Call Me Lisa

Romper RoomMy niece’s husband has a great sense of humor.  He fits in well with our family because we all enjoy taunting each other to see who can get the most laughs at someone else’s expense. No one is safe and nothing is sacred in this wholesome Lord-of-the-Flies-meets-a-Don-Rickles-Celebrity-Roast family tradition.

Recently, it was my turn to suffer through the taunts when aforementioned nephew-by-marriage [we’ll call him Sean]  had control of the conch. He summoned the other family members via a group e-mail and it was game on.  He sent a picture of Santa consulting a long list of good children he would reward. All my sibling’s names were on it. But not mine. He found it quite amusing.

Little did he know the deep, painful history this would conjure.

A history I will disclose to you now in all its dysfunctional glory…

It all started in The Time Before Cable Television,The 1960s,  In other words, four channels in glorious black and white one of which was host to my most cherished memory:  Romper Room.  It’s where I learned to be a good Do-Bee [despite forgetting what that meant during my adolescence and subsequent failed marriages where I engaged in lots of Don’t Bees but that’s for another time]. It’s where my fascinating with entertainment started. I was mesmerized from the start.  I wanted to be one of those kids.  What star were they born under that bestowed on them such a coveted gig?

Regardless of my misguided envy, I held out hope. Hope that one day, Miss Nancy would speak my name at the end show when she looked through her magic mirror. If I couldn’t be one of those privileged kids, at least I might hear my name uttered by the golden voice of my godess-like idol. Each day I would wait patiently for the end of the show, teetering on my Romper Stompers for good luck.

But she never spoke my name.


Each day, I would collapse in a heap of steaming hot despair, gnash my baby teeth, wail to the highest heavens [there’s medication for fits of this nature today, but alas, I was behind the curve in those early years]. It brought my parents great distress.  My older sisters, on the other hand, would point and laugh and claim I needed a good spanking.

And now, thanks to the man who shall henceforth be called “Sean of the Doom”  I learn that my name didn’t even make it onto Santa’s top-twenty list fifty m-effing years later?! Even after all the years of repentance, all the years of self-improvement, all the years of I’m-sorry-I-was-just-too-young-to-knows…I still can’t make the grade.

Come to find out, my name didn’t even make it into the Top 100 Most Popular Female Names of the 1960s. Yes…I looked it up.

The number one name was Lisa.

I knew a couple named Lisa during my childhood. I have no good memories of either of them. One tortured me during lunch in the third grade, the other had an aversion to bathing and smelled like urine.

I don’t care.  I’m going to change my name anyway.

So, please. Next time you see me?  Call me Lisa.




The Crossing Guard And The Blue Wool Jumper

When I tell people I was a painfully shy little kid, they look at me with this weird anticipation… like they’re waiting for the punch line.  But I really was. I wouldn’t raise my hand in class if the paste-eating kid who sat beside me was free-basing it under his desk. This could stem from an incident on my first day of kindergarten but that’s another story which will  eventually become clearer after I complete my regression therapy.

But I digress.

There is something I share with Sarah Palin [besides genitalia]. Just as she can see Russia from her house, I could see my grade school from my house. So I walked every day. And I had shoes, thank God, so this isn’t one of those “I walked ten miles to school in waist-deep snow with no shoes” bullshit.   The bane of my existence was not shoeless-ness but rather an obstacle called The Crossing Guard.  And back in the day? The kid who bore the heavy burden of keeping us younger kids from being hit by one of the four cars that went down our street every day was a bona fide authority figure. And I feared him.  He was a sixth-grade boy which put an extra slice of Holy Shit on this third-grader’s fear sandwich.

And then….the Incident.

It was a bright, crisp Spring day. I was wearing a light blue, wool jumper with cross-cross suspenders in the back probably worn by my two older sisters before me which, given the age span, made me a fashion disaster.  Not to mention my horrifying plaid lunchbox…PLAID! Oh, the humanity, the injustice!!

And this next part is difficult to write….

On the day of the Incident, I was late for school.  Late. For. School.  That’s like saying My Mom Got A Job or My Parents Are Divorced which no one in my neighborhood said in 1968.

