Going back to my first three-to-five on Planet Earth, I remember waking up early every morning and wandering around outside in my brave new world. There was a blue jacket I wore in the fall that reminded me of the DC Comics’ Blackhawks, and a yellow-striped shirt that made me feel like BB Eyes from Dick Tracy. One time I came across a rusty chain that looked like the one Popeye used to bust with a punch in the cartoons. I gave it a try and picked up a scar that remains with me to this day.
The most important of my earliest recollections was my relationship with the Lord. My Mom deserves all the credit for bringing me close to Him at bedtime prayers. She also told me how much she prayed for me before I was born, which has Scriptural precedent in the Book of Samuel. As a result, I have always dedicated my life to the Lord, for better or worse, and the Holy Ghost has been with me as far back as I remember.
Outside of the Riveras, the only kids I remember from those days were the O’Connors. Their Mom Nora was a cancer victim, their Dad was an Irish drunk, and the oldest sister Colleen lost an eye to a stick-wielding playmate in a stupid accident. Kevin was the third child, about three years older than I, and our relationship fluctuated along with his whims to either befriend or belittle me. One day he came along and began a tug-of-war for one of the sticks I used to carry around. I landed on my butt and responded by hurling a fistful of gravel in his face. His family rallied to file grievance but got nowhere with Mom the lioness. Kevin would remain a big figure in my early life up to the time of the SLEDCART affair, which I’ll describe later.
Another melancholy memory was that of our babysitter, Julia Lopez. She was a schoolteacher from Puerto Rico who lived upstairs and was more than glad to watch over Lea and I as my parents resumed their nocturnal pursuits. Unfortunately, I took my parents’ absence out on her, though she never ratted me out. I was a wretched bastard towards her, and when my friend Edward came along, he goaded me on to greater disrespect. She was diagnosed with cancer years later, and her older sister Paca (who I got on well with) took us out to visit. I was a bit older and offered my sincere condolences, but the look in her eye told me she was having little of it. It kinda reminded me of the look my nephew Thumper would give me at a critical point in time decades later. At any rate, it was one of the things I regretted over time, and only wished I had shown the woman more respect with time remaining.
St. Paul School was the place where all respectable middle-class Catholic families in Cobble Hill sent their kids. I’ll never forget my first day of school as Mom brought me into the crowded school auditorium where a frightful, black-cloaked nun pored over my paperwork and instructed my Mom to abandon me along a line at the far wall. I felt as if I had crossed a threshold above which sat the sign, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” Only an angel came to my rescue, and she would help me safely negotiate the first course along the series of intermittent train wrecks which was my elementary school education.
(To be continued...)
(To be continued...)