Shave and a Haircut
One of the earliest memories I have is probably when I was 8 years old. Ruthie and I were down in the basement playing barber shop. Dad had given us an old razor (without the blade) to play with. I sat in one of the yellow chairs and Ruthie pretended to shave my face. When she was finished, it was her turn to sit in the chair. She wanted to be in the beauty shop. I went upstairs and got a pair of scissors, went back downstairs and cut all of her hair to approximately 2 inches. I thought it looked pretty good for a first shop and Ruthie thought it looked good too, even though we didn't have a mirror for her to look into.
Then Ruthie walked up the stairs and opened the door. All I can remember after that was hearing Mom say "Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph....get your damn hide up here!" As I walked up the stairs I remember my heart rate increasing drastically, I knew my rear end was going to hurt.... and it did. Ruthie got no spanking - go figure.
You Can't Have your Cake and Eat it too
I was probably eight or nine years old when there was a raffle at St. Pius after church one Sunday. The raffle was for a chocolate cake and I remember Dad giving everyone a nickle to take a chance. Early that afternoon, during our regular Sunday dinner, the phone rang. The voice on the other end of the phone asked for Gerald McGrath. Completely forgetting about the raffle, I walked toward the phone. My heart rate was up because anytime I heard "Gerald" I knew it was trouble. The voice on the other end explained that they were calling from St. Pius and that I won the cake! They said if I could come and pick it up now, that some would wait for me.
I wouldn't believe it, but Mom even let me go to get the cake without finishing my dinner. I ran through the back woods and arrived at St. Pius in about 30 seconds. They gave me the cake and off I went. This was the biggest cake that I had ever seen. I was so proud of myself as I ran past the old shack behind Frederick's, almost home to show off my prize, around the fence into the backyard and don't I trip on a rock and fall into the cake! I must have screamed because I remember looking up and everyone was in the kitchen window laughing at me. That made me feel a little better, but my cake had too much dirt on it to be salvaged.
Bye Bye Birdie
After months and months of begging, Mom finally agreed to let me have a parakeet. His name was Tippy and I used to let him fly around my room. Mom told me that if I let him out of the cage again that she would let him out the window. That was the rule.
About 3 days later, A Sunday...after an early dinner, I was cleaning Tippy's cage and he got out. I was supposed to be getting ready to go with the rest of the family to visit Dick at Mater Christi. Everyone was out in the car and I couldn't catch the damn bird. "Damn your little hide, get out in the car" was all I heard so I closed the bedroom door and took off.
We always had fun going to visit Dick, but I couldn't wait to get home and get Tippy back into his cage. When Dad pulled the car into the driveway,, I was the first one out. I ran into my room and locked the door. I couldn't find Tippy anywhere. He wasn't even in the closet. I went to close the closet door and didn't know it, but Tippy was walking through the crack between the closet door and the door frame.
Needless to say, they were the last few steps for Tippy, but the worst part was ... what do I tell Mom? The next day Mom asked where the bird was. I just said "he expired". Mom asked where he was and I told her I threw him out. Mom just sort of looked at me and walked away.
About a week later I came home with a Mourning Dove that had a broken wind. I asked Mom if I could keep it. "Damn your little hide Mister, put that thing back in the basket of your bicycle and put it back where you found it". As I was peddling down the driveway, the bird jumped out of the basket and got caught in the spokes of my wheel. Ughh!
That Damn Cat
When I was 7 years old, I shared the back bedroom with Jack. He was 17 at the time. One night around 8 pm Mom came into the room and told Jack that he has a phone call. Jack left and closed the door behind him. While I was lying on my bed, I heard a noise at the window. When I went to the window I found a huge grey tomcat rubbing up against the screen and crying. Now, as you well know we were never allowed to have animals, but I thought to myself what would it hurt if I let him in just for a few minutes. So I opened the screen and pulled this huge cat in. As I was closing the screen, the cat had diarrhea all over my bed and jumped over to Jack's bed and continued his mess. It was EVERYWHERE! I grabbed the cat and threw him out the window so hard that I am surprised that he didn't hit Bania's house. What in the name of God was I going to do? I pened the door a crack and saw Mom sitting in the living room, she had just lit a cigarette so I knew I had a couple of minutes anyway. I had to think fast. I grabbed all of the bed linens. I took sheets, blankets, pilow cases and carried them into the garage where I found a big can of Lestoil. Both cars were in the garage, so I stretched the blankets and sheets all the way down the driveway. I poured Lestoil all over them and then I had to sneak under the living room window and across the front of the house to turn on the water for my rinse cycle. After 3 or 4 minutes all of the diarrhea was gone. What I didn't know was that Mom had just gotten up to go to the bathroom and looked out the window to find Jerry spraying his blankets and sheets on the driveway at 9:30 at night. All of a sudden I heard "Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph". I froze, then I started crying. I saw Mom go flying through the living room, picking up Dad along the way. Dad had no idea what was going on, but I could almost see him biting his tongue from where I stood. They both came flying out the garage door. Dad took the hose away from me and Mom took me by the and and walked me very quietly back into the house. I turned around to say I was sorry to Dad, but I saw him standing there with this hose and a mountain of suds at the end of the driveway and decided to say nothing.
Mom brought me into the house, changed my clothes, put me in the other back bedroom and said "good night". I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it. I never got yelled at , never got the belt, it was unbelievable! As I went to sleep I could hear the washer and dryer going . I still could not believe what had happened and what was going on. The next morning...still nothing. Walking home from school that day I figured this was it. I was really going to get it now. I walked into the house. I twas like nothing had every happened. It was torture!
Seventeen years later, this thing was still bugging me. We were out in Denver at Mary Ann's. Mom and I were having a beer and I asked her if she remember a time when I was very young that I was spraying my sheets one the driveway in the middle of the night. She looked at me sort of strangely and said "yes". I said "why didn't you every do anything to me?" She replied "Why you little devil!" Then she explained to me that she thought that I was in the middle of a bad dream and she had always read that it was not advisable to wake a child in the middle of a bad dream. As I sat there and thought about it, what else could she have thought? The cat was gone, the diarrhea was gone. It was just me, the hose, the blankets and the suds.
From the time I was 8 until the time I was about 11, Mom always sent Tom and I to "The Office" with Dad on Saturday. Dad would always give us something to do like clean the bathrooms. Thinking back about those bathrooms, I'm really surprised someone hasn't realized their value because I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like them. I don't think anyone else has either.
Anyhow, Dad would always take us to Charlie Dan'es View Restaurant. This was a small diner on Broadway. After our lunch, while Dad would have his rice pudding, Tom and I would always be invited into the basement of the restaurant by the old Greek cook. His name was peter. Peter always took us into the basement to show us the newest litter of kittens. Peter also helped keep Dad occupied while Tom and I would sneak two kittens into the car. We must have done this at least five times and to this day I really don't know if Dad knew we were doing it or not.
Tom and I would then sneak the kittens into the house when we got home We would play with them all nigh Saturday, all day Sunday and then Mom would bring them to the Humane Society while we were at school on Monday. Tom and I would get home from school and dry, then we would try to figure out how long it would be before the mother cat would have more kittens. We must have gone through 10 or 12 kittens this way. Life is funny.... today I hate cats!