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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Past and Present

Playground where the tennis courts were
Inside the slide
 I was feeling nostalgic on the way to my brother's in Pennsylvania, so Bubs 1 and I called a childhood friend of mine and we made a "pit stop" in Highland Lakes, NJ. Not far from our route (just off Rt 84 from upstate NY), is the place where I grew up. Returning to my childhood brings both joy and pain, but I find myself continually returning.

I left Highland Lakes before I was ready. Not too long after my father left the family and eventually stopped sending money to us, my mother could no longer support the house. She told me that we couldn't stay in our home any longer. It was surreal. This place held my roots, which ran deep into its soil. Since then, I've been painfully enjoying every visit. This particular visit brought more joy, because I was sharing my history with Bubs 1. More than that, I was sharing the setting where many of my childhood memories stem - Beach 1.

After staying at my buddy Chris' house, Bubs 1 and I headed to Beach 1. As stated, this beach is an intrinsic part of my childhood. Every summer, during my elementary and middle school years, included basketball, softball, swimming and socializing. This was the place where I learned how to operate within the culture in which I was raised.

This view was unchanged
We found a playground where the old tennis courts once stood. I sent Bubs 1 up the playscape as I tried to imagine where, on the old courts, I would be standing if I were instantly transported back in time. For a split second, I wished that I could be transported back. I then turned around towards the lake. I looked for the spot where that old tree once stood. It was the only tree on the beach. It stood on the grass area. I couldn't find it among the numerous other trees planted since. The only view that didn't change was the lake. As long as I stared directly at the lake, I was back home.

There used to just be a fence here
On our visit, I stood, with coffee in hand, watching Bubs 1 play on the same grounds I stomped on at his age. It just felt right to have my little guy there enjoying a piece of my history all these years later. The only other feeling that will equal this accompanies the thought of knowing that I get to do this again with Bubs 2 (when he gets older). Moments leave, but memories stay.

I can bring both bubs here as many times as it takes for me to make peace with my past. I still have places to visit and old friends to see. On this trip, not only did we enjoy the hospitality of my good friend, Chris, but Bubs 1 and I got to hang out with more good friends - the Hibbits family.

Bubs 1 with friends from the hood

Bubs 1 and I drove through my old neighborhood and saw Mrs Hibbits outside her home. Mrs Hibbits was a good friend of my mother's. Bubs 1 never met his grandma, because she died almost 20 years before he was born. She would have spoiled the bubs - both bubs. Mrs Hibbits said the same thing. She invited Bubs 1 and me inside and we saw Mr Hibbits and soon Carol and her daughter took a ride up to visit (from the next town over). I heard a few stories about my mother that I never heard before. The combination of having Bubs 1 meet Mrs Hibbits, who lives just down the road from the house where I grew up in, was meaningful.

We'll be back for another visit soon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Take Human Bites

 Bubs 2 just turned six month's old, and he's been smiling almost everyday. He smiles all the time. I'm beginning to believe that he knows more than he's letting on (just like his brother does).

Six months age brings access to solid food. Bubs 2 is more than ready too. He's grabbing the spoon before it's out of the Baby Bullet jar. Although he has to fine-tune his food management once inside his mouth, he knows where it goes. His brother was a good eater too. Right from the start, Bubs 1 gobbled down his first bowls of oatmeal. I hope that Bubs 2 doesn't learn to eat like his brother or me.

His older brother seems to have learned to eat like me by watching me scarf down meal after meal after meal. I eat quick. I don't come from a large family or anything like that. I just learned to eat quick from my days in 4th grade. Since I had to eat a daily, mid-morning snack as part of my diet (type 1 diabetic), I ate it in the nurse's office. I was covert about it, because it was taboo for any fourth grader to eat outside of the lunch room. Nobody ate outside the lunch room. The culture wouldn't allow it. I saw kids get into trouble for the suspicion that they were eating outside the lunchroom. Therefore if you did eat outside the lunchroom, then you were "different." So I made sure that I didn't become "different." I had a medical excuse to eat a snack, but I didn't want anybody to know that I was a diabetic. Just like any fourth grader, I didn't want to be "different."

So, every morning snack was eaten at top speed. The nurse worried that I was going to choke on my food. "Sit down. Relax!" she'd say. However, upon entering the nurse's office each day, I went directly to the closet (where I would place my snack each day on the way to homeroom, from the bus) and stood there, eating quickly. Sometimes I didn't even turn around from the closet. I just stood there eating with my back to the room. I didn't want a friend coming in to see the nurse and see me eating. Choking wasn't high up on my list of concerns.

I was successful at keeping everyone in the dark about my snacks. I became a game of covert, CIA-agent-like snacking. Could I get in and out without anyone seeing me today? What an adrenaline rush I made it into.

I was successful in keeping everybody in the dark until one day, I finished my snack and headed back to class. As soon as I walked in the classroom, my teacher asked (in front of everybody) where I was. "At the nurse," I replied. "Doing what?" he demanded. Did he just ask me that? In front of all my friends? "Eating graham crackers," I mumbled quietly. I was embarrassed. "What else?" he snapped. "and apple juice." I find it funny, in hindsight, that I told him specifically my meal (rather than just say "a snack"). He then told me to sit down. I was confused, because Mr Ruggerio never acted like that. He was even one of my favorite teachers. I thought that I must have walked into the middle of something, like an ambush. Nonetheless, I can't say if my social life suffered after that incident. I can't remember. It must have not been that bad.

Later on, like 10 years later, my mother told me about a day that she received a call from Mr Ruggerio. He had apologized, to her, for snapping at me and embarrassing me in front of class on that fateful day. My mother told me that his phone call surprised her, because I had not said a word to her about the events of that day. She said that he told her that he had had a bad morning and unfairly took it out on me. It had nothing to do with me or anything that I did.

So not only do I eat fast today, I also eat fast with a fear that someone is going to yell at me. No, that's not true. Maybe it is just a genetic thing? Maybe there are more of my family that eat fast? Since Bubs 2 is going to be flanked by his brother and me at most of his next 20 + years of meals, I'm thinking that I'll never know the answers to those questions. I always keep a close eye on Bubs 1 when he's eating. I worry about him choking - especially when he's jamming two cheese sticks into his mouth in record time.

I'll just keep feeding Bubs 2 oatmeal for the rest of his life.

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