© 2011, 2018 Mirror Image Edutainment, Alan John Mayer
I read too late, growing boys need not only space to grow up into, they need space to grow down and around. Tight seams cut off circulation. Boxer shorts give a boy space in which to expand, something European cut underwear does not allow. I know this because I got to wear the hand me down underwear of the sons of Mummy’s friends; wherever she could save for that new designer dress. Without a word being spoken, when I was born, I reached for the nipple.
“Nein! Never” cried Mummy “You will never be allowed close to me, and you will never have more money or power than I”.
I’m sure Mummy’s decisions had something to do with her twisted relationship with men, life, and the Nazi thugs who terrorized everyone with control, domination, manipulation, and a war that tore apart her city, her people, her country, and her brain.
A survivor, she persevered; carrying a suitcase with the barest necessities, a fresh change of clothes and a toothbrush, running from bomb shelter to bomb shelter, huddled among strangers, wondering if loved ones are alive.
I understand her fear. But seventy years later, she has still not acknowledged the effect these events had upon her yet unborn son. In 1940’s Berlin, if there was a restaurant that hadn’t been bombed out, and still had anything to eat, you had to provide your own dishes and utensils. In my mother’s case, that meant carrying around a set of monogrammed English silver monogrammed service.
In desperate times, people steal everything that is not nailed down.
After relaxing on the beaches of North Africa, her front yard for ten years, my mother could still not be bothered with the needs of a growing boy. My father, a teenager during the first decade of the 20th century had, over seven decades, shrunk an inch from his former 5’9″ frame. Of primary concern to Mummy was her son’s clothing needs not compete with her taste for couturier designer dresses,
and handbags she purchased in French boutiques in Casablanca.
And her use of my bedroom as her sewing room to sew dresses and blouses for her beautiful daughter, named after only two Queens. Once we moved from Lybia to Ludwigsburg, Germany, outside of the fabulously wealthy shopping town of Stuttgart, Mummy took me shopping with her, sat me down, tried on dresses, and solicited my opinion as to which dresses she should buy.
I was eight when Mummy held out living in Nuremberg, and Heilbronn. The former is known for Christmas and the 15th century artist Dürer, the other for healing fountains.
Someone blessed me by seeing to it I had the proper shoes growing up. With God’s luck, I have not had to endure the crunched up toe syndrome I see imposed upon the sons and daughters of shoemakers worldwide.
My father’s primary, apparently only concern, was keeping his wife off ‘The War Path’, at any expense. “I’d stay out of the kitchen if I were you, Alan, your mother is on the warpath again” he would say. It never hit me. My mother was not American Indian, she was German, that Germans could certainly fall onto the wrong path; the warpath. Just for Dad, she buried the hatchet. This was Dad’s third marriage, and with three daughters the same age as his third wife, he was not going to repeat his past two divorces.
That gave Mummy an edge. She knew he would never leave her, never abandon her, never betray her. And he didn’t, so she could abandon and betray her son, as her sacrifice, Opfer to the Reich. That’s how the brain works. Onward, or “Vorwäts” the Berlin chant in ’45, ‘Forward’.
When I turned twelve, I was interested in my development more than anyone else ever was, so I sent away for a 10 lesson bodybuilding program. I knew diet and exercise are always a good idea. I often got up, and walked into the kitchen to grab a snack, nutrients. As sis was dominating the program with The Avengers, a program I did not relate to, I stepped out onto the veranda, and approached Dad at his workbench in the garage.
“Dad, I want a set of barbells” I said. I read boys my age who lift weights while their bodies are developing will never have to visit a gym to maintain a sculpted body.
My father was a handsome man. Even at seventy-two, he had the body of a Greek god, firm as any forty year-old. And he had a hairy chest. As a young fireman (on a horse drawn fire engine), he developed, never smoked, never drank. As one who had lived through the Great Depression as a comparatively young man, he wanted to provide his fourth daughter (and only son) with that which he did not provide daughters Number One, Two, or Three.
I seldom asked for anything, and never expected anything, but upon the rare occasion I did ask, Dad was eager to fulfill my wishes. I just never asked because Mother told me, upon moving to the States “We are poor”.
“Daddy, I want a set of weights” I said one afternoon, while watching him tinker in the only part of the house that was his — not subject to dusting, — the garage.
“Sure, son, I’ll get right to work on it” he started going through his bricks against the inside garage wall. He selected the cleanest, and stacked them into two piles of nine. I will run this five foot closet rod through the holes, he thought, tie the bricks onto each end with rope, and secure the whole thing with Aunt Kaye’s gardening wire.”
“Son, come with me” he took my hand as I returned from my paper route “I have your new set of barbells”. I rolled my newspaper bike through the gate, and parked it on the veranda. There on the garage floor sat my new set of barbells.
I was disappointed. “Thanks, Dad” I tried not to show it. This doesn’t look anything like what I saw in my brochure.
Dad went back into the house, and left me in the garage with the weights. I was so excited, I didn’t bother to think of putting on a pair of boots, preferably metal-toed. I took a deep breath, and lifted my first set. I dropped the barbel, and it fell on my toe. I knew nothing about body building. As a matter of fact, I knew next to nothing about myself, and my position on the bottom rung in Mummy Mayer’s family.
My big toenail did grow back without doctor intervention, thank God, whom I did not pray to, as He we had never been introduced. There was no room in the Mayer family for God, or Alan.
I abandoned my interest in bodybuilding, and set the rod of bricks aside. Before long, the rod was slipped back in between the rafters, and Dad’s bricks were re-stacked against the garage’s interior wall.
