Childhood’s Buried Memories
By Jo-Ann Watson-Keane
Reflecting back to my early childhood years; brings joy and pain at the same time. I’m not sure if it’s just that the mind wants to always remember the good in everyone or we just store the bad memories and only glimpses come through. My memories these days seem to go back to my childhood; causing me to either smile or cry; they hold me in a trance until I go over them, analyze them and finally tuck them away to have another come forward.
My name is Jo-Ann the third child of five; my mother named me after my grandmother Josephine and St. Ann her patron saint. My father who didn’t like ethnic names considering he was of mixed heritage from the Ozark Mountains. From what I was told my father’s family dated back to frontier days with Indian blood and stories of caves and misdeeds. Coming from a huge family, my mother had 21 brothers and sisters with 17 surviving; my aunts and uncles followed the rule to procreate as much as possible. Needless to say I have several cousins named Joann with variations of spellings; mine is actually two names making me somewhat unique in our family. Some call me Jo-Jo or Jo for short. My husband during our dating years called me Joey and even has a tattoo on his arm; boy did he get a lot of questions over the years on it; who or why he had a guy’s name under a dog. Personally I think he had an out if we broke up and he could easily say it was his dog’s name. Guess what we are still together after 43 years, fooled him.
The memory that seems to be creeping forward these days goes back to my seventh year 1959. A New York City child who could walk the streets independently without fear, sit out on the fire escape on hot nights with a bowl of ice cream listening to the noises of Brooklyn. I was always watching, even in photographs you can spot me off to the side with this forlorn look. Yes I was an observer and this year a lot of things happened, my eyes opened to all sorts of out of place sights and maybe that’s how we learn and probably that’s why I’m as strong as I am. Funny, how everyone in my family calls for advice and I can dispense it with great ease.
In the early days of summer, excitement was in the air and I would wonder what today would offer. School was ending and summer always offered up some challenges. My father had brought home an old bike, my older sisters had new ones but times were changing when I came into the world. My mother was acting strange, my brother was born when I was three and as soon as the son came, I was old news. This fair haired little boy with the clearest blue eyes, impish grin and the whitest of white hair took center stage. With his birth I now was on my own, to show you how preoccupied my mother was she forgot to enroll me in Kindergarten. Thank God for TV; Romper Room, Felix the Cat and Farmer Brown cartoons kept me occupied. I learned my alphabet, the pledge of allegiance and the make believe world of my imagination. .
This warm day in June; I was determined to learn how to ride a two wheeler. Every night my father told me he would put training wheels on and teach me. He was always tired; on weekends or days off he kept himself busy; the stale smell of beer and smoke penetrated my nose on most days. So here I am left behind; everyone on the block off riding and playing hopscotch, double Dutch or just tossing a ball around. My sister Carol singing in the hallway, great acoustics the walls were marble and they sounded like a real group of singers; I can close my eyes and hear them singing “My Boyfriends Back” I was small for my age, dark hair and dark brown eyes standing out next to my blonde blue eye siblings. Sometimes I would hear people say I was the dark one and I thought for a while I might be of black heritage or adopted. Well to get on with my day, I put on my pants and shirt eating breakfast fast and out the door to get my bike.