Thursday, August 26, 2010

Growing up with Sonny

My mother referred to my father as "the golden child" when she talked about his early childhood and adolescence. He was the oldest child - an older brother had died at birth. My grandmother consented to go to a Catholic hospital despite her Lutheran persuasion, because my Catholic grandfather strongly ruled the roost, only temporarily in this unsettled marriage. The doctor was late and the nuns tied her legs together to keep the birth occurring until doctor arrived. Baby suffocated, I believe this story. My father and his younger sister were born at home.

Albert was a spoiled child and he was denied nothing. His grandmother washed dishes all day in a downtown cafe for fifty cents and she would think nothing of giving the boy her full day's pay when the carnival was in town. My mother would lament the package she received on her wedding day - that is, Albert A. Giegerich III and all his eccentricities, notions and his Marine-corp sense of decorum and order. But when she would tell me, "your grandmother spoiled him terribly," I cluck my tongue and say, and you took over where Nana left off. It was a situation we both dealt with over the years, she more than I.

My father was a beautiful child. One of my own children refers to his grandfather and his "movie star" look. Jet black hair and teasing brown eyes, a jaunty smile and a sense of adventure with a nod of naughty thrown in. Never a boring day with Sonny, his family nickname.

The boy could do no wrong. Kids in those days were ignored. They could camp out, walk across the undamned river, burn down empty houses. And Sonny did it all. The neighbors feared him. He possessed an intellect that spurred him on to define all the curiosities in his life. One late night at age 15 he was walking home and passed a wooded area (now Allison-Henderson Park) and at that time it was owned by an eccentric old lady who had witchlike qualities, as defined by the town gossip. It is surrounded by a high stone wall and Sonny and his comrades stole apples and walnuts from the property and would play pranks on the elderly woman. As he walks by the wall he hears an eerie, shrieking sound from behind the enclosure and he starts to run as fast as his teen aged legs will carry him. The horrible sound continues, but young Sonny stops. His logical mind turns over the options he faces in this situation. He can return safely home and always wonder and always fear what he did not know that lurked behind those high walls. Or he could face this mystery demon and be cleansed of it, that is if he survived the encounter. This is what he chose. He climbs over the wall the screams setting off every nerve in his young body. And he finds a young rabbit caught in a trap and some may not aware be of this but a rabbit faced with a terrifying situation can and will emit a sound not unlike a woman's scream. I do not know what my father did after this. Perhaps he let the poor bunny go although the animal did not have a bright future due to his injuries. My grandsons say he probably killed it with a rock, damn video games. All I know is my father returned home that night accompanied with a new and mature wisdom. Always check out the fearful. The unknown is scarier. He carried this knowledge and experience with him and he gifted me with that same message.

There are times in my life when my father's word and example carried me through a difficult time. I was interviewing for my first "real" job (babysitting doesn't count, remember, jeesh) at the local S.S. Kresge five and dime store. Kresge eventually meta morphed into the K-mart empire. Ah, the old five and dime. A circular windowed candy counter where we could sneak a chocolate-covered peanut or bridge mix, my aqua blue plastic smock with ink stains in the pockets and Kresge embroidered in red thread. The lunch counter and fountain that served a mean tuna salad-packed tomato with white crackers and the delicious icy Coca-cola in a paper cone with a metal base. All cash register transactions done in our heads. I was very nervous about the interview. My dad's good friend's wife worked there and it would have been one thing to screw up the interview and than another as Dad would be forever shamed in front of his friend. I must have shared some of this with Dad because he looked at me somewhat disgruntingly and said, "when you walk in that door that will be the best thing that happened to that man all day." Got the job and many more and I always carry that conversation with me.

1 comment:

MrDaveyGie said...

Hmmmm, interesting, you must have paid a lot more attention then I did back then sis.
Well, glad you did, makes a good read.