Growing up as the oldest of five was a big responsibility for me. I can’t count how many times my parents told me, “be a good example for your siblings.” Over and over, I would want to do something bad, but then I would remember in my head what about Amy, Tony, Kelly and Mary? Are they watching? Maybe I shouldn’t eat that extra piece of candy because then all of them will.That was the start of my regimented life of trying to be good. The key word there is trying. If I ever get into heaven, I’ll be thrilled. If I don’t, I’ll understand (well, not really, but you get my point).
That was the start of my regimented life of trying to be good. The key word there is trying. If I ever get into heaven, I’ll be thrilled. If I don’t, I’ll understand (well, not really, but you get my point).
I grew up in Vermilion, Ohio – a small boating town located on Lake Erie. For the first five years of my life, I lived in Lorain, Ohio which was close by. I can still remember the two-story house on W. 22nd Street in Lorain. Today, that area is drug infested. In the early 1970’s, it was a nice place to live, but my parents knew they would have to move if they wanted to give their children a good shot at life.
Vermilion was the complete opposite of Lorain. Our brick home was located on a dirt road in the country. It was no city life that’s for sure. Making neighborhood friends was easy. When it was time for dinner, my parents would ring a bell. When you heard that bell, you knew to stop what you were doing and immediately run home. All of the kids in the neighborhood had bells. Ours was fast and light – ding, ding, ding. Heidi Geib’s was a long gong – boom, boom, boom. It’s amazing how simple life was in the early 1970’s.
We spent hours outside in our neighborhood playing tackle football, riding our bikes (mine had a really cool AM radio), making forts and trying to be cool. My sister Amy, Heidi and I loved to play Charlie’s Angels. Heidi always got to be Farrah Fawcett because she had blonde hair. I was always so jealous. The second best angel to play was Jaclyn Smith, so that’s who I was. By default, Amy would have to be Kate Jackson, who we considered to be the least prettiest angel. When Amy would complain, we’d tell her, “You either be Kate Jackson or you can’t play.” Of course we were bluffing because we needed a third angel, but Amy would always oblige. Why am I telling you the Charlie Angels story? Because I want you to realize how simple my life was growing up.
When we weren’t running around in the neighborhood on Sassafras Drive, we could be found at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. My siblings and I all attended first through sixth grade there. It was an awesome time. Everything was so pure. It’s where my faith first started to grow.
I can remember being in third grade and having Mrs. Elaine McNulty as my teacher. She was the best teacher I’ve ever had. She was beautiful inside and out and it showed. She was fun, happy, lively and played the guitar. She made learning fun. I don’t ever remember being yelled at by her once. In fact, I was so proud one day when my parents came home from teacher conferences and said, “Mrs. McNulty told us if she had a daughter, she would want her to be just like you.” I felt so good about that.
What I didn’t feel so great about was getting glasses. I felt like such a dork. But that all changed one day when we walked into church (which was attached to our school), to practice for an upcoming mass. On one corner of the church, there are two statutes with holy candles underneath. One statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the othesr St. Theresa of the Little Flower Jesus. I didn’t realize this until Mrs. McNulty pointed it out to the entire class. “This is Theresa’s patron saint on the wall,” she told us. I was so proud. My life with glasses improved with that simple statement. Because I was the only Theresa in the entire school, I felt really special. Out of all the patron saints who could be on that wall, there was mine. That is how my devotion to St. Theresa started.
Looking back, I am so grateful that my parents sacrificed so much for all five of us to have a great childhood. They may have had worries, but we didn’t. We were free to play outside until our bell rang, attend an amazing school and live in a community where life was a thrill. I wish I could go back to that time. I could cry just thinking about it. We were protected, loved and treasured. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that feeling again.
When I look at my four nieces, Cameron, Chase, Ella and Brigitte, I see the same fire in their eyes that I had when I was a little girl. I had so many dreams. I believed in people, and was sure everyone around me was good. I never doubted that I was loved. My basic needs were taken care of plus a whole lot more. My hope is that my nieces feel the same.
My goal with this book is to help them along the way. I don’t want them to repeat the same mistakes I made. I want to give them some type of blueprint of life to work off of. I don’t have any children so I thank God I have them. They make my life worth living.
I love you Cameron, Chase, Ella and Brigitte.