I am glad I’m never going to be seven again. Seven was painful.
What point of reference does one have at this young age?
I was leaving first grade and entering second. We were living in an apartment at the corner of Montrose and Clark when my father became sick and lost his job. So we moved down the block to my grandmother’s house. She already had two foster kids and a drunken boarder.
We lived there six months, my family of five all sleeping in one bedroom.
I remember the dead rat. It smelled for weeks.
I remember cockroaches. They come with the territory when you live in an apartment above a restaurant and tavern. To this day, I anticipate the sound of scurrying when I walk into a dark room and turn on a light.
Where were my two brothers? Why are my memories of them faint and sporadic?
There was burned oatmeal. There were mashed potatoes and cauliflower.
There were restrictions: a living room with a gate across the doorway; we couldn’t enter unless we wanted to watch Lawrence Welk on Saturday evenings.
I skipped school. I hid from my grandmother. I had a crush on the crossing guard, who dressed like a policewoman.
Finally, we moved out. This time there was a small factory on the first floor. We slept in separate rooms, but there were cockroaches.
At seven, I was a little pudgy kid who didn’t have a clue. By the age of fourteen, I knew I’d never be skinny, but I was well on my way to having a clue.
I’d figured out who the jerks were, who I wanted to hang out with, and who to avoid. The jerks had a penchant for words. That summer at the local park, I beat the crap out of a kid who called my mother fat.
After playing touch football on a paved tennis court, I got a concussion complete with temporary amnesia. In the hospital, I worried, “What if I wake up tomorrow and forget everything I have learned? I will have to do it all over.”
I’m still afraid of having another concussion and erasing the past 50-plus years.