Met up with the hubby for some food after church. After perusing the specials board I asked the waitress what “Italian meatloaf” was and upon receiving the answer proceeded to order the short stack of buttermilk pancakes.
THEY. WERE. HUGE.
Two giant pancakes crowded my plate with only an inch of exposed circumference. If I had known how gargantuan their pancakes were I would have only asked for one! I barely ate half when I defeatedly announced my fullness to Rick. Scoffing quickly ensued from across the table with some comment about hungry people in India.
“Really?!?! I’M. FULL. What do you want me to do? Shove them down my throat until I throw up?!?” was my defensive response.
Suddenly childhood memories came flooding back. I could see one enormous pancake dominating my plate and a most irritated woman standing over to the side. Her name was Donna and she was the land lady of the two family home we lived in. Me, Mom, and my two older brothers lived downstairs and Donna, her husband, and their baby lived upstairs. My mom paid Donna to make breakfast for me and my brother, Todd, every morning and then send us off to school. My mother had a full time job and liked to go to this place for coffee before work instead of spending time with me in the morning. Perhaps that belief is skewed from a child’s perspective but I still feel it’s spot on. I mean, she probably did have to be to work by a certain time but that coffee shop was like her second home…or should I call it her respite?
As I sat in my booth looking at my almost half eaten brunch I relayed to my husband about how I used to get myself ready in the morning (I think that was during 2nd and 3rd grade. Maybe 1st, too, but not certain) and then head on upstairs for breakfast. I was so little! I hated having to go upstairs because I always sensed Donna’s dislike for me…a child. My candidness, my curiosity about things…my many questions seemed to irritate her. I knew she didn’t like me…or maybe she just didn’t like her life. Either way I felt the brunt of it.
But this particular day, the day of the giant pancake, was a day when about two bites was all I could muster before announcing that I just couldn’t eat anymore. That pissed her off. She already had an issue with my small appetite as it was, so she wasn’t too pleased. Off to school I went only to be dropped right back at home again by my grandmother. Yup. Turns out I was sick…threw up in the nurses office (I did make it to the toilet). I still remember the look on Donna’s face when I stepped inside her kitchen. She must not have been notified by anyone because it did not look like she was expecting me home anytime soon. Since my brother Todd was already home sick and on her couch she sent me downstairs to be sick, ALONE, in my bedroom, throwing up in a plastic bin next to my bed. Mom says she felt bad about giving me grief over the wasted pancake but that was news to me…news I heard as a grown person.
Then I started thinking back to how alone I was growing up. I went from babysitter to baby sitter to babysitter…anyone my mother could find to watch me. The worst of the babysitters was when I had to go to my Aunt Mary’s house everyday. I was TERRIFIED of her. She ran an unlicensed home daycare and I had to walk there after school everyday. I recall how angry and unapproachable she was. I recall how I could never say anything right. I recall her shaking me violently by the shoulders because I came inside for water. I recall her forcing me to demonstrate in her kitchen, with one foot in front of the other across her braided rug, just how slow I was walking one day. (Apparently I took way too long to walk “home” from school. Why was that? Because I actually had a friend who was walking my way that day and I was enjoying talking with her which lead to a slower walking pace. God forbid I should have any kind of enjoyment! I mean, I can understand if she had told me she was worried because I wasn’t home when she expected BUT instead she chose to humiliate me which wasn’t helpful to my already low self esteem. I just think she thought I was lying.) I recall sneaking snacks when Aunt Mary was in the basement doing laundry because I was starving. I recall staring out the window towards the end of each work day longing for my mom to finally pick me up and take me home.
My life consisted of school (which I hated),
the dreadful daily walk to Aunt Mary’s,
finally going home at the end of the day only to be dismissed by my mother who was exhausted from working all day and just wanted to read in bed,
being teased by kids everyday for a season of which I cried everyday and which my mom knew nothing about,
…and being alone most of the time…alone with just my thoughts to keep me company. I remember playing alone a lot.
I grew up missing my mother. I remember crying for her when I was home alone. I must have been crying pretty loud because my neighbor from downstairs (we moved…no more Donna) called me to ask if I was OK. I told her I was fine. I was so embarrassed. This was when I apparently no longer needed supervision. (I’m generation X…the “latchkey” generation.)
The best two years of my childhood were spent at Mrs. Fredette’s house everyday after school…oh, and summers, too! Those were the best summers of my life. From the ages of about ten to twelve years old I was cared for by a woman who showed me what a loving, fully functioning family unit looked like. She always had a smile on her face. She never talked down to me. She talked to me AND listened. She took me places. She loved me unconditionally. All 4 foot 10 inches of her tiny Italian frame embraced me and treated me like one of her own…and she had five other kids! Her oldest daughter, Wendy, became my very first BEST friend (until she broke my heart by wanting a new best friend named Anne…but that’s another story). Her house was full of laughter and love and CONSISTENCY. I desperately needed that kind of structure and acceptance and I will be forever grateful to God for placing her in my life.
But alas, it was eventually decided that I was too old to need that sort of “care”. Perhaps there were other factors but that is what I was told. I was devastated. I loved feeling like part of a family so when that came to an end I felt rejected. She still came around for a time and helped me with rides on days I had the cello, but it was still a huge loss for me.
So, YEAH! All that from a pancake!