Monday, March 06, 2006

Life with Dad (the early years) as told by John

I was my dad's firstborn baby boy, and he loved me like no other thing in this world. I was a good baby, too. I rarely cried and would always smile when my dad would wake me to show me off. And he loved to show me off. So much so that before my first birthday he and my mom along with my older half-brother Joe (from my mom's first marriage) crisscrossed the southern United States with the express purpose of showing me to every family member and friend that he had, which included but was not limited to my mother's family in Georgia, his own family in Texas and his brother in California.

My dad had a small boat, a 24 ft. cabin cruiser that he took out on the Chesapeake Bay with my mom and I. As my dad told me years later, my mom seemed to be able to "smell" the fish in the water. She would tell my dad, "Bill, stop here," and they would more than likely start catching them as fast as they could reel them in.

I said my first word on the boat (which he had christened the Lillie Sue after my mom). As the story goes, we were headed back in after a day of fishing and as we rounded Point Lookout, where the Potomac River meets the bay, I pointed and said quite distinctly, "Lighthouse."

When I was about three my mother got pregnant again and eventually had to stay home to take care of my newborn baby brother James Edward and later my little sister Rosemary. That didn't prevent me and my dad from going out on the boat, though. I loved being with my dad. I wasn't that crazy about my mom for some reason. That would come later. But my dad? Well, I couldn't spend enough time with him.

During the springtime, my dad took photos of school groups that were visiting Washington. He posed them on the steps of the Grant Memorial so that the US Capitol showed in the background.
Before I started school, he would take me with him, and when I wasn't hanging out watching him take pictures, I loved to explore the area.

The Grant Memorial was a very touristy place with lots of vendors selling souvenirs and ice cream, and I ran around collecting up the discarded popsicle sticks. Back then popsicle sticks were a treasured item among the kids on my block, and I was the popsicle stick king. As the walkways around the Grant Memorial were a mother lode of popsicle sticks, I had more, way more, than anyone else.

Besides collecting popsicle sticks, I liked to "mine" the marble base of the statues for their "gold." To this day, I don't know what the tiny little yellow flecks embedded in the marble were, but at the time I was sure that it was gold. Now, I don't know what the statute of limitations is for defacing government property is, but I would take a hammer and nail and chisel those little nuggets out of the marble. Looking back on it, surely someone would have stopped me, but best as I can recall no one ever did.

Across the street from the Grant Memorial is the
this United States Botanic Garden, and when not vandalizing national monuments, the Botanic Garden provided an entire new world
for me to discover. It was a huge place especially for a small boy and had a maze of walkways throughout the many different sections, desert, tropical, etc. Every visit was a new adventure, and it seemed as if every trip through the place took me to someplace new via some previously undiscovered route.

The Garden is warm throughout and in the central area, the tropics, warm and humid. During one visit I got sleepy, and I lay down on a concrete bench and took a nap. When I woke up and looked around, the place was empty. I had slept too long, and now my personal land of adventure was closed! I panicked. My heart racing, I ran to the entrance, but it was locked. I would have to spend the night, and the thought terrified me. I stood frightened looking through the glass doors. Impending doom weighed heavy on my mind. What was I to do?

Just then, a man I recognized as being one of the workers there came sauntering towards me, and I just knew that I was in trouble. But he was very nice unlocking the door for me so that I could make my escape to freedom. Was I ever relieved.

I crossed the street back to the Grant Memorial, and found my dad. I told him what had happened, and to my chagrin he found the story amusing. I wanted to cry...


At 10:11 PM, Blogger Rosa said...

Weren't you kinda old when you said your first word? That's what I remember, Einstein.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Rosa said...

The hub says the kid looks like you in the picture of the crib. Hey, that must be the wallpaper I licked off and ate! Perty num num.

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Rosa said...

...and is that a string toy hanging in the crib? Why, it's a wonda you didn't strangle yo-self.


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