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I remember…

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Yeasayer-I-Remember

Reminisce, reminisce

….and it goes like this

A survivor’s story by Dave Hinchliffe

I remember demolition derby with aunt fran, uncle george and bobby, i remember how the west was won in cinemascope  i remember the water-stained tiles on my upstairs bedroom ceiling  i remember the death of my pet turtle, a victim of my carelessness  i remember the old tube radio i found at a local curb and i remember getting it to sporadically work and how proud of myself i was.

I remember….. hot summer nights with screens & the sounds of stock-car racing punctuating the july stillness from freeport stadium….. the big ditch, bruning’s farm, lynn fitzpatrick’s sparkling blue eyes and flaming red, curly hair and her dad’s sickeningly white skin ….. jean’s slapping me after she thought i said jesus (i had said or meant to say jeez) while bible reading aloud …… shopping with agnes at the freeport army/navy store and how ashamed i felt being with her in public

I remember…… my assist on stanley’s winning goal in my first night soccer game at merrick road park…. my dad’s visiting in an early 50’s sedan-gray I think-with bulbous fenders—my sisters were there on the cushiony upholstery and i remember how i felt shame about my dad & anger at how he slighted me & treated the girls –cheryl & ave maria—with more kindness and attention ..…. all my graduations and the consistent & dissonant absence of agnes….. the several hurricanes of the 1960’s and directing traffic when the signals were out at the intersections of merrick avenue & merrick road .….father martin with his one long, dark eyebrow and the dominic savio boys’ club and being banned from a meeting for some poor behavior; i remember not going home until after the club was out so that I would avoid additional punishment at home

I remember….. building forts in the woods and near the bay so that i could create a sense of comfort and protection for myself ….. a rare peaceful moment with silent night playing in my head while walking our family dog in a soft, silent, fresh snowfall on christmas eve…… wanting to be 6’ tall so badly that i felt that i could just about wish it to happen ….. making my way through zillions of spider webs in order to get to some usable wood stored in our crawl space under our house and  i remember how proud of myself i felt as i dealt with the scariness of that dark space  i remember…. our trip to greenfield, mass to visit aunt laura -we got lost as agnes refused to listen to my back-seat input about our misguided path; we ended up in rhode island …. my crush on karen siller and going to her house on my bike…. the gables’ theatre where a hard day’s night played and hundreds of screaming girls made the experience unforgettable….. lent and the boys and girls competing for which gender could rack up more attended masses by good friday; the girls always won

I remember…. just about all the money i ever found and what i found- where i was and which pocket i put the money into…. air-raid drills in the hallways at cure of ars—jackets & coats over our heads as we giggled while leaning head-first into lockers and sister frances amelda & her threats of sending miscreants to siberia ….ringalevio, punch ball & stoop ball …. a half dozen dirty briefs stuffed into the floor boards of our attic (to avoid punishment) after i’d soiled myself  and soiling myself at school and blaming poor eugene mcenerney for it …. climbing the back of the rectory to access lost spalding balls on the roof…..the way to school by bike—via kirkwood drive and lindemere lane; i knew every pothole, the more dominant trees and where cute girls might show themselves ….. fighting eddie mcann, the toughest kid at school, and thinking the fight would be over when one of the nuns walked over- i was stunned when she said something like let’s finish this thing up

I remember…. agnes getting angry with me, her face reddened, slapping me a couple times on the head diminishing me with her words and tone and her heavy steps on the pine treads as she came upstairs to teach me a lesson by beating me with her fists & belt, about the head & upper body

I remember…. the night in high school when my brother- schizophrenic richard -showed up in a homeless person’s clothing to ask for a meal, a place to sleep and some spending money  and how ashamed i felt of us hinchliffe’s ….. buying agnes pretty jewelry and hoping that she’d be pleased with it and me….. confession and how scared i was to talk openly about playing with myself …. homemade chicken soup, chocolate layer cake, wonderful leg of lamb and sumptuous pot roast—gravy and mashed potatoes mmmmm!…. when pop used to get off the long island railroad at merrick station with us waiting in the car across the street, me usually playing in the dirt nearby, amusing myself

