Monday, June 22, 2009

Bernard's Adoption Q&A

I thought about scanning this, but I am typing it out, editing some of the boring and embarrassing parts about baby food and stools formed...

In 1961, I was born and subsequently, immediately put up for adoption by Catholic Charities in western Massachusetts. Although those elements may have been distracting to my young life (no olfactory sense of a mom, adults in my life being there in "shifts"), this, I presume, woman kept notes on my behavior for potential adoptive parents. I have a record of my infancy.

It follows, with the name I was given, as an orphan, pre-Baptism, of Bernard. I was adopted at 4-1/2 months (born in late May, adopted in early October), so these descriptions refer truly to those of an infant.

It is definitely formative in the Rock 'n' Roll Element. See:

Time baby wakens:
Bernard sometimes awakens early in the morning and plays and talks to himself, but will invariably fall back to sleep. He wakes for the day about 7:00am.

Time baby naps:
Bernard is not fond of napping, and when he falls asleep during the day, it is usually for a short while.

In what position does baby sleep?
He chooses his own. Sometimes on his side, sometimes on his back. He moves freely.

Does baby sleep with toy or any other article in crib?
We leave his soft dog at the top of his crib so he can talk to him when he awakens.

Is baby a light or heavy sleeper?
I think Bernard is rather a light sleeper and is apt to be startled by noise other than the noise of other babies. This he can sleep thru (sic), once asleep, but crying will keep him awake and irritated when he is tired.

Time baby plays:
Continually. With his toys, with his hands, with his feet. Anything he can reach.

Where does baby play?
In his crib, on your lap, in his Teeter Chair. The last took some getting used to; he didn't like it and gets tired of it quickly.

(Here, I skip much about a baby's diet in 1961.)

Bed time:
Bernard likes to "stay up." Some evenings it is 7:00 - 7:30 before he falls off to sleep. We settle the nursery about 6:30 by lowering the venetians, lighting a dim night light, but Bernard travels all over his crib, and when he drops off, we cover him.

Foods baby dislikes:
Bernard hasn't formed any dislikes.

Does baby take water or orange juice?
We do not give orange juice. Bernard is not particularly fond of water, but he takes it occasionally.


Does baby suck thumb or use pacifier?
Bernard had the use of a pacifier when he was a little boy, but he won't have anything to do with it now. He likes his fingers, all four at once. And he is even enjoying his toes!

Does baby like to be rocked?
He loves it, as he loves whatever keeps his adults in view.

Is baby fussy, good-natured, etc.?
He is the best-natured boy in the world. On the rare occasions when he "cries," he can change a sob half way through into a laugh.

Any other habits that should be noted?
NOTE: Please try to be as careful as possible in making out the schedule or noting any other information that would be of help to the adoptive parents.

All Bernard's movements are quick. We have had to keep two eyes and hands on him during bath period especially. During feeding, he tries to help with the spoon. It takes stiff resistance sometimes to win. He does not like his food “soupy.”
He loves his bath, but he always acts startled when he gets into the tub unless you distract him with soft talk and slow motions.

He does not like a free-flowing nipple. We use Evenflo (silicone – twin air valve nipples). He is apt to play with the nipple at the beginning and end of his feeding. Just put a little pressure under his chin... this will stimulate him to suck.

If you are wearing glasses during playtime, watch him when you get close. He removes them with ease.

Don’t become alarmed if you hear him scream... he is enjoying himself. He makes a variety of sounds. He is trying to raise himself up, and given two fingers and a lot of encouragement, he feels like a hero when he reaches the upright sitting position, which he can maintain, with a lot of wriggling, for a period.

He likes having his hair brushed.

I think more than a thousand thoughts when I read this. I was told by a physician that the likelihood of my birth mother having been a teenager was great.
She also told me that my chances of not being born an alcoholic were a sucker bet (my term); she said a thousand to one.

On one side, I will never know my birth parents. On the other side, I have a dad and two moms, my adoptive mother, deceased when I was three years old, and my mother who put up with my emotionally erratic behavior for all the rest of my youth and adulthood, all of whom I love and who love me as there is to be familial love. It is not that of blood, but then I wonder about the (young?) woman who gave me such a glowing report when I was an infant. I have sold used cars, and it is clear that she was not just trying to get me off the lot.

