When I was 6 years old, I spent the first 2 weeks in 1st grade in Southern California (Ah, progressive Southern California!!), where I was being allowed to use my left hand to write with and I remember being excited about learning to write, finally! My mom had taken me through my 1st grade reader that previous summer and words held a special fascination for me that I’ve had to this day. For 2 weeks it was, a, b, c...the whole alphabet! Then my dad got some job that landed us in Indiana and we moved to some small town aboout 20 miles west of Indianapolis called Danville. CULTURE SHOCK!! For someone so little, I remember being frightened of moving away from my little friends in the neighborhood, from everything I knew to be normal in my life. What I was not prepared for at all was how threateningly different it was to be.
My first week of school was weird enough, but during one of our recesses that week I remember getting on the merry-go-round and saying to all the other kids, “Alright everybody! Let’s pretend this is a spaceship!” and some really fat kid on the ride said (and i will never forget this) “Shut up kid! That’s stupid! This is just a merry-go-round.” My little self felt it had died and gone to hell. I remember thinking, ‘”This kid doesn’t know how to play at all” and then I said, “Alright, then let’s pretend it’s a tank!” and he said something like “Your the new kid, aren’t you? Just shut up or I’ll beat you up!” Now, I was never afraid of a fight, (that came later when I broke the shit out of my nose, but that’s a whole other blog!) but that kid was a big ass fatso! I was devastated. I ate my lunch alone all that week not knowing anyone, not that any kid extended themselves to me. I went home sad and hating my new school.
Sometime later in the next few weeks we had our first writing lesson. I naturally put the pencil in my left hand thinking nothing of it and the old biddy, ex-nun of a 1st grade teacher came over, slapped my hand with her ruler and said “Put that pencil in your right hand! Only the devil uses his left hand to write” or something to that effect. Again, I was completely confused and totally devastated, not to mention being terrified! (I grew up Irish Cathoic) Besides that, the only kid that was nice to me was the “mentally challenged” boy that was sitting next to me (we used to call them “retarded” back in the day, but that’s not PC) and he was using his right hand. I thought, “If he can do it, so can I”. It was much harder than I thought. It didn’t feel natural in the least. I was really struggling and started to cry and I remember this bitch of a school marm yelling at me! Did I mention I thought I’d died and gone to hell? It affected everything I tried to do growing up! Playing sports was particularly difficult. I always wanted to be Sandy Koufax, my favorite baseball player, the legendary left handed pitcher for my favorite boyhood team, the Dodgers.
Well, the next few weeks I was still struggling over that horrible experience, not wanting to go to school anymore, feeling ashamed. I finally decided to tell my mother about what had happened (it seemed my father was always away on business). When I got home that particular day, I found my mother sitting on the stairs that led up to our bedrooms, crying.
I was so upset to see her that way (I was six, remember). I remember her sitting me down and telling me our father had left us! I vaguely remember her giving me some kind of “you have to help me now and be the man of the family” speech through her tears. (I was the oldest of the 4 of us kids, but still only 6!) I completely buried what I was going to tell her of what had happened to me that day, trying my best to comfort her.
Somehow, mom got us back to California and held onto the house they owned jointly. She went back to school, all while raising 4 kids and got her Master’s in Education and went on to be an amazing teacher, always wanting to give back. (those of you fortunate enough to have known my mother know what a brilliant, amazing soul she was....I feel bad for anyone that didn’t get to meet her)
This full memory came spilling out during therapy when I was a single parent of my own two children many years later. I could never understand why my handwriting was so shitty and took typing in high school (not that I was any good at that either!) At least I could read my own handwriting and thank God for the tape recorders that came out later after high school! And I have gotten a little better as a typist over these many years. It took a spcecial therapist to coax the memory out of me somehow who is a friend to this day (God bless you Carol! You helped me more than you’ll ever know!). Here was the awesome assignment she gave me.....Carol told me to go home that day after our session and write something using only my left hand! Brilliant! What I wrote was an Irish limerick. I memorized it and have it still, written down somewhere in one of my many journals (I’m sure it’s probably in my FSS...fucking storage space as I like to call it in Solana Beach, Ca.)
I find it ironic that I became a writer, especially of lyrics, poetry and now this blog. I’m also working on my life story, my memoirs, I guess you’d call them, of which these are a part.....one of the reasons I started a blog in the first place. You know, to practice writing. And, I can eat with either hand, throw a baseball with my left hand, shoot a basketball left handed and bat left or right (not that I can hit worth a shit! :o)
Oh! I almost forgot! The limerick I wrote?
Here it is.....
“Everthing’s this way, not that
Every which way and not pat
I will take no stand, nor make any demands
I am what I am and that’s that!”
.....and thank God for the typewriter and now the computer!...I’m still not very good at it, but at least I can go back and correct it without wearing an eraser down to the nubbins!
So, if you think I’m a little weird, I’m fine with that. My brain is still tryin’ to figure all this stuff out.
M. Lanning 3/27/12