Tag Archives: baby boomer

PAST, IMPERFECT, INTENSE

Me@7

My father taught me things. They weren’t always the right things, or the best things, but he taught me all things, well.

One winterkill night while driving home alone together, he taught me his truth about lying. I was 7, then.

My mom was working as a confidante and caregiver at a private cottage for forlorn cancer patients. Her curtailed quietus watch of 11 to 7 promised us six kids we wouldn’t awaken without her.

“I’ll always be here to tuck you in and be back before breakfast,” she assured. It was enough for them, but not for me.

“I’m riding along,” I reckoned.

“Maybe in the morning, if you’re up.”

“Then, too,” I determined, set as cement.

She gently pressed the nub of my nose, lighting me up in her eyes. “You’re my little lion,” she said. “You give me courage.”

My parents weren’t friends then, if ever. Lovers once, no doubt. He as dashing as she was beauteous. Each with ebony locks. His, glossed waves. Hers, coiled curls. His jaw, chiseled. Her cheeks, rubicund. His eyes, bruin black, set tangent to an arrowed nose. Hers, bairn blue, gracing a Gaelic bob. Both seeped sheen and sensuality. The two as one? An envied ornament hung among plebeians.

But that was all ephemeral, lost long before the happenstance of me.

Oh sure, photos find him masterful in monochrome. Meritorious. Certainly indubitable. And it can be quibbled he didn’t become deriding and distant until after he began colorizing her with kids.

Regardless, I never espied demonstrative signs of affection between them. Neither gentility, nor joy. She endured his disrespect as wifeliness, while zesting motherhood. He husbanded acrimoniously, fatherly only to his firstborn.

And so it was, of all the trips we made together with mom in tow or mind, I remember that worst one best.

“DammitallMaggie,” he one-worded her. “It’s nearly 11. Move it!”

“Don’t get your dander up,” she growled back while winking my way. The dishes, nearly done. The laundry, almost folded. The house in chaos but cleaned down the middle and after-a-fashion. My siblings accounted for, kissed and sleeping. “I’m ready when you are.”

It was the most they’d spoken to one another all day, remaining silent in their seats until he skidded to the stop where we left her – just in time.

I remember watching her maneuver the hard packed snow and patches of ice while edging her way up the embankment toward that halfway house of enduring desperation. And how my father peeled off, leaving her without help, headlights, or sentiment for her safety.

During the drive home I kept my face glued toward the passenger window, contented to imagine mom in the morning, and it being my nose pressed against the frosted pane, greeting her return to us.

My father spoke to the back of my head when he said, “People lie to you because they don’t respect you enough to tell the truth.”

I remained removed; brown eyes searching boundless skies.

“They’ll cloak their words in omission, feigning innocence, thinking you’re too stupid to recognize the lie.” He paused, letting it etch.

I counted stars.

“That’s what they’re saying though. That they think you’re stupid.”

I yearned for Jupiter and Mars.

“The more deliberate and petty the lie, the less value they make of you.”

I found Venus.

“You know you’re utterly worthless when someone lies to you for sport.” He reiterated and enunciated, “Utterly.”

I ran up the stairs to my bed that night, turtlenecking the covers, shivering myself to sleep.

When my father jabbed me to say, “It’s time to go get her,” I was still tired and needing to stay put. But I dragged myself up, dressed and crept down to the living room to wait in the dark, acquiescent.

I must have sat there, dozing, for 30 minutes before being bitten by the cold quiet. Automatous and groggy, I shuffled my way to the kitchen, where I rubbed my eyes to read the neon numbers on the clock flickering over the sink.

It was 2:38.

I stood, still, listening as I looked harder, and harder, as if I was lodged in an illusion, moments before reality dawns.

Slinking back up the stairs, I halted briefly near my parents’ bedroom door to sense my father sleeping-smug, before continuing on to my bed. There, lying dressed and fetal in my red rubber boots and matching wool earmuffs, I grasped the meaning of his fair-warning words.

Oh, maybe not the exact definitions. But clearly the emotions. The shame of stupidity. The pain of worthlessness. The tears of contempt.

It’s been 60 years, so I shouldn’t still shudder – but – you know? Whenever someone chooses to lie to me – especially when it’s one of those petty, deliberate, unnecessary little lies, cloaked in omission – feigning innocence?

Sometimes, I still sob like a 7-year-old.

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This freshly edited, updated essay by Marguerite Quantaine first appeared in the St. Petersburg Times five years ago. (Copyright by Quantaine © 2008 • 2013)

IMPERFECT CHILDHOOD? Lessons learned? Please select REPLY to share your thoughts.

I’m all eyes and heart.

AS GOOD AS GAY GETS

One determined little 5 year old.

One determined little 5 year old.

By Marguerite Quantaine

Someday my novel will be optioned by a mainstream publisher, rate stellar reviews, be adapted to film oozing romance through eloquent innuendo, and receive the acclaim of people who’ll prattle over my sudden success.

