There were three bedrooms in our home on Sassafras Drive. My parents were in one room, my brother had his own and the rest of us girls were in one room with double bunk beds. I didn’t think twice about sharing a room with my three sisters. It was so fun.
At the time, I didn’t know what being rich, middle class or poor was. I just knew we had everything we needed. If we didn’t have something we needed, we didn’t know it. Our parents made us appreciate everything we had – including the one fan in the house.
We didn’t have air condition so our windows were always open in the summer. At night, my dad would point the fan into my parent’s room so they could feel the breeze. He told us that the fan was “sucking the wind from the windows.” He said if we were still enough, we could feel the breeze. Of course, I believed him. But looking back, it’s such a silly concept.
Because we had such a big family, there was always someone to play with. I’m sure my parents didn’t enjoy it, but I loved the constant noise – even when we were fighting. We didn’t just yell and scream. We would physically beat each other up. I can remember one time, my sister Amy pulled my sister Kelly’s hair and slammed her face into the hardwood floor in our bedroom. She was pretty tough. I was a little more passive. I contemplated things before I acted.
I remember a time in kindergarten when I over thought a situation. My teacher Miss Susie was fuming mad at our class because two of my classmates were having a fight in the coat room. She didn’t know who was fighting so she told our class we would not be going home that night until the two people admitted to fighting. I had no idea who was fighting, all I knew was I wanted to get on that bus and go home at the end of the day so I raised my hand. I didn’t care what the punishment would be. I just knew I didn’t want to spend the night at the school. Miss Susie paddled me, and I cried. A few minutes later, I got on the bus and went home.
Our home on Sassafras was a safe haven. It was magical. Not every day was perfect, but the good days we had outweighed the bad. We had each other. That was all we needed. We had a loving mom who stayed home and took care of us and a hard-working dad who cared. They encouraged my siblings and me to run around outside, sing, play and invent games in our heads.
My world was so perfect growing up, I thought everyone was nice and kind. I don’t think it was until around college that I realized not everyone was like the little bubble I was growing up in. There were mean people in the world who wanted to lie and cheat you. On a scale of 1 to 10, my naive level was a perfect 10. I think my parents planned it that way. We were our own entity. That entity included our extended family. They were role models in our lives as much as our parents were.
I still follow the advice my mom’s dad, John Possy, gave me. I was proud to be his first grandchild. He was so cool. I’m smiling just thinking of him. He had the personality of 10 people put together – just like my mom and her two siblings Lorraine Northeim and Ron Possy.
My mom grew up in South Lorain, an area heavily populated with steel workers. My grandpa worked over 40 years at U.S. Steel. He was the strongest man I knew growing up. He was handsome – like John Forsyte who starred on the show “Dallas” at the time. He was also frugal. I think that’s who I inherited it from.
He gave me my first bike. He found it in the trash in someone’s yard. He fixed it up and spray painted it army green. He liked to spray paint things, and he usually used whatever color was on hand. I was so proud my grandpa fixed that bike for me. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, he made something beautiful out of something ugly just for me.” I felt so special.
Another time, I wanted a boom box really bad. When I asked him for one, he walked into his garage and took out a small AM/FM transistor radio. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. But the gift made an impact on me. I still have it. It has sat on a shelf in every home I’ve ever lived in. It’s a reminder to use what you have. You don’t always need to buy the latest and greatest gadget. If you do that, you could go in debt. Instead, it’s important to savor experiences, people and moments more than things. Things do not last. If he would have given me a boom box in grade school, do you think I would have kept it all of these years? No. What he gave me at the time (which I didn’t realize), was a memory I cherish to this day.
He spoiled us kids in so many ways. Every time he came over, he would pick up groceries at the Vermilion Farm Market for us. He always bought my mom a big can of Charlie’s potato chips. He was retired and usually came to visit after playing a round of golf. He was also handy and organized. To top it off, he knew everyone in the City of Lorain. I can remember walking hand-in-hand with him to Lorain Creamery which was one of our favorite spots. I felt like a celebrity walking in with him. He stopped at almost every table saying hi to people. When he stopped to say hi to the Mayor of Lorain, I thought that was really big time.
In his attempt to teach us how to be prim and proper, he took us to fancy restaurants for lunch. He always told us, “order what you want, but eat what you order.” I usually stuck with grilled cheese. If I ate that I would order cottage cheese and possibly applesauce. I remember seeing parsley served on my plate. He would tell me to eat it because it would give me good breath. I rarely see parsley on a plate anymore, but when I do, I eat it.
Throughout your childhood, you will be creating memories that will carry over for the rest of your life. When you are sad, depressed or lonely, those memories will sustain you. It may sound silly, but a spray-painted bike, one fan and a room with double bunk beds helped mold me into the person I am today. It’s the little things that eventually turn into big things.