Monday, July 6, 2015

The Day My Childhood Innocence Ended

I'm 70 now and my boyhood in the 1950's is so long ago.

That is until I recall the day when my childhood innocence ended. Suddenly I'm living that day this very moment.

Poppa drove home and slowly got out of his gray Plymouth. His shoulders were slumped and his head seemed to hang down to his chest.

As I looked more closely, he appeared to be crying, as he tried to gather himself before coming in the front door.

Mamma saw it too as she watched from our living room window. I could feel her fear, as she rushed to the door to greet him.

"I lost everything," poppa cried out.

"My business partner embezzled all the firm's money. He's gone and I took most of our personal savings to pay all the bills and meet the payroll. Then I had to lay everyone off.

"My God, what are we going to do," he murmured to mamma.

Silence filled the room for there were no answers.

Then mamma broke the silence. "I'm going to change my clothes," she said. "And we're going to go out and have a nice dinner."

"How," asked poppa.

"We still have a little money," mamma replied. "And a nice dinner will pickup our spirits. Tomorrow I'll help you close up the business and then you'll look for work."

Mamma and poppa, and my little sister Peggy and I had a splendid meal at a festive Italian restaurant we often went to in celebratory times.

We all felt better but this would be our last celebration for a very long time.

The days and months that followed were hard, as poppa in middle age found work difficult to come by. We had to sell our home and move to a tiny apartment as his job search continued.

Every little bit of income helped.

I quit playing baseball and got a job delivering newspapers. I also collected soft drink bottles from trash cans and recycled them for the cash.

There were no luxuries and mamma bought our shoes and clothes from a second hand store.

My shoes were so worn, that I had to put cardboard in them to close the holes so my socks wouldn't touch the sidewalks.

My blue jeans and Peggy's dresses had patches on them.

Meals were often whatever the supermarket had on sale and mamma stretched it as far as she could..

Meanwhile, mamma went to night school to sharpen her clerical skills and then she got a job as a secretary.

It was a struggle, but it was a struggle that united us as a family.

Then suddenly everything changed again.

One day I saw poppa come up the apartment steps with a bounce in his step and a bouquet of roses in his hand, as he danced through the front door.

"I got a job today," he shouted. "A good one, one where they really need my skills. With the money I'll be making, maybe next year we can buy a house."

That night we celebrated our good fortune at that same Italian restaurant.

It's seems strange as I look back now.

At the time, it was so hard. But over the years I recognized the valuable lessons we learned, including to appreciate what we have, and to appreciate each other.

Because of those hard times, I grew into a much wiser businessperson, and I have a great depth of compassion for people down on their luck.

From this compassion, many charities receive my anonymous donations.

The 1950's are long ago, but I've lived a far better life because of the lessons from those distant days and I know that no matter what life presents, each of us can handle it if we keep a positive attitude and are determined to persevere.


This story was in part inspired by a story professor and best-selling author Leo Buscaglia (1924 - 1998) shared about his family.

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