I think she loved me too.

The son of many, yet none,

The rock ‘n’ roll element

The Tracks

When I was about six and a half years old, my folks moved to Portland, Maine. There, my father bought a house built in about 1910 but which, more importantly to him, had a fair chunk of land – about five acres – that came with it. There were neighborhood kids that I met and didn’t understand, and we played baseball on the cleared part of that triangular tract. There was also “the gush,” where water collected from runoff between the house's back yard slope and another mild slope that came down across our playing field. Aquatically, the gush was foul territory; afield, part of it was in fair territory, down the third base line. Rosie Asali, in her early teens, was a torrid hitter and “parked” many a ball into the gush. Often, when we’d lose a ball in straightaway center in the milkweed, we’d search the gush for a long-lost waterlogged ball, and, man, when you hit one of those, it would concuss from your wrists through your jaw and spine.

Behind the field, there were the woods, and they were significant. When I was very young, I was able, almost, to get lost in them. They were thick and dark; there were lady slippers, praying mantises, a twelve-foot cliff with a rope swing, and there was, buried, an old dump among the trees and undergrowth where you could actually dig up stuff like collectible bottles and tin ware, centipedes, and a million other things a kid could find. Once, I got a still-sealed Ball jar of mustard relish with a handwritten label from 1932.

Behind the woods were the tracks, the railroad tracks. I’m sure one of the subliminal reasons my dad bought that house was that his father was a railroad man. My grandfather is buried only about fifty yards from a set of rails, and I was surely and magnetically drawn to those behind our house. From the first day we moved in, in late winter when no leaves on the trees muffled the sound, freight trains rattled by four or five times a day. That became a sound of my life. It also became a place of my life. Walking up the tracks took me to Morrill School, St, Joseph’s School and a fair way to Cheverus High School, when I attended them. In the first grade, I played hooky one day, just because I wondered what it would be like (Miss Shock – her name, honest to God – never missed me.), and I had my lunch in a bag and fifteen cents "milk money," which I spent on penny candy. I sat around all day at the switching yard near Fox Lumber. (Parents, see if that wouldn't end you up in Family Court today.)

Rock-throwing was a big deal. From the track ballast, there was an infinite number of rocks. If you started to make a divot, you could just move down a few feet. A lot of high school kids used to drink around there, so bottles as targets were easy to come by. I could routinely take the top off a “bullet bottle” of Budweiser from 25 feet and have it toddle but remain on the rail. I left half-shattered bottles up to see the freight trains obliterate them. Many of my diversionary companions were stray dogs, squirrels and toads, butterflies and, in the evening, fireflies. There was also the occasional car full of teenagers partying on the dirt service road or the errant raccoon who each had the chance to scare the hell out of me. I had, however, plenty of ballast ammo, and, as stated, a fair arm.

The tracks went two ways; one way went north to Skowhegan and Bangor, and I sure didn’t want to go there. The other way went to, I suppose, Boston, but you couldn’t walk across the trestle over the Fore River into South Portland without the risk of violent, locomotive-driven death, and hey, the destinations of both South Portland and Boston are not so enticing either, but I used the tracks from age six to age nineteen as a pedestrian thoroughfare. I seldom saw another cross-tie walker, except for the occasional hobo, and, even as a child, I was never afraid. I believe we could see in one another's eyes that we were doing the same thing.

I had a few good friends when I was a boy and as a teenager, but none so sure and stable as the rails. They were always there, like a man-made river, calling, going somewhere and not telling the destination. There were no passenger trains back then, and there still aren’t now, only the conductors and the guys who rode in the caboose who would wave back to all the little boys and girls who hung out by the tracks, longing to go somewhere else.


The rock ‘n’ roll element

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Rock 'n' Roll Element

This has to do with the kids today and how they seem to be in more trouble with the cops than when I was a young miscreant.

It is also "the rock 'n' roll element," sadly missing in our society.

