Saturday, January 03, 2015

Normal Behavior

            So … the girls are all away. Two of them are at their Gramps, playing with their baby aunt. (Its technically baby sitting, but it’s probably more running and yelling and throwing a bouncy ball than sitting.) Three of them are off to a party. That means that this has been a very casual, mostly snuggly day. At 4:00 pm I’m still in my fluffy, feeted jammies, not that the bottoms have been off a couple times since seven this morning. Not that you needed to know that. …

            I’ve been thinkin’ about the earlier post, and contemplating ‘normal’ behavior. We tend to call normal that which falls within culturally expected norms. In the United States that’s usually colored by Christian ethics. But that sort of ‘normal’ is usually the exception.

            Just before my ninth birthday we moved into a house on George Washington Way. That’s in the city where my aunt and uncle live. It was and is an upscale neighborhood peopled by the educated. It was a nice tri-level house, but with only four bedrooms we shared. Today, most of those who live there seem to be older, retired or nearly so. When I was nine, the place was full of children.

            I was shy and quiet. My introduction to the local child-culture was through my oldest sister. I was a tag along, introduced to kids my age through her association with older children. I wasn’t exactly Harriet the Spy, but I was observant. I watched. I listened.

            So … in this upscale part of town (now eclipsed by other areas and more expensive homes), among these well-educated, well-off families, I found ‘normal’ – right?

            Our social area extended four blocks north and south, and was two blocks deep. There were exceptions, but if I wandered outside, that was my limit unless I was with my oldest sister. On the south side we had two adopted boys. They had a clubhouse built on top of an old, dead snag. They enticed three of the local young boys into it, introducing them to anal sex. This came to light when the youngest of the seduced boys kept making a squeaking noise. His parents took him to a doctor. This was a huge, though quiet, scandal.

            A German immigrant family lived across the street from the bad boys. They had two children. The boy was nearly grown. I think my sister had a crush on him, though she probably talked to him no more than a dozen times. He went off to the University of Washington, leaving behind his younger sister. As far as I know she was never connected to any of the wild acts of others. She was very nice I think. She and my sister and some others of the older kids would sit in our back yard and gossip. She was fixated on the Devil and demons. I remember her telling one of the neighborhood boys he looked like Satan.

            Now he was handsome. I liked him. But other kids said things about him that I doubted then. But I really do not know the truth of any of it. He was, my sister said, very bright, talented. He wrote for the small neighborhood paper, and the articles were interesting. But some of the older, near grown boys didn’t like him. They claimed he’d had sex with a pony. True? Who knows.

            Next to him lived an oriental family, Japanese descent as I remember it. I played with their middle child. Invariably, when I was in their house, the youngest girl was naked. I thought this odd. But I have no conclusions to make.

            An older couple lived next to us. They had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy was vain. The girl was a slut, even if her parents didn’t know it. A block behind us was home to a little boy, four as I remember it, who’d had heart surgery. His parents never disciplined him because they worried that he might have a heart attack. He threw things and swore like a lumberjack. Next to that household was a family that came from old money. They were originally from Pennsylvania. The dad was an amateur photographer. They had three children, two boys and a girl. One of the boys was found by one of the older kids in the old irrigation ditch (now long built over), with his sister’s pants down. No one told the parents. The parents wouldn’t have believed it anyway.

            Up the block from them, on the corner, lived a much older couple. He would waddle out into his yard and insist we stay off his grass. We were never on his grass, but he yelled at us anyway. One of my sister’s best friends lived on the cross street. They had a boy and a girl near my age. They were fun. I still hear from the girl. We went to WSU together. She’s a neurologist in the Seattle area these days.

Next door to them was a truly creepy family. They had a girl and boy. The boy was about thirteen as I remember. He sexually abused his seven year old sister. This became a whispered topic among the young people, and finally he was put in therapy. He told a boy across the street, in my hearing, that he let their German Shepherd lick him where it mattered. I do not doubt his claim. They were a good Baptist family, attending the largest of the Baptist churches.

Next to them were two high-school aged boys. They swore endlessly. One of them tired to seduce my sister who was then thirteen. She thought he was a fool, and I agreed.

Up the street from us, and out of my allowed play area, was a retired couple. He was a short-wave enthusiast and very racially prejudiced. I remember him expressing his views to my dad, saying, “Well how would you feel if one of your daughters married one!” Yet, when the one black family moved in, he watched their daughter endlessly. He was a distasteful man, probably a pervert.

If I went with my sister and her friends, I was allowed to tag along down to the river. We found a pair of blood spotted panties on a beach rock. They would have fit me, which means they were small. I was 9 or ten I think. My presumption was that someone went swimming and forgot them. Looking back, that’s not a tenable conclusion.

This does not exhaust the list. Considering we lived there not quite four years, I accumulated a surprisingly long list of local scandal. “Normal” behavior is really rare, I think.

1 comment:

  1. "When I was nine,... I was shy and quiet." Okay MAYBE when you were nine. Certainly not now!

    I agree about normal. It is a facade that individuals strive to maintain to fit in with the mores of our society. People who live a truly normal life may be good people, but they are terribly boring to be around.

    I remember discussing being normal with my mom years ago when I was a teen. I wanted to fit in with my peer group, but I was not as tall, lean, nor as athletic as they were.

    While my schoolmates were beginning to date and get involved in other recreational activities, I was in the side yard laying out a campaign for my toy soldiers or in my room drawing comic books.

    Mom patiently listened to my longings and told me that if everyone was normal, no one would stand out. She didn't want me to be normal. It took me a long time for her message to sink in, but it did.

    The small town (population of about 500 at that time) was a very normal town full of Baptists, Methodists and a smattering of Presbyterians. If there were secrets, and no doubt there were, I was blissfully unaware. There were rumors that one of our two doctors in town liked examining the girls a little too much, the other doctor was thought to self-prescribe for himself.

    So I grew up in a "Leave It To Beaver" world of the 1950s and 60s where half the town literally lived in the other side of the tracks. It was a quiet isolated place until the war in Vietnam heated up, integration became law, and kids started wearing their hair longer. Then everything became less normal.