My Life Part 2: Germany to California

I recently posted my earliest memories in My Life as I Recall “The First Few Years” . As I continue with my “memoirs” I will once again remind readers that these are my recollections, so dates and events may be somewhat skewed. I wish I had more people in my life who could clarify some of this, but alas, it is only me. My oldest brother, who would have the best recall doesn’t really speak to anyone in my family, so I’m left to piece this together the best I can. Okay, enough disclaimers.

My father was a career military man, so moving was an inevitable part of my life. We left Germany when I was between 4 and 5 years old. I remember this only because I started Kindergarten at age 4 in German, and had to repeat it at age 5 in California. My birthday being in December would always leave me a year behind in school.

Before we left Germany I came down with a nasty ear infection. I was told by my mother that the solution to an infection in those days was to lance the ear drum and let the fluid drain out. “They lanced ears at the base clinic on Thursdays” my mother told me. She also mentioned them possibly treating me with radium capsules up the nose, a common “treatment” for ear infections in the military back then, but that is another story. Here is a link the their use http://articles.courant.com/1994-07-02/news/9407020335_1_radium-treatments-thyroid-researchers .

The flight from Germany to California is stuck in my memory for several reasons.

First off, my father always insisted on his family “appearing” perfect. We were always dressed impeccably, and expected to stay that way. So, as we boarded the twin propeller plane for our trip across the ocean, my sister and I were dressed in matching, crushed velvet dresses. Somewhere over the Atlantic one of the engines malfunctioned causing not only panic, looking out the window and wondering why I could see the water, and extreme turbulence. My sister and I both got sick all over our “perfect” outfits. I remember the stewardess taking our dresses to wash them out. However, the stewardess placed them in the only heat source, an oven, to try to dry them, which left both of our dresses scorched and unwearable. I only remember the embarrassment I felt disembarking that plane with only a slip on under my coat.

Secondly, I remember the extreme pain in my left ear on that flight, and every flight since then.

We lived both off base and on base for our short time in California. I don’t remember a lot from that time, except for the bad/traumatic stuff in vague flashes.

…My father yelling at me for accidentally closing my sister’s fingers in the kitchen door, resulting in him having to remove her fingernail.

…The four of us kids laughing so hard at the dinner table one night and mom getting so upset with us that she dropped part of a plate of food on her new, white Keds. As she was sending us to our rooms she yelled to me, “If you make your sister throw up I’ll kill you”. My sister was always sick it seemed to me. Well, when we got to our bedroom we tried to quiet down, but whatever had started us laughing at the table was still at work, and we laughed and laughed…until, my sister threw up! I was terrified…the next thing I remember is my mother shaking my by the shoulders, “I told you NOT TO MAKE HER SICK”!

…My brother, Keith and I at the hangers with Dad one day deciding that the row of parachutes was a great place to play. We began climbing along them, not realizing that we were using the rip-cords for our footing until one of the parachutes deployed! This would have gotten us in enough trouble, but when Dad came in and found us desperately trying to “put the chute back” into its sack, well, yeah..I don’t remember what happened then. I probably blocked it out for a reason. Okay, somewhat funny in the telling now.

My father always had the wanderlust that I seem to have inherited, so we traveled extensively while living in California, once driving from 115 degree temps in Death Valley all the way up North to play in the small snow piles on Mt. Whitney. I believe my fear of bridges began when crossing the Golden Gate, on the floor of the car, asking over and over, “Are we off yet”?

A trip to Las Vegas where all I can remember was the first and only spanking I ever got from my father. I woke that morning to the sounds of my brothers giggling in the bathroom. I went and found them snarfing down baby aspirin like candy, and had just put one in my mouth when Dad opened the door. I remember being lined up in only our underwear and watching in fear as he went from the oldest to youngest using his blue military belt. I don’t remember my turn, but to this day I cringe when I see one of those blue belts.

You may be wondering at this point if I have any happy memories of my childhood. To be honest, after years in therapy, these are the bits and pieces we could find. I guess traumatic stuff sticks easier…I mean, there must have been some good stuff right? Maybe, maybe not.

Leading into the next chapter…The ear infection I had gotten before we left Germany never resolved. It would be about a year or so before we would head “home” to Massachusetts, and begin dealing with it.

A photo of my father in his “broom broom” as my sister called that car, she cried whenever he started it up. My tricycle is in the right hand corner. I love the other cars in the photo..what a flashback in time.

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11 comments on “My Life Part 2: Germany to California

  1. I think that you are doing yourself therapeutic good writing it all out, cleansing it from your system if you will. I also think that the blog is a great way to gain perspective, the community of WordPressers is pretty amazing as is their support. You are such fine, strong person. I’m so glad to have gotten to know you a little bit. 🙂

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    • Dear Laurie, I feel the same about you…I was just thinking this as I read about your trip back home. I was thinking what good friends we might have been if I had stayed in Mass. I like writing out the past “junk”, though I’m afraid my readers may start to think of me as a negative person..which I am not. I am actually leading into the third part of my story…which is actually a miracle….I’ll get there. I’ve been unable/unwilling to sit down to serious writing the past few days. It will come. 🙂

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  2. Yes, Kim, I treasure my memories. As I’ve gotten older, I tend to forget most of the negative and remember the good and joyful. Memories of our childhood are wonderful, especially when shared with siblings and cousins.

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    • I found after many years of “discovery” in therapy that I don’t remember very many good times…except for when we lived at my grandparents house after my parents divorced. Those few years were the best of my life…a future blog story.

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  3. It’s time to leave those things in the past and live in the moment… A dream is real when you are sleeping but when you wake up you realize, bears don’t play the violin and the mailman doesn’t deliver blocks of cheese.

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  4. It is strange how mostly traumatic memories remain in our brains, but I too, have some happy ones; but not as many as traumatic. I hope your ears finally cleared up, that must have been a miserable flight back to America. Back then, corporal punishment for children was popular wasn’t it?

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    • Yeah, I know there must have been some happy things in there somewhere..I don’t recall them though. And yes, spanking was acceptable, and even I used it on my own children..it was seldom, but happened. As I see the children coming of age today, I’m thinking it should have stayed.

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