One day when we were sitting on the benches outside the building with the C. family, I ventured off to the park for some mischief with Patricia C. who was a few years younger than me. As we entered the park, our choice of recreation turned out to be the seesaws. I sat on one end of the seesaw, and Patricia, with a excited smile on her face, sat on the other end.
After a few minutes of this up-and-down activity, I thought I would tease and scare her. So when it was my turn to touch the ground again, I held her up in the air, laughing as I kept my weight anchored to the ground. Listening to her laughter turn into cries because I would not bring her down, I continued to laugh as she begged me to lower her end of the seesaw. “Are you really sure you want to come down?” I asked. “Yes! Please let me down!” she cried as her eyes were swelling with tears pouring down from her cheeks.
So without any understanding of the severe consequences that were about to happen, I just said, “Okay,” and with one motion stood up, which quickly released her weight to the inevitable pull of gravity. She came screaming down to the ground, smashing her face into the metal handle of the seesaw. Her chin split wide open, and blood was splattering everywhere …
God Verses 10
We were abruptly interrupted when Dad’s car pulled into a parking space on Seward Avenue. Dad yelled our names, and in unison, we bolted toward the car. From the trunk of his car, he pulled out wooden bow and arrows and handed a set to each of us. The arrows had rubber tips to prevent injury, but we removed them in order to inflict more pain and damage to the small rodents and birds that we imagined ourselves hunting down.
Like a warrior, my brother, Tommy, pulled back his bow as far as possible and released his arrow. I nonchalantly turned toward him just in time to see the arrow headed straight for my face. I tried to jump out of the way with no success. Suddenly, SPLAT! My right eye once again took the brunt, only this time from an arrow. The stars I saw at that moment were too numerous to count, and once again, I ran home screaming and crying in agony, with an apprehensive trail of onlookers following right behind me into our apartment.
God Verses 9
I had one thought: “How long will it be before those workers leave so I can jump from this window ledge, track through the mud, and get to that wet cement?” Then as quickly as possible, I would dig both of my palms face down into the cement, leaving my imprint.
However, on this particular day, I was too quick, and not realizing the cement had been poured only moments before, I slid both of my hands into the deep cement, and the momentum carried my body forward as both knees, then my chest, elbows and stomach landed flat into the pool of wet cement. When I stood up, my whole body was covered in cement; I could feel wet cement dripping from my hair onto my face.
I turned, and to my horror, watching from the kitchen window was Mom. She screamed, “Don’t move! Stay right where you are!” Mom jumped from the kitchen window, and within minutes, she was stripping me down to my underwear. She then had me embarrassingly walk into the building, wearing only my underwear.
God Verses 8
“Who is this strange woman?” I thought as my heart was beating and beating at a frightening pace. I didn’t know this strange woman accompanied by a doubly strange-looking man who had just jolted me high into the air. I struggled, tugging to get away from him. After a minute, I managed to slip both my arms out from my jacket.
Then clawing myself away, I hurled from his arms, tumbled to the floor, leaving my jacket hanging over his shoulder and halfway down his chest. I took off running full speed down the hall to our apartment, scurrying straight into our back bedroom. Then I slid right under my bed, panting and sweating as I listened bewildered to what sounded like a most joyous occasion inside the living room.
Only later did I discover the mystery woman was my Mom’s sister and her husband, who had come to visit because Mom was pregnant with my soon-to-arrive sister, Peggy.
God Verses 7
Only months later, I watched in confusion and with tears dripping down my cheeks as two men dressed in white coats strapped my mom’s hands together. Echoes bolted through my little body with every scream that screeched from Mom’s mouth in protest as she was involuntarily being dragged down the hall. Mom was committed to the psychiatric ward of Jacobi Hospital because of her drinking problem. Dad became an on-and-off again single parent with eight children because Mom would now spend weeks and frequently months in the psychiatricward.
One day, I was sitting in the last bedroom at the end of the long hallway in our five-bedroom apartment, which was the largest apartment in the building. Besides being the largest apartment, we also had two bathrooms; the other apartments had only one. In years to come, my friends envied our two bathroom luxury. Straining my eardrums from my bedroom down the hall, I could hear Dad’s words as he greeted a stranger at the front door. The stranger was a woman who Dad immediately invited into our apartment, and they continued to chat as they both headed in the direction of my room. Instinctively, I knew that Dad was scheming something.
I started to tremble in fear of the unknown and the inevitable that I knew was coming. As Dad came into my bedroom, I was in full-blown, out-of-control rage as I jumped up and down on the bed, screaming and hollering. After a few strong whacks to my behind, my tantrum immediately stopped. Dad introduced me to the lady with him. “Johnny, this is Anna.” Anna was a social worker from the city who would help care for us while Dad was at work. I began where I left off with my tantrum, screaming and yelling at the top of my lungs. But it was vital for Dad to get to his job being the sole provider for eight children, so he walked right out the door. I just crouched up on my bed sobbing in tears.
God Verses 6
When I was old enough for kindergarten, my parents prepared me for my first day of school. To fancy me up and make a handsome boy out of me, they spread and combed gobs of Vaseline throughout my hair. My head felt as if I was wearing a bronze metal helmet weighing ten pounds, but they accomplished their task. My hair stayed in place and wouldn’t move. But once I was at school, they didn’t bargain for my less-than-enthusiastic response!
As my parents took me into the kindergarten class, my heart was pumping with a mixture of fear and anticipation. Right then and there, I decided that school was not for me. I began screaming, kicking, and yelling, not wanting to be left alone with a bunch of strangers. Then in one motion, I jerked my desk into the teacher’s, causing a fishbowl to come flying off her desk and crash onto the floor. As the goldfish were flipping and flopping on the floor, I momentarily stopped and watched as they struggled and gasped for air. Snapping out from my daydream about the goldfish, I continued my tantrum, until at last the teacher had no choice but to send me home with my parents.
God Verses 5
A couple of three-hundred ton dump trucks were parked right across the street from our building, along with a few fifty-ton bulldozers. The magnetic attraction those big rigs had on me, my older brothers, and friends was overwhelming. We ran across the street, all knowing the last one to the dump trucks and bulldozers was a “rotten egg”! We pushed, pulled, kicked, punched, and tried to hold each other back in order to get up on the driver’s seat first.
After slipping past a few of the older guys, I made it first to the top of a bulldozer and onto the driver’s seat. Being excited and proud of myself, I boasted of my accomplishment to the boys below screaming loudly, “I’m King of The Hill!”. Then, in all of the commotion and excitement, my attention was diverted and I slipped off the driver’s seat.
My face slammed full force onto the pool ball-sized stick shift. My right eye took the brunt of the fall, and, to make matters worse, the gobs of grease on the handle of the stick shift filled my watery eye. I ran home screaming and crying in pain, with an excited trail of onlookers following right behind me into our apartment. The injury certainly put an exclamation point on my day, but I survived!
God Verses 4