I remember…. the fight at the soccer pitch in lido beach during summer league soccer; john e got punched in the face and the rest of us just flailed about …. laying mostly naked on top of joan h., my hard self enjoying the smooth silkiness of her frilly panties and her lovely, soft, flat white belly and i remember her parents pulling into the driveway in the family station wagon  i remember, and sometimes i don’t, the drinking, drinking, drinking and partying, partying almost non-stop in junior and senior years in high school and senior cut day to shea stadium and whiskey sours at rich’s house at 11 in the morning

I remember…. the smoke from the copaigue farmers’ market as we drove by it ;i told agnes and she said it was none of our business;  on the way home i ruefully viewed the charred remains of the white, clapboard, corner building…. sister martin anne, trim & angular, with dark eyes; she was the first nun who I thought of as possibly being pretty  i remember singing “going to the chapel’ to girls  in eighth grade class and i remember that they liked that very much …. my rock garden, the tiger lilies the rose of sharon bushes and the statue of the blessed virgin mary—i painted her backdrop a sky blue; i felt good that i had made some contribution to the upkeep of the property (and maybe to our salvation?)…..the time Bobby tried to force me to take his penis in my mouth & the terrible fright I experienced at that prospect and how I made my 5’10” somehow able to fend off his aggressive 6’4” and forty-pound advantage…I remember that I  saved myself – there was no one else to do that for me

I remember the plymouth fury iii and the fender bender I covered up with john e’s father’s help…. wonderful ice hockey on cammons pond and endless stick ball games behind lakeside elementary school- i fondly remember mrs anderson who helped me out so many times by committing to a newsday subscription so that i could win yet another prize…. ice  skating at a small outdoor  rink with an accompanying barrel fire at the site that later became merrick road park …agnes terrifying me in the bathtub by forcibly holding my head down while she soaped my head  and I remember frantically feeling that i could not breathe, that I might even drown and i remember joining the new, indoor pool in bellmore paying the $20 with my own money and eventually taking a huge leap into the deep end of the pool (the single most resilient-developing move of my life)

I remember….. car rides with bobby in which I was terrified of his literal 90-mph driving and how he would not listen to my pleas to slow down….one time when a hurricane was incoming that the water from the bay ran up to our stoop and we were made to evacuate   …..how kind mrs genovese was to me—feeding me at her house, even phoning my house to see if I could on a rare exception be allowed to eat supper over joey’s…..the travelling carnival parked for a week of springtime fun on what was  then an empty merrick road lot and i remember the four-page poem I wrote about it and how the nun said i hadn’t followed her instructions, but the kids in the class thought i had cheated and taken it from a book- i remember how wonderful that made me feel

I remember….. bobby’s garage loft with his thousands of nudey pin-ups adorning every available square inch;  i remember the day when agnes stopped hitting me — i was 11  and she came up to my room to begin the usual pummeling;  i pushed her back- she took her saucer-sized eyes and left for downstairs; i remember that she neglected me more after that….. playing right field in the little league all-star game  agnes, pop, jean and a family friend named joe andersen drove to the game to see me play;  i led off the entire game and drove a fly ball to just in front of the right field home run fence; i was disappointed

I remember…. a play at cure of arts in which i was a stagehand  i went to pick up a chair from center stage and was surprised as I got to the curtains that the audience was laughing  I had only grabbed the top of the chair –the bottom half was still out on stage  …..our two janitors at cure—carl and al; one of them it was reported had a son who was missing at sea; the entire school prayed- the young man was found a several days later; he was alive and well; i was sure the praying made a difference….the plastic tile job i did on the kitchen walls and when pop fell off the ladder while painting the rear of the house; all had a good laugh at pop’s green head except for pop, he was angry….strawberries mounded on a sundae at the corner carvel shop after i’d completed my weekly paper route collections

I remember….saying a prayer which claimed that it could help one get over the fear of thunderstorms; i remember how amazed I was when it worked….pillow fights at aunt fran’s and how bobby, all 6’4” of him, would assail me with blows to face, head and body….when pop found my playboy mags under my bed comforter—i lied that they were someone else’s;  i was shocked when he said that I should not let my mother catch me with them (did he secretly borrow them?)

