DRAFT /a work in progress
Frozen Fish Sticks and French Fries, Living it Up in Kittery, Maine
“Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Not necessarily in that order.”
I was born on the New Hampshire side of the rapidly flowing river called Piscataqua, the boundary between Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the old hospital at 7:14 in the evening on a cold November night. I can only surmise that the pregnancy resulting in my birth was totally by chance as nothing in the Linscott family happens from planning, especially family planning. My mother, Nancy Lillian McNair of Fitchburg, Massachusetts had met my father, Nelson E. on Hampton Beach on a day my father just happened to stop by and check out the beach for prospects, looking to snare a vacationing young lady from south of the border. My future mother was vacationing with friends from the hospital in Fitchburg where they worked. He succeeded. Nothing of this meeting, courtship or the wedding was ever mentioned, at least to any of the six children they produced in rapid order. Neither of my parents had a High School education. Neither of them had plans for the future. Linscott.
My first memory or let’s call it my first pleasant memory is clear as a bell and not completely pleasant. Most things Linscott are usually tinged with at least some unpleasantness. I have very few memories of anything that was completely without some problem, fight, hitting, crying or punishment even in the best of times. I remember standing in front of a cornfield wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Though I wasn’t aware of temperature at this stage of my life, probably less than two years old, I seem to recall the weather being warm and the corn towering over my head so it was most likely late summer. I looked down the diagonals of the corn wondering where it ended. I was at ease since my mother was there taking my photo or at least was looking down into a box which was apparently pointing at me. My father was absent. She was speaking to me when to my horror something soft, furry and making a threatening sound slipped out of the cornfield and ground it’s head into my exposed legs. It was a big yellow tiger cat. I howled in horror. I remember nothing more of this day. I was afraid of cats for years.
The three of us lived on the top floor of a house in Eliot, Maine on State Road which was farm country in the 1950’s. The house still stands today as it did during my first memories. I am told we had lived with my grandparents and my aunt and uncles in Kittery before my father made enough money to afford to rent a place of their own. My days were uneventful five days a week during the hours my father worked. I felt safe in my mother’s care though I never heard the word love from either of my parents my entire life. I remember the feeling of disappointment when my father came home when my mother changed. She became nervous, her voice was shrill and rattled. His loud, snarling voice, stomping of feet and banging everything he picked up scared me. Some nights my mom would stay in my room with me. I felt anxious and unable to sleep. I learned that the door would usually suddenly and violently swing open when she spent time with me and there were would be loud noises and my mother would leave. I remember being shaken physically. I was afraid to look at him. I shook in my little bed. Then one day I was in the I sensed another crying baby in my room. I had a sister though I was never told she was coming.
Jayne was a curiosity to me. I was aware of her crying at night, waking me. I was aware of more tension, the loud voice of my father and a new fear, spanking. I was only aware that I was being hurt by this man. I didn’t understand why and I knew if he walked toward me, I could be hurt. My life became one of fear. I cried. When I cried I was spanked. I came to the conclusion that Jayne was the cause. Before Jayne I was never hit. In later years my mother would remind me often, “You were jealous of Jayne.” She believed that to the day she died.
Despite this early treatment, I remember bright spots. My Uncle Joe, my father’s older brother was an engineer, a nice guy who I loved though my father hated. He took me for walks and gave me my first book. Uncle Joe gave me many books of varying subjects, some are on my bookshelves today. He instilled the love of the written word in me that I never lost. I learned a man could be nice and loving. I made Uncle Joe my secret Dad until my father got into an argument with him and I didn’t see him again for a long time, presumably years. I dedicate this book to you, Uncle Joe.
There is no vantage point from which real reality can be seen, we’re all looking from the point of view of our own reality tunnels.