I spent some time in jail in New Hampshire a few years back, at about age 40, and all of my suite mates (five cells, two men per) were young enough to be my son, if I had one. One inmate was one of the Dartmouth professors' killers, and the rest were perps, or victims, of what I would term as "youthful exuberance." One kid, 19 years old, I believe, was just a knucklehead who had tried to rob a general store with a pellet gun and was beaten up and subdued by the one-armed counterman. The kid took constant ribbing for this and, in the New England tradition, was held in the fairly high regard of a likable stupid ass. I think the guards even thought so. It was like gym class or being on the high school baseball team in there. These kids were comfortable in a highly controlled situation, busting each others' balls. When I was released, I wanted to keep the "G___ County Correctional Facility" t-shirt that I was issued, but the staff said no.

Now my story, which is the difference, I think, of what fun kids are not allowed today:

When I was in high school, I looked too young to drink, and at 17 years-old, I surely was. Frustratingly, I had two girl friends who were younger than me but looked far older. Don't get me wrong, almost any male bartender will up a girl's age in his mind. We'll call one of my friends "Katie Silver." We had a great and platonic relationship and we liked to drink and smoke and take pills. I could rarely drink at bars with her, so, with a flair for the dramatic, we took to wearing costumes to bars, and we slayed 'em. I would spray my hair gray and pencil my eyebrows in silver, and on our first couple sojourns, I wore a priest's collar. When I showed up in the collar the first time at Katie's kitchen door, she was wearing a frosted wig and full makeup; I remember the hot flush that went up my neck when I was sure she was her mother. At the bars, anytime the cocktail waitress would come by, we would talk about how I thought Katie should leave her husband for me, Father Whomever. We did the costume thing several more times and even pulled it off on fairly close friends (with me sans collar as a college professor).

Among those times, I had a cousin who worked at Old Orchard Beach, operating a ride that turned people upside down. Wallets would fall out of their pockets, and he would generally take a "tip" for finding them. Grateful, the rubes would often not check for their drivers' licenses, which, back then, had only a vague physical description and no photo - and were no longer in their wallets. I got one with the right statistics, eye color and everything; that's what the people who sold you alcohol looked for. Finding a paper license for a guy with green eyes, 5' 10" and brown hair, in his early 20s was no daily deal. I used it with shameless enthusiasm.

Katie's sister was a bank teller, who one day got the bright idea to steal four cashier's checks from the middle of the stack of another teller, so they wouldn't be missed for several days. She made them out for nominal amounts (a lot in the 1970s) and proposed to us that we cash them to split three ways. Katie was the signature forger, and I would use my purloined DL.

I had a pair of Foster Grants that I had found on the street that altered my appearance but through which I could still make eye contact. I had a military dress-uniform jacket from Germany that I didn't like, and I wore a red bandanna around my forehead and tousled my hair. I looked like the guy who brings Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper to the commune in "Easy Rider."

We hit four banks in about an hour and a half, and I cashed all the checks. I do not play poker as well as I handled the tellers that afternoon. We finished the last bank, split up the money, and I changed my clothes in the car. I put the costume in a brown paper bag and walked the few hundred yards to one of my jobs as a cashier in a French restaurant, casually tossing the bag into a public trash receptacle on the way. I got drunk with the owner during my shift and added up the guest checks by hand, as he wanted a drinking buddy and couldn't really cover my wage.

So that was that, until about six moths later; I was at work in the hospital parking booth, which was my primary high school job, and Katie called, as she often did. The FBI had been at her home, and briefly, they had duped her sister into signing a confession by telling them both that they knew she was the teller who had stolen the checks. The agents made Katie sign a witness statement, and she realized afterward that there was a big, identifiable "K" on the checks as well as in her statement signature. I guess the FBI's handwriting experts never got around to that one.

Katie told me over the phone that the agents had said that they would probably never find the (person's name) who had cashed the checks... umm, me. I am certain that they went to the guy's house and questioned him. I tore that driver's license into tiny pieces, threw some down the sewer, burned some and ate the rest.
I was scared to hell, but I had few more exciting moments in my 17-year life than to know that I was pursued by, and had fooled the FBI.

I look back at those young kids in jail, and I know that they are looking for somewhat of the same thrill. At the time, it was a game and a REALLY elaborate and fun one. It beats the shit out of what I've watched of people playing "Grand Theft Auto" or "Rock Hero."

Poor kids.

More, baby!

The rock 'n' roll element