Wednesday, March 16, 2005

stories worth a thousand words #3

A WARTS 'N ALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ORDINARY GUY

1000 WORDS ON…MY LIFE BEFORE IRELAND

Written : November 2, 2004


I was strolling down the stairs in our big house on the corner of B####### Road and R####### Avenue, before anyone else had woken up. I was saying out loud to myself something like, “So what if I’m 6 years old today? So it’s my birthday – Big deal!!!!” That would have been my earliest memory that I could confidently put a date on, which would’ve been March 21st, 1975.

“100 B####### Road” WAS a big house, located in Pittsburg, California, which is about 50 miles outside of San Francisco. At the time the two roads at the junction in question were very important connectors to adjoining towns like Antioch. The big white structure was previously owned by a S##### M#####, who had the shrewdness to build a smaller dwelling on the edge of the property, move into it herself and sell the original house for a substantial profit. My grandparents had moved there in the late 1950’s, when my mother and her two brothers were relatively young.

By the time I was wandering the halls questioning the importance of my birthday, there was just three of us living there. My grandfather was principal of Pittsburg High, his wife was a domestic engineer, and I was a schoolboy at the local Highlands Elementary. My mother worked in downtown San Francisco and lived in an apartment there with her boyfriend P## M#####.

Christmas was always a big family occasion, with a massive tree adorning the front room for the plentiful presents that would be found underneath each year. My uncles, aunts and cousins would give us the full traditional family scenario, though my knowledge of this is confined to looking at pictures!!! I was probably only interested in my personal booty!!!

I was a bit of a bright spark at school. By the time we had left to move for Ireland I had already been bumped up from 2nd to 3rd grade for being such a know it all, as well as being enrolled in a program affectionately entitled “Mentally Gifted Minors” or MGM whereby I suppose I sat in with other wunderkinder and had things such as calculus and nuclear physics explained to us by Ernie and Bert puppets. Other school memories are few and far between.

I do however remember the first girl I fancied. Her name was D### B######. When we got our school photograph from that year I would sit and stare at her face for hours, and I even had dreams about her, nothing too sordid but how could it be, I hadn’t even turned 8!!! My popularity in school wasn’t great until I had an “outdoor gym” set installed in the back yard, which practically made it into a park playground! I remember feeling good that so many kids wanted to come to my house, but of course now I know the naivety of those feelings.

The first school buddy I invited home was a boy called B#### F######. I don’t remember too much about him, but again I can imagine the look on my grandparent’s faces when I brought him home, as he was a black kid! It made no difference to me, and to be fair to them they had no objection to his returning the invitation and I do remember being in his home at some stage.

We had a couple of pets while I lived there, a dog called Princess and a cat called Tuxedo. I think my Uncle Joe got the dog for me, I remember it was a puppy Doberman of all things. They had to have it tied up in the backyard. I presume they considered her to be dangerous when she grew up because I think they had her put down. After returning from a holiday when I was around 6, I remember being sad but accepting of the story that she had broken her chain and run away. The cat was named by me on account of her black and white markings and lived with us right up to leaving the country. She was a bit of a psycho I seem to recall.

My grandfather used to bring me to mass every week, with a reward promised afterwards of a trip to a new restaurant near to the church owned by some guy called McDonald. Contrary to his good intentions, the weekly experience left me converted to fast food and indifferent to Catholicism!!!

I do remember one night just after I had gotten into bed, my grandfather came into me and tried to explain how he had cancer and that he may die. It didn’t really scare me as such, but I know I was worried and confused. As for our imminent move to Ireland, I took it all in my stride as a new adventure; as I was only 8 it was not much of a wrench to leave my schoolmates.

Apparently I had a good knowledge of the legal wrangle my grandfather was having with Pittsburg city council over the acquisition of land in his front garden, a conflict which together with the cancer seemingly persuaded him it was time to move on. When we stopped with his relatives in Nashua, New Hampshire on the way to Dublin, I wrote Maura a letter going into great detail even drawing a picture of how our front garden would look with houses built on it!!!

It’s hard to make this passage too colourful as I remember so little. All in all it can be safely said that I had an extremely comfortable existence before the great 6000 mile move. I was an only child, raised by his upper middle class grandparents, spoiled rotten, and about to begin a new life in a brand new country. None of my scarce memories of the time involve my being particularly upset in anyway, save for the time I was stung by a bee for the first time!!! Not much to lament about from the comfort of a psychiatrist’s couch!!!

© JL Pagano 2004

Next, #4 : 1000 Words on...MY GRANDFATHER AND I

4 comments:

Barry said...

The most compelling part of this story for me is how many people and places you know that have number signs in their names.

JL Pagano said...

Well it's only supposed to be compelling for my kids, but I appreciate the opinion anyway.

My life's not the most interesting, but I felt compelled myself to write about it anyway.

Rather than bore the pants off of them relating stories when I feel like it, I thought I'd write it all down and let them read it if and when they wanted.

I post the chapters on my blog when I have nothing else to write about!

Barry said...

Oh, I wasn't saying it was boring! I was just trying to make a joke. Sorry!

JL Pagano said...

LOL yer alright mate.