In what seemed to me like a matter of days. There was another screamer in the room. Not only was Jayne in my room but another arrival, Daniel. I felt crowded and I seemed to be moving down the totem of importance to the bottom. I was three years old and already wondering what life was about. The visits from my father’s family had dissolved and my mother’s sisters and their families started visiting from Fitchburg with regularity. I looked forward to their visits. I was talking and could understand what was being said. The people from Fitchburg were different, sharp dressed, big cars, perfumes, aftershaves, speaking quickly and confidently about subjects I didn’t hear about in my little world. I was mesmerized. I found a place on the floor where I could tune in on the action, only to be shooed away by my parents who could tell I was picking it all up. I picked out a few key words for my vocabulary that I noticed my parents laughed at from the mouths of the city people. My Uncle Art used the word damn in every sentence. The was another word, it started with the “f” sound but I couldn’t make it out. My parents seemed amused. I wasn’t getting much notice lately with a new brother and sister. I’d try some of the new lingo. A new disdain had developed within me for my father. I didn’t call him Dad but by his nickname “Bud”. Surprisingly neither parent seemed to care. Fine, Bud it is, I thought.
The company had left and we settled down to the normalcy and drudgery of Eliot life. I was not allowed to be outside alone yet and I begged to go outside. Both my parents smoked and I recognized that breathing the second hand smoke couldn’t be good for us. I asked my mother to open a window so I could peer out from our second story window and breathe fresh air. I’d stand at the window listening to birds, watching cars fly by and coming to the realization that I was responsible to make my own life. My Aunt Helen had given me a pack of crayons and paper during her last visit. I had noticed cryptic scribblings on fold sheets of paper, that my father received daily by a boy on a two wheeled contraption. There was something about that newspaper I needed to know. I asked my mother. She explained that the paper was writing, and it told people’s ideas like talking and if learned to read, no one could stop me. I could learn anything. “Really?”, I thought. “Well hand me that damn paper!”, I said to myself. I spent the day trying to replicate the symbols I saw on the paper to a blank sheet of with one of the giant crayons Aunt Helen gave me. With every letter drawn, I’d run to my mother and ask, “Is that a word?” After the tenth one, my mother told me to stop. I was driving her crazy. “Great” I thought! I continued until she took my crayons away. I pretended to read the paper the rest of the day while Jayne and Dan screamed and my mother muttered using that same word Uncle Art used. “Damn, at least my father wasn’t home.”
The headlights of a car signaled the arrival of Bud. I ran to my room. The crying of babies wasn’t as bad as his shenanigans. There was the telltale slam of the door and the stomping of boots. Danger. I figured I would venture out and take a look. “What do you want?” he growled. I went to the window which was open an inch for some much need oxygen. I had no sooner taken my first breath of clean air when her hollered, “Who has been reading my damn paper?” Fight or flight? Flight, I ran. “Get out here now”, he yelled. I slowly walked into the room. “Did you mess up my paper?” I had never told a lie knowingly at least. I wasn’t aware of the concept yet. I blurted, “no.” I have no idea that paper perfection was expected when Bud came home nor did I realize that saying something untrue was worse than messing up that paper. From out of nowhere a slap landed on my face knocking me to the floor. I reeled, crying, trying to stand I screamed, ”Damn! Damn!” “What did he say?” I heard his chair fly back against the wall. Pain. I woke up with dried blood in my nose and mouth, two crying babies ringing in my ears. My mother opened the door crying. My father was gone. I pulled away from her when she tried to lift me. I didn’t know the word “hate” but I felt it. I was alone.
“My legs hurt Momma.” These words that are permanently embossed into my brain. Jayne’s presence until that cry is foggy. I remember crying, tension and fear that something was wrong before that cry but that utterance brought my sister Jayne into the forefront. Jayne was walking now but not well. Her tiny face and rare smile was comforting to me. I had a companion to help me through the times that I have somehow forgotten, like a delete of the hard drive that even though it is deleted, it is still there, faintly ever present. I know the procedure to scrape the memories up but I chose not to, even while writing this book. Let sleeping dogs lie.
It was summer and we were packing our belongings suddenly like something had gone wrong. There was a sense of urgency and rare cooperation between my Mom and Bud. There were tense words as usual but the was a common goal, to get out of Dodge. A man I had never seen before arrived and we hastily put our belongings in his truck and left. My zebra! Was it in the box? I started to worry. “Mom is my zebra in the box?” “Yes, be quiet Buddy.” My nickname was Buddy. It is odd that I went through school and no one ever knew my nickname. No one knew anything about us. What happened in our house, stayed in our house. At four years old I was already sworn to secrecy. My swollen lip? Oh I fell. My bruised arms? I fell again. My silence? Children are to be seen, not heard.
