Once upon a time there was a little girl named Patty. Being very young she was happy and playful and naturally carefree. She was born to a large family with four older siblings and two parents who were very creative and artistic; they were people who enjoyed life. She grew up surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods. There was always a swimming pool in the yard, overgrown apple trees in the field, a full sized barn, sheds and a garage. They had rabbits, chickens and two pigs along with the three dogs and numerous cats. There was a bigger farm a quarter mile from her house half way down the hill. Many times Patty would wake to a lot of excitement and commotion. “The neighbor’s cow is outside my window again!”
Patty’s parents were from a long line of city slickers. Very hard workers, happy, laughing, party type people where evening cocktail hours and comfortable wealth were the norm. Her grandparents were mortified that Mom and Dad had exceeded the number of children that was appropriate for their status. That was the final straw. So, with four children in tow they moved 400 miles away to the country to flee from their controlling families. In the 1950s that was a very big deal. Beyond the logistics of such an action they were brand new to this farming game. Dad was a pianist and whole hearted musician at his core. Mom, well, she was brilliant with an attitude far ahead of her time. Patty was the first born after that.
Being child number five in the pecking order held many advantages for Patty. Her parents were now experienced and more relaxed where child rearing was concerned. She learned a healthy practice of outward shows of affection. Kisses and hugs were normal when leaving the house and before going to bed. Words of adoration were often used and rarely a cuss word was heard. Sibling rivalry was quickly reconciled.
She adored her father. He was often away from home with work. Every day when his car would pull into the driveway Patty would jump behind the sofa so Dad could find her when he came in. “Where’s Patty? Over here? Over there?” Then, she would gleefully jump out in celebration. She had fooled him once again. She learned patience while waiting for him to change his cloths and sit down on his easy chair. In hopes of sitting on his lap while he had his cigarette she would often be denied this luxury because he changed into his suit and tie. He had a very short time before he had to leave again. He played church organ, had choir rehearsal, gave piano lessons and on weekends had frequent ‘double-headers’ playing weddings with Louie’s band all while holding down a full time day job at the mouse house.
One day, Mom and Dad came home and four and a half year old Patty hid herself behind the couch only this time they did not look for her. As they entered the room they called for her to come out from there almost like they knew she was there all along. When Patty did disappointedly emerge from her hiding place she saw her parents standing there with their coats still on. They were holding a baby. This was the beginning of the end for a lot of things that Patty treasured in her young life. Mom had to go to work. Patty and the baby had to go to a sitter and playing in the minstrel shows* was now a thing of the past.
Life continued on and for her sixth birthday Patty was gifted a two wheeled bicycle. It was blue just like her sisters’ bikes. Her brother’s bike was brown and was a boy’s bike. That summer Dad was on vacation and she helped him install a flagpole in the yard and he helped her learn how to ride the bike. Starting at the top of the small grassy hill by the new flag she mounted the bike with Dad’s steady hand holding the balance. Then, with a gentle push she would roll down the knoll only to plop to the ground over and over again. It took days for her to balance on her own. She finally got it but only after Dad said, “if you can’t learn to ride this bike I’m going to take it back to the store.” It was in that instant that she was on her way. Spending those few hours together unfettered was in itself – the gift.