Spare the rod, spoil the banana?

I learned today that it is “Bloganuary.” That means bloggers across the globe are challenged to blog every day in January. There are (optional) prompts posted every day to keep us motivated and, I suppose, part of a collective conscious. Sounds like fun to me; I only wish I weren’t three weeks late to the party! That said, let’s go!

The prompt

If you could, what year would you time travel to and why?

Minneapolis circa 1978

I would travel to Southwest Minneapolis in the year 1978. That’s when my husband Jesse was five years old and conducted an imaginary orchestral concert for his parents and King, his German shepherd. He said he tied a towel around his neck so it looked like he had a cape. The cape, he said, was integral to his performance.

He then stood, caped, in front of his parents and King and proceeded to emphatically mime conducting. Mind you, he did not play any music. He just “conducted.”

It’s a fond memory for Jesse because he remembers his parents watching him and smiling. Even King, he said, seemed amused.

Jesse and King.

I would like to time-travel to this moment for a variety of reasons:

(1) I want to see Jesse as a child,

(2) I want to see his parents united and young and happily supporting their child,

(3) I want to see the dog,

(4) I want to see Jesse’s five-year-old mime skills.

There is much to appreciate in Jesse’s memory, but the story has also saddened me ever since he shared it with me some 20 years ago. In the spirit of today’s “time-travel” prompt, I’m going to fast forward to…

The house fire

Jesse’s dad was an undercover narcotics officer and some disgruntled drug dealers found out where he lived and firebombed their house. Jesse was asleep when the fire started and King “nosed” him out of bed and alerted him and his parents to the smoke and fire. Jesse credits the dog with saving their lives.

The house was destroyed and the property was deemed a crime scene. The authorities locked King in the garage for several days while the family scrambled to relocate. When Jesse’s dad went back to get him, the dog snarled and barked at him. He then reported to Jesse and his mother that King had “gone crazy” from the stress of the fire and being alone. Jesse’s mom said it was too risky to bring King home. “We don’t want to risk him hurting you,” she told Jesse. “We’re doing this to protect you.” His parents had the dog euthanized and Jesse felt like it was his fault.

Things went from bad to worse and Jesse’s parents divorced. After the divorce came multiple marriages. His dad went on to marry four more times. His mother married two more times. Let’s do…

The math

That’s a total of four step-moms, two step-dads, one biological mother and one biological father.

For more perspective, the only child was raised among the hustle-and-bustle of six weddings and the storm-and-stress of six divorces.

What was his support system during that time? Who was looking out for him? How many marital fights – verbal and physical – did he witness? How did, say, Stepdad #1 treat Jesse? Hint: not respectfully.

Yet, during that time, outsiders characterized Jesse as spoiled. He was an “A” student, decent athlete and budding thespian. He had many toys, action figures and new clothes. He had friends, liked all kinds of music and respected different cultures. But Jesse will tell you he wasn’t interested in enrichment. His primary interest was…

Survival

He wanted to be anywhere other than home because that is where Stepdad #1 abused him.

Al started off “jokingly” hitting Jesse on the back of his head. “You better watch where you’re going,” he’d warn. Jesse learned quickly to watch his back, but Al found other ways to physically and mentally menace the child. If Jesse complained to his mother about Al, she would say, “I married him to get you away from the bad influence of your father.”

One Sunday, Jesse had just gotten back from spending a week with the “bad influence.” His dad had given him his huge Army duffel bag for all the back-and-forth trips. They missed each other and Jesse treasured the duffel bag. He crawled inside it and zipped it up because it was comforting to be cocooned in his father’s duffel bag. Al, again “jokingly,” picked Jesse up in the duffel bag and began swinging him around until he “accidentally” smashed the bag, with Jesse in it, against the wall. When Jesse complained, Al called him…

Spoiled

“Spoiled” is what happens when you ignore something.

“Spoiled” is what happens when you ignore something. As I look up from my laptop, I see the spoiled bananas on my banana holder. My bananas didn’t spoil because I gave them love and attention. They spoiled because I ignored them, as I do most of our…

Childhood traumas

There will never be enough time to unpack all of our traumatic memories and I truly don’t plan to do it here. But today, when I was prompted to write about where I would time-travel to, I chose to visit my husband’s childhood memory; when he stood in front of his parents and dog, and danced to music only he could hear.

*Connie Kuntz prefers playwriting to blogging, but thought she’d give #bloganuary a try. This is a true story. She and Jesse have been married for 17 years and he said it was OK if she wrote about his childhood.

2 thoughts on “Spare the rod, spoil the banana?”

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