I accepted I was not going to become a bodybuilder, probably because I did not want to spent so much money on a weight set. Mother would never allow it in the house. “Now that your father is retired, we are going to be poor” Mummy affirmed the first time Dad drove us to see our new Home. Dad parked on the street in front of the house, and Mummy got out of the car. “This doesn’t look so bad” said sis, as she pushed the bucket seat forwards.
I accepted my low position in society, based upon my unacknowledged position within the family. I felt less than others, different in Mummy’s gray slacks, navy blue blazer with the gold buttons, white shirt, and bow tie. I hurt, and had no one to talk to. While my new schoolmates’ parents’ were rising, moving into larger homes, my parents had settled down. By the fall of 1968 it got so bad, at 52, Mummy had to go to work as a saleslady because Dad’s $2,400.00 a month retirement was not enough, 1968 dollars.
Merchantile created a chain department for Mummy: Department 77. A lucky number for all women who loved expensive clothes, but not me, as I lost my mother to the mall, and her endless need to shop. Something I believe, consumerism in excess, draws us away from God.
Much later, I learned Mummy chose to go to work because Dad’s substantial retirement income, with all Uncle Sam’s benefits, was not enough for her to live off of in the style to which she had become accustomed, and it was certainly not going to support a dependent she never wanted in the first place.
One afternoon, I approached Dad in his garage. “Dad, all my friends are riding skateboards” I didn’t have friends. I was never in one school long enough to keep a friend. At a very young age, I learned to have a friend is to experience loss, so I did not learn what it is to be a friend until I met those outside the family. Certainly sis, six years older than I, was no model, though I, stupid and naive, considered her one. Older people were smarter. They always knew better, so I thought.
My mother’s idea of sharing was right down the line, always 50/50, no matter what. She proudly told me so after Dad died. My dream was a new pair of skis. Sister’s dream was a set of oil paints, brushes, and easels. If the bottom line dollar cost of our two dreams was not the same, she bought something else to make up the difference.
That was my mother’s limited idea of sharing. I forgive her. She is a product of fascist Nazi Germany, the third daughter (also the only son) to an entrepreneur tycoon, who lost everything to the Nazis. At times, I can even understand why Mummy refuses to talk.
I knew if Dad wasn’t in his library, I could most likely find him in the garage. I stepped onto the veranda, and made my way to the garage. There he was, up in the rafters, standing on a ladder, rummaging through his nest of perfectly good things others had thoughtlessly tossed away.
“Dad, can I have a skateboard?”
“Oh, eh sure son” he was ready to fulfill my wishes “Of course you may have a skateboard” he rummaged. “Here, take this box” he handed it to me. “I’ll get right to work on it” he stepped down.
I took the box, set it on the cement floor, and while Dad started building me a custom skateboard, I went to water the neighbor’s lawn, my responsibility as gardener,
Dad scratched his head “Where are those perfectly good skates I rescued from the neighbor’s trash?” he wondered. These wheels still have a lot of miles on them. Painstakingly, he rounded and shaped the corners of a two foot to eight inch pine board. He sanded the board into shape, sprayed it candy apple red. He removed the wheels from the skates, and affixed them with eight screws to the red pine board.
Dad called me into the garage “Son, I have that new skateboard you wanted”. He presented me with the candy apple red board.
“Thanks, let me take it for a spin’ I ran to the sidewalk, stepped onto my board, and with rickety speed rattled along the sidewalk, nearly breaking my neck when I hit a crack, and fell. With that, my interest in skateboarding waned with bodybuilding, to favor my metallic blue sting ray bicycle with the monkey handlebars and blue glittering banana seat, my pride and joy that took me everywhere, even the ten miles down Seventeenth into downtown Denver.
My experiences with Dads weights and skates taught me to be more specific, though it still took me decades to learn to include the words factory, and new in my affirmations. Those two can mean the difference between success and failure. We all know, of course, it is the thought that counts. But a twelve year-old wants more than a thought. He wants to fit in with his contemporaries, to excel among his peers, gain their respect and admiration. He wants excitement, performance, and speed. I wanted a set of weights, and my father provided. I wanted a skateboard, and again, my father provided what I asked for. He was happy, as long as the weights and skates served a purpose, like his first horseless carriage, the 1912 Model-T Ford, the Tin Lizzy that provided him with reliable transportation. What more do you want?
Never mind cranking the engine could cost you a broken arm, or that you were liable to fall out of the car if you didn’t hold on tight. “Radio? That’ll be invented in a few years.”
Dad’s bricks eventually found new life as support for a bookcase in his library, taking the place of the 2×4 six-inch pine blocks marked in red Plumb Creek. Somewhere, in one of those boxes in the rafters, my candy apple red skateboard sat, waiting for its next incarnation until Mummy sent him to Seattle to visit daughters Number 1, 2, 3, and his grandchildren. Then, in his absence, she had sis and me line up everything along the forty-foot driveway for the next morning’s trash collection.
When the truck arrived at seven in the morning, I footed, while sis went to work for pay, in training to become the future entrepreneur, all based on I Spy, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. If you found anything here amusing or enlightening, please click “like”, and share, share, share, peace and love.
There is one life.
This life is God.
This life is perfect.
This life is my life now.
This life is right thought,
I accept all good, knowing my word is Divine Cause.
I give thanks. I go a step further and am grateful.
I release my thoughts, knowing they return to me multiplied.
And so it is with Divine Cause.