangos.

Little did we both know that the world would in time become smaller and smaller with an internet click melding each civilization and one another.