Hey there JT,
As you might imagine, you are featured in those three spiral notebooks that Mama kept on me, something that fascinates me because she fills in a lot of the missing pieces. I have written on multiple occasions about the time when we were bosom buddies, with no academic worries because we had not yet started school.
We spent long afternoons exploring the tall mustard greens in the vacant lot next door, building forts both outdoors and in and playing store with “groceries” provided by Mama, in the form of empty cereal cartons, metal saltine cracker boxes and a wealth of other durable goods.
What the spiral notebooks do is present the foundation of our friendship, from the omniscient perspective, a recounting of information that lets me know that the ties that bind us together, even after we went a couple of decades with almost no communication, go deep.
The first entry that Mama made that contained your name was May 28th, 1954, when you would have been eight months old: “He likes Jean, will 'talk' to her, push her swing, pick up her toys, but when I feed her, he comes along to the kitchen and stands next to my chair waiting for spoonfuls of food to go into his mouth.”
While the iron is hot, how about the next entry, maybe seven weeks later on July 17th, 1954? “He likes Jean enormously, at least he is very friendly to her, smiles and talks to her, picks up her toys for her and performs other like services.”
Conversely, three weeks later on August 6th, Mama wrote, “Mark has a little streak of meanness-I guess it’s normal for his age. He thinks it’s fun to throw handfuls of dirt at the kittens, and one day I caught him throwing dirt all over Jean.”
By the time November rolls around, I am becoming a real dirtbag. I like Mama’s tongue-in-cheek reference in this next passage from November 17th: “He and Jean get along but only when they are not together. [Right? lol] That is, they will talk to each other while each is in the crib, but I can’t put them on the floor together. He is jealous of her or maybe he has learned what is his and what is hers. He won’t let her lay even a finger on what is his, and since he regards both rocking chairs, all footstools, and end tables as his private property, things can get difficult. And she doesn’t take it lying down-she hits back and we have lots of tears. But he is scrupulous about giving her what he considers her property, mostly the old rattles and such that bore her now.”
January 2, 1955: They don’t get along at all right now; he picks on her and she fights back.
February 6th, 1955: He is talking more and more now and takes it upon himself to snitch on her when she gets into something. Or he’ll come to me and say, “Jean crying.” She gets into his toys a lot and he doesn’t like it. He plays with her doll-that is, he abuses it, throws it on the floor and steps on it to make it cry.
March 2nd: He has such an idea about what should be and shouldn’t be. He argues with Jean about the words she uses-“toast” for bread and the like…He watches Jean with an eagle eye, and often I hear him say, "No no, Jean!" Or he runs to tell me of some mischief Jean has got into.
Oh, and I apologize in advance for this next one, dated May 22nd, 1955: “He is by turns easy to manage and independent and contrary. He teases Jean and delights in making her cry. It’s not unusual for him to push her down and grab her hair with both hands.”
But I wonder sometimes about what Mama didn’t see, that caused me to be such an obstreperous little snot. Take this entry, for instance, from July 10th, 1955: “Last night I heard a commotion in the kitchen and when I went out there, Jean was standing in front of the counter shouting, ‘Sucker! Sucker!’ and Mark was on a stool trying to get her a sucker (and one for himself) from the top shelf.”
Here is a telling entry from October 13th, 1955: “He is crazy about playing with blankets and pillows and will make a bed on the living room floor, or a tent on the porch. In this way he and Jean will play for hours.” The start of our golden era?
From November of 1955 comes this entry, “I am enormously amused by the way that he and Jean play with their teddy bears and other stuffed toys. They treat the toys just as if they were real children.”
Skip ahead to April 2nd, 1956 for this entry: He is a dreadful tease-seems to delight in aggravating the other boys-not Jean so much. He and Jean get along pretty well right now.”
From May 10th: He plays with Jean and Becky, especially to Jean he adopts a protective and patronizing attitude. “No Jean, not that way!” As an example yesterday, Jean said to Mark, “He (meaning Mama) wants you!” and Mark answered, “Not he-her!”
Good Buddha, I was already a grammar Nazi.
January 1957: “He teases the older boys and he and Noel scrap all the time. But he plays with Jean nicely and by himself is very pleasant.” Interestingly enough, JT, this would have been about nine months before I started kindergarten, so it makes sense.
May 5th, 1957: He and Jean have a sort of private language-they have watched T V commercials and heard about Alka Seltzer and how “speedy” it acts. So now when they mean something real fast, they call it “speedy Alka Seltzer.” “Let’s run speedy Alka Seltzer!”
Since this is the last entry that mentions you prior to my entering kindergarten, I am going to snip this off, because it was the end of a golden era, even though I only went to school half-day all the way through the end of first grade, so I'm sure our hanging out together was extended.
Mama’s notes clearly indicate that we had our ups and downs early on, but that we got it together in the time period before we entered school, when we had our own thing happening. Our own language? How cool is that?
Of course those were sweet times, simpler times, and we made the most of it. Our preschool days would seem to have been a microcosm of our lives: We got along early, had a rocky spell (high school) in there somewhere, and then finished out cool.
BTW I am abjectly sorry for pushing you down that time and pulling your hair, so I walked to Sav-on Drugs Store yesterday and bought you a package of M&M’s and a nickel package of Laura Scudders potato chips.
Will you please forgive me?