Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What Happened to Me?

I was adopted at six months of age, by a couple living in the country village of Rehoboth.  I was the first child of four to be adopted. My new parents had spent the early years of their marriage, living and working in Florida and Georgia, cleaning chicken coops and other animal husbandry duties. When I came along, they had a spread in New England with two barns, and a few riding horses. The horses had to go before the children started to arrive. Then went my dad's hunting beagles, although we always had a few dogs and cats around. There were a series of country pets and animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, two sheep, and a pony.

There was lots of room to roam. I walked in the woods behind our property every day after school. I would purposely get lost, so that I could find a new way back home. When one grows up with a little wilderness in your own backyard,  it's tough to feel as in touch with nature in a city park (also known as green space.) It wasn't long before a majority of the property had to be sold off, so that my parents could continue to afford the house, barns, pasture and four growing hooligans. Gone was the old stone foundation down the street with the relics of the past. Gone was the hidden patch of wild strawberries, within an afternoon walk from the house. Houses, and duplexes went up quickly. New neighbors moved in, and the old dirt road with only our house at the beginning was becoming a faded memory.

It was a life of hand-me-downs and dinners composed of vegetables from our own garden. Sometimes the meat was from our rabbits, steer, or possibly some venison that a friend dropped off. Like many families in those days (the late 1960's and early 70's), we had a large freezer in the basement, to store a side of beef, or packages of veggies. My parents resisted our pleas for name brand cereals and other highly promoted items. I remember our cupboards once being stocked with government cheese and those nasty instant potato flakes. There were the Cub Scouts, and Webelos, followed by a short stint in the Boy Scouts. I was not Eagle Scout material. In fact, I grew tired of the scouts pretty quickly. The boys in my troop just wanted to goof off at summer camp, playing strip poker and taking pictures each each others' pubescent penises, with someone's boxy Polaroid camera.

I was painfully shyness and quietly abstained from the usual youthful fun and hi-jinks. No long summer days spent on Horseneck Beach. No scary carnival rides. I was a bed-wetter and usually one of the last boys picked for any team play. I played a game or two of farm league baseball and even embarrassed myself once at flag football. I was more suited to piano lessons and curling up on the couch with my sketchbook. I was not social or gregarious in any way. No school dances. Not even the prom for me. I once went on a hay ride, but it was stopped short, because a few of the ruffians threw eggs at a passing car, not realizing that it was a police car. End of the ride. Back to the farm to call our parents.

I was just a skinny, quiet boy with only a friend or two to his credit. I had to find my own way, without a lot of guidance or encouragement. No mentors or neighborhood heroes to take me under their wing. I was just a growing package of disappointment for a father, who was hoping for a buddy. A boy who enjoyed not only the manly arts of hunting and fishing, but would happily assist him in his workshop, or alongside him in the garden, pulling weeds, and killing tomato bugs. He eventually gave up on me and tried to work with my younger brother, buying a hunting dog for him, and working with him on Saturday mornings, putting postage stamps in an album at the kitchen table.

It seems that being a wallflower was written into my DNA. I realize that it's hard to believe all this of now, because I've become such a rock star.

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