But they’ll be instantaneously mistaken (about my success being sudden) because I’ve worked hard all of my (remembered) life.

I began my callings at age 5, collecting castoff bottles for return to wooden crates at the corner, single pump gas station with its big red cooler of cola immersed in ice water and a grease monkey teetering on a beat-up stool next to it paying me a penny a find.

At 7 (being small and scrawny for my age), my brother dressed me as a waif to knock on the doors of upper class condos, selling occupants Christmas cards they probably never sent, but gave me my dollar a box because I looked so pitifully poor, like a melancholic mutt on the street corner wagging its tail, twanging their untuned heartstrings.

At 8, I shoveled snow with a spade in the winter (that’s right, a spade), pushed mowers in the summer, and raked leaves in the fall, underpaid with nickels by anyone willing to exploit me.

At 10, I delivered newspapers on my brothers routes, rising before daybreak to cut the hairy nylon twine from big bundles left on neighborhood street corners, rolling and folding each paper to perfection, burnishing and stuffing them into a canvas bag dragged along behind me, pitching the papers towards porches, then hurrying home in time to don a dress and walk 3 miles to school (that’s right, 3 miles).

At 14, I claimed I was 15 to get a genuine job (4 to 9 weekdays, 9 to 9 on Saturday) selling records at a store that only hired boys for the 30 years before I sailed through the door.

“Why should I hire you?” asked the owner, a doddering, Dickens-like character whose bifocals were as thick as block glass and modish flattop belied his desire to appear younger. “Boys bring in girls who like records.”

“Boys flirt with girls that giggle and irk paying customers,” I countered. “Boys arrive late, leave early, take cigarette breaks, and call in sick from phone booths at football games.” I let that set a second before adding, “I have red hair. I’m cute enough to attract boys who’ll talk to me about girls. I’ll sell them records for those girls. Whenever they win one over — and they will (I winked) with my expert advice — they’ll be back to buy more.”

“Expert advice?”

“I have a two-sport-varsity older brother and one bombshell of a sister. I’ve heard all their gameplay. Try me. You’ll see.”

He did, teaching me purchasing, cataloging, product display, inventory control, advertising, and promotion. I was the first girl hired there, then the first girl hired as a research editor for a local trade magazine, then the first girl hired as a proof-runner for the daily newspaper before I finally fled my hometown for the big city beat.

I arrived in New York with $126.00 lining my red-rubber boots, no job prospects, no place to live, and no plans beyond attending The American Academy of Dramatic Arts where I’d earned an entry after winning the regional finals of a television talent search in which I’d been entered (unknowingly).

Being awed and alone in Manhattan was thrilling. I saw all directions as arrows angled upwards.

All I had going for me was attitude on my first day (faking-it) as a graphic artist.

All I had going for me was attitude on my first day (faking-it) as a graphic artist.


Insisting “Oh sure, I can do that” gained me the gig of being the first female hired as a graphic artist at the United Parcel Service (even though I’d never seen a t-square, held a razor knife, or knew how to crop a photograph). After several months of (intense) covert tutelage by the fellow at an adjacent art board, I snagged a (enviable) job at a Fifth Avenue ad agency where I was promoted to management (the first female Purchasing Agent) in 5 months time. Within 3 years I parlayed that into a corporate office fashion industry position where I excelled until being struck by a drunk-driven taxicab. The driver flew the coop and the cab company declared bankruptcy (as did the insurance company holding the cab’s policy), catapulting my career back to ground zero (accompanied by chronic disabilities).

But by then I’d fallen in love, so instead of being solo and stalwart I was half of a daemon duo with four even starrier eyes. Together we built an ad agency and launched three magazines while moonlighting as registered gumshoes.

So, let me offer all you younger bootsies (with advanced degrees and greater expectations) some humble advice chiseled out by broads (like me) — your peers from the boomer years:

Stop dwelling on fame, fortune and acquiring the entrapments that rich-quick dreaming brings. Focus (instead) on loving the process of living and the person you’re living it with. If you do, you’ll succeed at whatever you choose — even making a living as a writer, or artist (the two puniest paid professions on earth).

No, I’ve never won an award and my name is unrecognizable to all but a few blog followers, fogeyish editors, and finicky clients.

But I’m still in love after 43 years (that’s right, in love), and along the way my assiduous works bought 11 vehicles (6 of them new) and paid off 3 mortgages, ultimately nesting us in a 1931 vintage home, debt free, with time to complete my first novel at age 66.6.

And even if it’s published posthumously, so what? All I ever truly dreamed of as a child is the talent to write one great book and anonymity on the streets.

Life just doesn’t get any better than that.

(Than mine.)

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Is (gay) life good for you? Are you (still) dreaming (big)?
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I’m all eyes (and heart).