I remember…. how much i enjoyed the ‘summer school’  at lakeside elementary school, a short walk from my house  i liked meeting new kids from public school and the playful nature of this camp looking back, i think that i did a lot of growing from those summer experiences…..a newsday distribution manager who was very cool and kind to us kids, (he even took some of us out on his boat in freeport) then i remember another manager who made me feel creepy especially when he put his hand on my knee in the front seat of his car, but i could not manage to tell my folks…..the mother superior coming over the loudspeaker in eighth grade to tell us the somber news of jfk’s being shot in dallas (i was at the newday store when his death was announced)  i remember feeling sad and stunned and leaving my house days later to ride my bike around town  not a soul was out  i felt so lonely but i was so sick of staying at home looking at grim tv pictures i went to carl ferriere’s house, we played a little touch football until his mom said that was enough and he had to go inside

I remember…. the 1909 s vdb Lincoln penny and how badly i wanted one….listening on my transistor radio to “the sun ain’t gonna shine anymore” by the walker brothers i sang over and over the line “the tears will always cloud in your eyes when you’re without love”…i knew they were talking to me…thinking that george looked like my brother richard and i’d fantasize that i was secretly related to the beatles…how good agnes used to be at using the guilt against me until i came home for visits from college a more educated young man who was less the manipulated victim and how i used some assertive techniques i had learned in my communication studies and how amazed i was that they worked i felt empowered!

I remember…. a sanctioned trip to pius x seminary  i thought of the priesthood and then put it out of my mind…. repeated nightmares throughout childhood…..wetting the bed on many a night  i remember, and am still astounded by, how closed the eckels were to outsiders, i.e. any one who was neither clergy nor kin … mrs smith, an elderly woman who lived alone diagonally across from us on beach drive, she gave me a present of a hard-cover book on spanish galleons  i loved that book

I remember …..when a kid named flores moved in across the street; he and i played together but agnes said no, we don’t mix with spics and i remember how hurt i felt…..edging out kevin mcdermott in a sprint event at a track meet at smith street school  i beat him with the use of the torso lean, a technique i read about and successfully deployed. i felt so confident…. walking home through the village of merrick from the last day of ninth grade at merrick avenue junior high  we listened to a radio with the stones playing “i can’t get no satisfaction”

I remember….. the broken arm incident when I went against agnes’ wishes and played flag football  of course i broke my left forearm, simple fracture, and kept it to myself to avoid punishment i practiced rude physical therapy on myself i got scared when the swelling blew up but it did pretty quickly subside…being diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer at age 19 and  ordering a milk in a bar in cobleskill….our religious retreat to shelter island in eighth grade  we all loved the bald brother louie  i also loved his wonderful  frying bacon in the morning (we never ate bacon at my house)  and another brother who took his gun down to dockside and shot into the water at sharks (these guys were way cooler than the nuns) and getting on the floor in my room at night and tapping on the pipes in an attempt to communicate with kids in other rooms; we had a vow of silence for much of the time that weekend

I remember…. the fire in agnes’ bed, the flames licking up the side of the wall  i remember how i was the one who took charge  i grabbed a handy blanket and smothered the fire  i felt good about my rescue and possibly gained some respect within the household ….. the night agnes told me of losing her one-year-old twins;  i can still see the pain in her eyes and hear it in her voice… agnes’ threatening me with abandonment—“we don’t have to keep you, you know, we can send you back….so, you’d better behave yourself “ and how lost i felt, how unloved;  i went up to my room and cried for a good, long time;  i remember thinking how alone in the world i was;   i remember taking agnes by the hand at age 93 on her deathbed at south shore community hospital

I could not get straight

How someone who had been so hard

could feel so soft

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