Friday, August 04, 2006

Summer of 53

It was odd to read that the longest heat wave on record in New York City was 12 days during the summer of 1953. I think in August. That summer I was 6 years old and I really can't recall the heat but I do have memories of my grandfather and his son, my uncle Natie taking me for a vacation to a bungalow colony in Moodus Conn. My mother and older sister by 6 years saw us off at Grand Central Station, and after leaving us they went off to The Capitol Theatre in Times Square to see "From Here To Eternity" which was the movie to see that hot summer. The colony is somewhat vivid in my memory. I have some pictures of me there. This is one of me by the lake. It was scary for me to be away from my mother for the first time. We were put up in a big Victorian guest house on the property for a while, but then we were moved into a small cabin on the grounds. Sometimes I recall some of the country smells which were new to my six year old nose . My mother had an intense fear of water because her own mother had died young taking a shower. The water suddenly turned very very hot and she was scalded to death. She would not let us take showers and she would not let me even go swimming. These fears were passed on to me and I was a young man out on my own before I got over my fear of showers and to this day I don't know how to swim, and I'm a Pisces. Since I wasn't allowed to go in the lake my mother didn't see the point in my taking a bathing suit with me, but my grandfather would let me go in the lake wearing my little white jockey underwear no doubt keeping a very watchful eye on me and keeping this secret from my mom. My grandfather and uncle were my mom's father and brother and Natie lived with us in our small cramped apartment in Boro Park Brooklyn sharing a bed with my older brother. Natie was a kind gentle somewhat slow in the mind man who took care of me for most of my childhood. For years he worked in Schrafts washing dishes all day, and after he was through there would work evenings along side my mother in my father's luncheonette. My father and sometimes my mother were mean to him and sometimes to my shame and grief so was I as young children can sometimes be. My guilt over this was so bad that I took part in a grief workshop many years later at The Gay Men's Health Crisis where I was a volunteer for several years. I named a piece of my sculpture for Natie. That summer of 53 was a turning point in my young life because that was the summer that I stopped loving my father. I can almost recall the very moment. My parents were having problems that they were careful to hide from me, but it all came out in the open the very night that I returned from my vacation. That night they had a bad fight and I saw my father hit my mother for the first but sadly not the last time. Everything changed for me that hot summer night and after that I would fear and hate my father for the rest of his life.


Blogger Alex Gildzen said...

my sweet little Ira Joel. I've known you for more than 35 years & much of this is new to me.

3:31 PM  
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