The Cemetery of My Mind
The Cemetery of My Mind
NIAGARA VERY EARLY CHILDHOOD
VICTORIA STREET, 1938-1946
When an egg allows a sperm to enter, together they immediately form a zygote. The energy created at this nanosecond is akin to the initial reaction of an atomic bomb. Indeed, it is an atomic-level reaction. In my mind, I consider this instant the birth of the soul. This phenomenal reaction keeps the cells dividing and sub-dividing until death-that moment when all that original spirit energy is released into a different form.
Since I was born on June 24th, 1938, my own atomic-reaction moment must have been sometime in the early fall of 1937, bringing me along just before World War II.
Fortunately for me, my maternal grandmother, whom we called "Maw", was a bit of a nuclear reactor herself: a four-foot-something, one-hundred pound "love reactor." She generated a radiating kindness to everyone who came into contact with her. For me in particular, she was my special, one-person caring dynamo. And I needed her.
While I longed for my own mother's smile (and remember each time she did smile at me), my brothers and I only sporadically received either a smile or a twinkle from our mother's eyes or warmth from her voice. Sure, I remember a few times when her laughing smile dispelled my tears, but sadly, I remember a lot of bad stuff more.
I've been told that Mom and Dad had been out partying just before I was born, so it seems probable that I came into this world with a hangover. I certainly used to cry a lot. This could have been from alcohol withdrawal or from the fact that she didn't bond with me. My mother had her own drummer-and it clearly wasn't me.
That's why Maw was so important to me. Maw ended up with nineteen grandchildren, and gave each and every one of us a special piece of her spiritual energy, but when I was with her, it was like I was her only grandchild.
Maw and me
In one of my first memories, Maw is filling a large galvanized washtub with warm water for two little tykes, my cousin Donna and me. We were to sit in our own private spa. The hot summer sun is flickering with a soft breeze through the hollyhocks, producing a dance of white, red, and pink blossoms along the pale green stems that stretch up the side of the white garage. A hummingbird darts in and out of the flowers; the pail is pouring; Maw is singing, "This is the way we wash our chickadees: Splash, splash," and giggles as she splashes us.
Our Garage - Our Spa
Water sparkles before our enchanted eyes. In the magic of the moment, Maw's smile and laughter are magnified, creating a circle of love around this slice of innocent heaven.
Our galvanized "spa" was placed in the backyard of a magnificent, ten-room, white, wood-frame house, circa-1880, located on Victoria Street. It was just a dozen kicks of the can from Queens Royal Beach. Maw had bought the house for herself and her extended family.
It was a church-blessed house. Fear and hope were both instilled in us by the religious pictures and crucifixes that adorned the walls. When Maw would put us to bed, she would instruct us in the proper way to say our prayers. First, she would tease us by sometimes speaking them in lilting Gaelic, which sounded like spiritual music to my young ears. Then she would repeat them in English, telling us to always include a special prayer to our own particular saint or guardian angel.
Donna's saint was St. Teresa, who helped little girls. My guardian angel was St. Michael the Archangel, protector of children and defender of God. I never tired of hearing Maw tell me how Michael beat up on the Devil's angels, and I felt very special having this hero available to guard me.
In addition to our night-time prayers, Maw also gave us special prayer cards to connect us with our guardians. My card featured a young boy with a large, kind-looking angel standing behind him. I was enthralled wit