We moved to a duplex on State Road beside the Kittery Trading Post. This was like a city after Eliot. Jayne is not well. In bed I heard the muffled conversations of my parents. “Jayne, swollen, insurance, hospital.” Jayne was crying all the time now it seemed. She held her knees and had stopped walking. I asked Mom what was wrong with Jayne. “Shut up!” I backed up suddenly from Mom. She didn’t usually speak to me like this. “Don’t you tell anyone about Jayne!” I started to cry and asked, “Is Jayne going to die?” “No she isn’t going to die,” she hissed. I ran to the bedroom. I looked at Jayne lying on the bed. I ran to the bathroom and hid on top of the hamper behind the curtain of the linen closet. I started to feel ill. I stayed in the closet for what seemed to be hours and peeked out. I could seen Jayne still on the bed crying. I held my head. Dan was in a crib sleeping. I crawled into bed and gathered my crayons and paper. I was writing now. A, B, C. I started crying. “Shut up!” I heard the front door open. The boots, the banging. I covered my head and fell asleep.
I woke the next morning. My mother, father and Jayne were gone. My Grandmother’s sister, Auntie asked if I wanted breakfast. “Where’s Jayne” I asked. “She is going away for awhile”, Auntie said sadly. “Where?” “Your Mom will talk to you when she gets back,” Auntie replied. “She died,” I cried. “No she didn’t die!” I wasn’t hungry. I walked to the bedroom and played with Dan though the bars of his crib. I pushed my zebra’s head through the bars and made a noise making Dan cry. Auntie can storming into the room and demanded know what I did. “Where’s Jayne”, I replied. I crawled under my bed with my zebra. I knew something was wrong.
The front door opened and my Mom’s and Bud’s voice was low and secretive. I ran into the kitchen. Where’s Jayne”, I asked. The glare from Bud was ominous. He didn’t speak. “Where is Jayne,” I belched out agitated. “She had to go away”, my Mom said. “No”, I screamed. “You shut your mouth”, Bud sneered. I had no fear. I screamed again. I remember slapping. I remember pain. I remember hate. I slept.
Days passed and there was no talk of Jayne. I sat with my books and crayons, making letters and drawings and attempting to read. We got a television set. I sat and watched the news and weather. I liked Uncle Gus on WMUR from Manchester, New Hampshire. Dan had begun to walk and suddenly there was another crying baby. My brother David had arrived. I wondered about Jayne but when I mentioned her, I was berated. I wanted to go to school. When I saw a school bus, I asked when I could go. The escape couldn’t come soon enough.
4. School Days Begin
At last I was old enough for school! The first day of school was exciting. I was assigned to Shapleigh School on Stevenson Road less than a mile from our home on State Road. On that day I found I had neighbors.
The Adams’ who owned the Kittery Trading Post and the house we lived in lived above the Trading Post. They had a larged family of eleven children. Kim, Chris and Mark were closest in age to me, Chris was in the same grade. These were exciting times for me. I had already learned how to write and I was bordering on being able to read. My self esteem was very low and I was ready to prove that I could be accepted and be a good boy. We stood in front of the Trading Post that morning in our school clothes and got out photos taken by the Adams’ and my mother. Getting on the bus I couldn’t be happier. I was nervous however and I wasn’t socially adapted to all the new boys and girls I would meet. I was assigned to Miss Whitcomb. To me she was the most beautiful woman on earth and I so wanted to please her. Kindergarten was wonderful, only one half a day long and so much mental stimulation, I forgot my home problems.
Arriving home each day, my mother waiting for me to get off the bus, it became apparent to me, that my mom and Mrs. Adams didn’t particularly care for each other. The exchanged pleasantries but that is where it ended. They stood apart, not talking. I noticed it but never mentioned it. The same problems at home nagged at my happiness but I kept writing and reading to a point and every evening, I watched the news on TV after Uncle Gus. I had become interested in baseball. Behind the Trading Post there was a baseball field and the Adams’ and I played every day. Though the Adams’ were well to do, they had little baseball equipment and we used an old weathered board for a baseball bat and there was only one baseball glove. We used a rubber ball as a baseball. For the most part, we all got along in the neighborhood but school saved me. I loved learning.