Thursday, 16 May 2013

Jon Bear Journals- May: Family Musings


Some people are born into families that have a lot of money, where they might get raised by a nanny or caretaker.  Others are born into poverty or single parent homes and some with no parent to raise them at all.  I was born into an ordinary middle class family in Mastic, New York on Long Island’s south shore.  As a family of six, we grew up without luxury perhaps, but certainly with an advantage over a lot of other people growing up in the same type of families.  What was that advantage?  Well, we had two loving parents.

 My mom and dad played an active role in our daily lives.  We didn’t grow up in a perfect home and there were arguments and differences and stresses at times.  We did eat as a family when we were all younger and we did go to plays and movies together.  I remember listening to old episodes of the Jack Benny show on the radio while eating dinner, or watching the Carol Burnett show, Monte Python’s Flying Circus or the Benny Hill show.  As a little kid at the time I’m sure I didn’t fully understand a lot of the humor  but being around family and laughing always made me feel good and made it easy to join in despite not always getting the joke. 

The Summer Play Season at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, New York was always a treat and an exciting evening out.  One time when we went to see the play Pump Boys and Dinettes there was a special random drawing of tickets where one audience member was called on stage to take an active role in the play.  It turns out that my sister Heather, who was about 10 or 11 years old at the time had the winning ticket (I think after my mom had switched seats with her earlier in the play?) The play had a bit of “adult material” and the original thought was that an adult would be called to the stage.  So when Heather walked up to the stage, needless to say, the actors were a bit taken aback and said with a note of surprise, “Oh! It’s a little girl!” which seemed to ultimately work even better in the comedic aspect of the play.  


 My mom would help us with school projects.  I particularly remember her helping me make the lamb for my school book report on the book Jon and the Little Lost Lamb when I was in grade school.  She would also carve pumpkins and build ginger bread houses with us.  My dad would play catch with my twin Clifford and I and buy us baseball cards, and more baseball cards, as we had quite the collection.  Clifford and I spent many nights with dad, giving him backrubs, listening to his favorite radio program “Evening at the Opera with Doug Fox” and playing chess.  My dad always loved opera, chess, backrubs and books.  Spending that time with him was always fun as Clifford and I would pepper dad with questions about Opera singers and he would call in and answer the Opera quizzes that Doug Fox gave.

Mom probably furnished our love for baseball and the Mets more than anyone when Clifford and I took an interest in them, and even Robert who was not a big sports fan would watch the games with us.  We were such dedicated fans that in the early days of pay for sports, we would all sit down together in front of a scrambled television feed listening to the broadcasts.   Mom is a wonderful cook, and one area where we were spoiled as kids was when it came to food.  She would always make what we wanted for birthday dinners (and still does if requested) and buy us our favorite snack foods, despite the fact that we showed a lack of restraint when devouring what she brought home to us.  Mom did all the things that it is easy to take for granted too.  Making our dinners, washing our clothes, cleaning the house, all the things that you realize when you get older were essentially a second job, once she got out of work.  How do you thank someone for that?  Or fully appreciate it, until you’re in the position of having to do all those things for yourself?  >.<  Or better yet… for your own children?  Something I don’t know about yet, but Robert now knows and Clifford is now learning. =P  Heather and Dave have learned those responsibilities with their cats who truly are the most spoiled/loved cats I have ever known. =)

Robert my oldest brother would tell Clifford and I stories about Norse Legends, and stories from the Bible.  He’d also babysit for us and played Martian Footsie and Jupiter Footsie with us.  Not to mention picking us up from Kiddie Kastle on his way home from school, during the summer or just after school when mom and dad couldn’t pick us up.  Heather would read to Clifford and I, baby sit us and play board games with us.  I also remember playing “People Get Killed” (yeah kids played that with dolls before we had video games) and “Strawberry Short Cake” with her.  Clifford as my twin was my best friend and we did everything together.  We played baseball, football and basketball together.  We would wrestle with one another and we even shared the same bedroom for almost 20 years including college.
  The whole family pitched in and helped me record a tape for my sixth grade book report on the famous racing horse Man O War.  They shouted and cheered in the background while I read an account of one of Man O War’s races where he finished an undefeated career as a race horse.

 I suppose that is apropos in the sense that they have all continued to shout and cheer in the background of my life.  I am very lucky to have a family who, while we all have our quirks and differences, are all truly good and hardworking and honest people.    Robert, Clifford and Heather are all people who genuinely care about other people and help people.   The three of them have married wonderful people who compliment them so well.   They have all been there for me whenever I have needed them, and I wish that today I could spend more time around all of them.    I have learned and continue to learn a lot from all of them.  While we all have decisions to make in the way we conduct our lives, the biggest reasons for the kind of people we’ve become are mom and dad.  Some people learn honesty and hard work and love from studies, or friends or jobs or hobbies.  Some people never learn about those things.  We learned about them from mom and dad.  It’s why I love my parents so much. 


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