The good times we had when I was a kid were always the day after our family fights, which were usually on the days before a holiday. Christmas Day was always fun happy because it was after the big Christmas Eve scrape.
The fights always happened before or on the holiday, not afterwards. On Easter, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving we always had a knockdown. My mom, or my dad, or both of them, would start the fight. Afterwards the family pulled it together for the holiday, to look good for the big day. We had to look better for the neighbors and in-laws and our pets.
One Christmas all my cousins from Pennsylvania, my mom and dad’s sisters and all their kids, were at our house. Our house was warm and cozy and there weren’t any fights. We were all looking good.
It was Christmas Eve morning and Eric from Philadelphia passed gas.
“Oh, that’s a wet one,” somebody said, and that started the whole thing, which turned out to be the flu. It went from Eric to Curtis on down to Kim and Skip and the rest of us. We barfed and barfed for days.
My mom was pissed. She was beside herself. She wanted to go to a hotel, even though she was a nurse. She would have jumped ship if she could have, but dad made her stay.
Every 4th of July we had a street party. We lived on one of the only two cul-de-sacs in Bay Village. In the morning all the kids would decorate their bikes and we would have a bike parade. Our parents judged the bikes and gave out prizes.
We played games all day and later in the afternoon everyone carried their grills and picnic tables to the end of the cul-de-sac for a party. We had food and our parents had coolers of beer. Everyone would party and they were great times.
My mom wore a t-shirt that said JOE BALLS on the front and FROM NEWTON FALLS on the back. It was a family joke. We had an uncle named Harold who lived in Newton Falls, but we called him Joe Balls. Nobody knew why.
One summer a windy waterspout from off the lake touched down in Bay Village during our street party. We were out in the street playing. All of our parents were trashed. When I ran into the house to tell my mother she said, “Go back out there and play.” But we ended up having the rest of the party in our garage.
When my mom became a nurse, she wore a t-shirt that said BUSHER THE PUSHER because she was an IV Therapist. She was the one who loaded the IV’s with drugs. She became a nurse when I was in 5th grade. She had all of us and before we knew it decided she wanted a career. My grandparents put her through nursing school, paying for it all. She studied at Tri-C and later worked at Lakewood Hospital.
It was when I was in 5th grade, at Normandy Elementary School, during the Miracle of Richfield, that I got a pair of tennis shoe roller skates and lived in them for years.
We had a teacher named Mr. Barton and he loved to hoe down dance and dribble basketballs at the same time. He taught us to do it and we got so good at it that we were invited to perform at a Cleveland Cavs game.
It was the year the Cavs were scrappy and good and played the Washington Bullets in the conference finals. We watched it on TV. The crowds were so noisy people in the stands wore earplugs and the players on the benches stuck their fingers in their ears.
“If you don’t drop your ball, or double dribble, or anything else helter skelter during the performance, I’ll buy you whatever you want,” my dad said. I told him I wanted tennis shoe roller skates.
“Whatever you want,” he said.
We were great that night doing our hoe down dribble dance at halftime at the Richfield Coliseum, which isn’t there anymore. It’s just a big empty field now that it’s been torn down. We danced to the song “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers.
I lived in my skates from that day. I put them on first thing in the morning and skated all over the house. I did axles in the streets and figure skated every day in my tennis shoe roller skates But, I wasn’t allowed to wear them to school. Even so, I wore them all the time until I got my first pair of high heels.
The roller skates came off right after that and I’ve never been out of high heels since.
The reason is that I stopped growing when I was in 6th grade. After that I found out I was going to be short, a pygmy. My mom was a pygmy, too. I don’t know that she was ever taller than five-foot-one. Everybody else in our family was taller than me. My dad was six-foot-something. I was the shortest of all the kids, shorter even than Bamm-Bamm.
My mom got me a pair of Candies. They were plastic made to look like wood and had a strap across the top of the foot that stopped about mid-way up. You could wear them with anything, shorts, skirts, disco pants. They were the hot shoe. Every kid had to have a pair.
“You’re going to be in these for the rest of your life,” my mom told me. “You will never get out of them.”
She made me practice walking in them, up and down the driveway, then up and down the street, and finally up and down the stairs.
“You don’t want to walk like a clod,” she said. “A lot of girls stomp in their high heels, but you’re going to walk like a lady.”
I got to the point where I could run in them fast. I could chase dogs. I’m still fast, not as much as I was then, but still fast if I have to be.
I don’t know who invented high heels, but we owe them a lot. You put high heels on, and you change. Everything is different in them. Your body moves to a different kind of tempo. My favorite things are dogs and shoes. I still love dogs the most, but shoes are a close second.