I cannot escape the allure of those three spiral notebooks, so bear with me as I draw a conclusion or two from the notes Mama kept on me, as I made life miserable for those around me. So cute, you know?
"Laugh, Clown, Laugh!"
June 5th, 1955: He has suddenly changed from his good-natured little self to a very ornery and contrary little Mark. He wants to do just exactly what he wants and pays little attention to discipline so I have my hands full.
October 13th, 1955: He can be awfully ornery-right at the minute he is acting like a three-year-old. [I was three years, five weeks old.] When I tell him to do something he will ignore me, or just quietly sneak off and hide in a corner, or in the closet.
December 7th, 1955: He has become very difficult to handle, being stubborn and contrary. He wants to do what he wants to do and no more. He teases Jean and the other boys, stands in front of the TV set so nobody else can see and pulls such other ornery stunts.
February 23rd, 1956: He is right now very difficult and rebellious. If I tell him not to do something, it’s as good as a guarantee that the minute I turn around he’ll do it.
May 19th, 1963: I can see I haven’t written about Mark for a long time. I don’t know why-he is a character and causes me lots of headaches. For one thing he is a clown. He goes around making remarks and cracks to the other boys with the result that they-one or all-are always angry at him.
February 26th, 1964: Personality wise he is enough to drive a poor mother into the nut house. He is a clown from the word go…
July 1st, 1964: Mark is quite a problem at times-he is very contradictory in character…He has this peculiarity of personality that clashes with a lot of people. He is annoying because he is noisy. He chatters about nothing; he is persistent to the point of driving a person stark, raving mad.
April 26, 1965: He is absolutely the most stubborn, persistent, one-way character I’ve ever seen. Once he gets an idea in his head, he never lets it go.
And back by popular demand, is this gem from May 29th, 1969: Mark seems to be almost a typical teen age boy, if such a thing is possible. His interests are those of most boys and his attitude also. He is loud, rude, rebellious, belligerent, anti-everything, rarely appears to study, and knows every popular singer, group and recording out.
I am sensing a theme here.
In the earliest of these entries, I had only three older brothers, to be joined down the line by thee more. Talk about caught in the middle. I also have two younger sisters, so for me to get what I considered to be my fair share of parental attention, I had to go into my act on a regular basis.
My older brother Eric christened me Clown, or Clownie, and was often heard to intone, “Laugh, Clown, laugh.” He was not likely to be amused when addressing me thusly. Brian’s moniker for me was The Babe, and we’re not talking baseball here. It’s no wonder Mama makes so many references to having to play referee, in order to keep things down to a roar.
Whether I was doing my patented “Touch me in five seconds, I will fill-in-the-blank,” thereby inciting potential chaos by having kids chasing all around the house, or simply being “loud, rude, rebellious and belligerent,” I was always in Mama’s headlights. It was all about seeking the spotlight.
Shockingly, I was unable to avoid military service the final year of the draft; had I known at the time it was to be the final year, I can guarantee you I would have dug my heels in much deeper, but such is the nature of water under the bridge. Gone and best forgotten. I am the person I am today, in part, because of this time in the Big Green Machine.
And as always, Mama was called upon to referee, this time the opponents being loneliness and depression. Having worn this cap during WWII, while Papa and her brothers were in the service, Mama sported it brilliantly. She kept me supplied with letters, treats, cards sympathy and most importantly, love.
As always, I was her problem child, and as always, she came to my aid. She let me know I was not going crazy, just a little nuts, but that it would pass when I got out, and came home. She guaranteed it in her letters to me, and she was right.
And though she’s gone now, Mama’s words remain with me, and it’s a damn good thing. I still need a referee at times and who better than her? She used to ask Gluten-Free Mama, “Well, is he behaving himself?”
GF Mama always said yes, and as long as my Mama was standing there, I was…