And so it went. My mother shoved me out the door and told me to run.  I did, but it was endless like one of those crazy dreams where you’re running as fast as you can but never getting anywhere…and that wool jumper was heavy and hot and I knew what was waiting for me when I finally got to school….late.  I was Dead Girl Walking.

And then there he was.  The Crossing Guard at the bottom of the hill.  With his back to me! He doesn’t see me! He’s gazing up into the trees, picking his underwear out of the crack of his ass! How will I get his attention? How will I cross the street? Should I make some noise? I may have to speak to him!

No! I can’t!

And I ran home and collapsed on the kitchen floor.

My mom shoved me out the door again after reviving me with a strong sniff from a Mr. Clean bottle cap.

I had no choice now. I had to run balls out down the hill and across the street…alone….with no help from That Bastard, ADD Crossing Guard who was long gone. Happy now, Crossing Guard?  I could have been killed by one of those four cars! Or impaled by the hood ornament from Mr. Sawyer’s ’66 Plymouth Fury but hey, at least you dug your BVDs out of your ass you selfish prick!

I looked both ways fourteen times, closed my eyes and ran.

I survived.

I raced up the hill to my school only to be faced with obstacle numero dos.

Being that it was Springtime in Illinois, our school black top was covered in dark, murky rainwater…Our Own Private Lake Michigan.

And it had to be navigated.

My choices were:  A) go around which would mean being even later because Lake Michigan was pretty fucking wide that time of year….or B) run through the middle and hope I didn’t hit a deep patch.

I chose foolishly and my hideous velveteen oxfords found the deep patch. I  went full frontal into the murky void.

The next thing I remember is showing up at the door of my third grade class. My teacher looked me up and down, pointed me to my seat.  I slinked to my desk without a word and sat quietly mildewing the rest of the day.

In case you’re wondering, the approximate weight of a soaking wet, wool jumper is forty-six pounds.










The Sound Of My Voice

When I was in the second grade, I got a rude awakening.  It was parent’s night.  Probably 1969 or some year where the technology had words like reel-to-reel or mimeo in the description.

I was a shy kid who never spoke up in class or misbehaved for fear of being sent to the principal [gasp!!].  It can still run chills up my spine just thinking about what might have happened had I acted up.  The principals of my era are all extinct now.  Relegated to peeling, photographic archives that hang on the walls of pre-60s elementary schools.  I don’t remember them being on the endangered species list but I read a while back that fossils of human-like remains clutching large, wooden paddles were found buried near an asphalt playground.

My school was one of those probably built with lots of asbestos and lead paint and all those great construction materials we didn’t know would eventually kill us.  Fortunately, I’m still alive to tell the tale of my very first “recording”.

Parent’s night always gave me the jitters but this one was downright nerve-wracking .  Our teacher, her name escapes me so I’ll just call her Teacher, had us all read in class one day so she could record it on her big metal tape-recorder (probably shared by the entire school) and play it back for the parents on parent’s night.  I wondered if  this would tack on unnecessary time to “the big night” and make us all fidgety and irritated.  T.V. was a big deal back then and most of us just wanted to get home and watch the latest episode of Bonanza in stunning black and white.  I know I did, because I was in love with Little Joe.

There was only one last thing to do after Teacher gave my parents the glowing review of Julie never utters a peep in class and can spell her own name and keeps her hands to herself  and doesn’t eat paste….you know, all the really important stuff.

The recording.

Teacher flipped a button on the hulking device.  The plastic spools spun and whirred to life….and  spewed forth the most horrifying voice I had ever heard.   Turned up to the right decibel level, they could have used that voice in a North Vietnamese prison to extract information from an unbreakable John McCain.

My head felt like it would explode.  I think I actually stumbled backward like the words were made of buckshot. I just wanted it to stop.  Doesn’t anyone see my ears bleeding?  I’m only eight for cryin’ out loud!

Peace finally came and I wiped the blood from my neck.

“Who the hell was that?  “That gul can’t say hu awws!”  I asked which was the most I’d ever uttered in a classroom to date.   The public smack upside the head for using the word hell went a long way in conquering my shyness so that’s the silver lining in all this.  I mean, once you get publically smacked by your parents most inhibitions fall away… until the time you give birth which puts the icing on the cake of who-the-hell-cares-what-anybody-sees.

I still hate the sound of my own voice….but I can say my Rs now.