I have been poking about in my mind about the early years when I was in grade school. I shudder to think about it sometimes because it was not a happy time of my life. By that, I mean my way of looking at things was how it affected me as I had little upbringing by the way of guidance. I was told what to do and never given much instruction. There was no patience shown and very little emotion or appreciation for things done well.
I expect it was that way for all the older kids in our family. The younger ones, I believe, were drawn in more to conversation, ideas and ways to be involved as sources were not as limited when the mouths to feed had mostly left home.
The day to day events were not punctuated with things to remember other than the negative. In fairness though, the work ethic was good for one had no choice but work and it came in hard and disciplined ways. If one did not work to satisfaction, there was a lot of yelling and accusing with short tempers and cutting words that drew down on one until you were stretched like a banjo string ready to break when the pressure got too great.
So it was that life did not have a lot of joy in it. I suppose it was the knee jerk reaction to the sentiments that flew one’s way constantly and the lack of approval for whatever you were doing. If it got done it was what you were supposed to do and if it needed doing and wasn’t done you were a slacker and not much good for anything and told so.
Words like: “Can’t you do anything right?” “How many times must I tell you?” “No you can’t have another piece of bread nor should you ask.” “You have a brain to think with but you seldom use it.” “You make the same mistakes over and over and who has to pick up after you? Me, that’s who, and do I get any time to myself? No!” “It’s one thing after another.” “Sometimes I think you are listening but most of the time you are not.” “I gave you instruction when I left for work and when I got home you still hadn’t completed all I told you to do.” “I don’t know what I am going to do with you. I should ship you off to a home somewhere maybe they could do something with you.” “Why are you crying? Keep it up and I will give you something to cry about.” “Get out of my sight and give me that broom. I could do it in half the time and much better.” “What did I do to deserve this?” “I worked all day and half the night and noone thinks about me.” “I could die and who would care?”
It was a long list that was repeated over and over again and laced with swear words that somehow gave more meaning to all she said. Dad was gone most of the day and when he came home he got a dose of the acid tongue and then fired back with words that were not properly formed and out of order somehow. His education was to write his name and that was it. He was crude and being a laborer on construction jobs, he had little taste to do anything when he got home. At most, he was not interested and when he was he lacked the drive to follow through.
There was plenty of anger to go around and, of course, lots of fights. Most were verbal with things being thrown and accusations spread around like a drill sergeant on a parade. Sometimes the tone changed and it was time to hide as physical abuse and meanness came home to roost.
My father had no ambition to better himself. He spent paychecks buying drinks for his bar friends and often pay days were short. My mother worked two jobs and one could cut the unhappiness with a knife. So it was that school was preferable to home and going to friends’ houses was an escape that was welcome and needed.
Well, that’s the way things were and us kids were either hiding or running away or taking long walks until the fighting subsided. It kept us out of the loop of anger and the pent up emotions of living in a family that was dysfunctional at best and a nightmare at worst.
The open house at school was dreaded for we were to complete an assignment and whatever it was the best of it was shown off at the open house for your parents to see. Drawing, painting, grammar, and other subjects were displayed and the grades were on the work. I tried hard to finish and do it as best as I could but it was, at best, not quite up to par. My parents never came so there was no one to please.
When I did get something really right, my teacher would compliment me and I would stand by my project. However, I could feel the rejection as people walked over to their kids and said great things to them. Sometimes a few kind folks would come by and I drew in their compliments like a pin to a magnet. The hard thing was to stand there every time there was an open house and get passed by even when I begged my mother to come and share some of the things I was doing. I soon learned to work real hard on a painting or a drawing and give it to someone I really liked -- a teacher or someone I admired. They were kind and took it with such warmth and feeling that I felt some satisfaction and drew some strength from being able to please someone.
“No one to please” is a phrase I never let my kids see or hear. "No one to please" still brings me sadness when I feel the winds of rejection but someone to care takes care of me just fine.
When I look at life since I left home I remember the hopes and dreams I worked on and the support that came to me. There is no room for self-pity but there is the remembering which tells me how lucky I was to have friends and finally a family of my own to cherish. There was no
yelling, no constant barrage of "I told you so” nor was there a place I had to run to and hide from to survive. No day dreaming and no wanting to leave. I relished coming home and felt a peace that soothed my battered heart. That peace gave life to an injured soul caught up at last with his childhood. “No one to please” was given a place to go to and found refuge in acceptance and love of being pleased in the places and people around him.