I started school in 1958. We lived on Mariposa Street one block from the school, one street away from the street that ran parallel to the school. My Mother loves to tell me the story of how she got me to walk to school by myself. Odd thing about this is I recall a moment of peeking into the building.
Mother said during the summer, she and I and my younger sister, Denise, would take a walk to the school. When we arrived, it was always closed, with clean yards and windows. She woulld get me to peek inside the kindergarten room and see all the items and she would talk of all the neat stuff the teacher would show us and we would do. It was quite clever of her. When summer ended, and my first year of school began, on the first day, when the time arrived for me to go to school, she offered to walk with me and I refused, I knew the way!
One memory sticks around about Kindergarten, naptime! I have a moment in memory, a photo of kids taking a nap and I’m not, I’m watching everyone nap, including the teacher. I can see the arrangement of mats on the floor, the kids on their mat snoozing. The teacher is slightly slouched in a chair taking a cat nap.
In Kindergarten, my Mother rescued me from the traditions, read stupidity or perhaps laziness, of schools. The teacher wanted me to use my right hand to write. Mom was too late to understand that I was left-handed, to this day I can only use scissors with my right hand. The only reason I can figure is that the teacher sent a message stuck to my shirt to my Mother to help her teach me how to write, and over the course of days, she discovered I’m left-handed.
As I remember, Kindergarten is when I had my first girlfriend. I recall her and I spending much time in a sandbox. My parents knew her parents and knew we were a couple, and they thought that so cute. I wish I could remember her name. In first or second grade, the game of marbles became the game to play during recess. I had big bag of marbles, eventually. I had my favorite few that I could truts to usually hit the other marble. I rarely lost marbles. By the end of the year, I had at least one hundred marbles in my bag, but I think my brother helped in that matter.
Those three years in school were fairly uneventful. I went to school with friends and neighbors, children I had grown up with before we were sent to school. Trust, love, and friends were in place, time to destroy that.
In the summer between second and third grade, we moved to Aptos, actually Rio Del Mar. We moved from security to a new world, from the city to the country in one fell swoop. I can’t tell you if this move to the country over the city was better for me or worse. Too many events occurred that make it impossible to know.
I recall nothing of my first year at a new school that would one would call positive, even fun, or nice. My first year stunk.
Our backyard was huge, six times the size of what we left. Another yard and fence butted a corner of our fence.; Upon climbing it one day, I spied a kid on the other side in his yard. My yard was made for my parents. His yard was made for both his parents and their children. That was the day I met Jeff Stapleton in his yard playing in the sandpit his Dad has made for him. It was huge, took up a good third of the entire backyard, a rectangle of an easy 500 square feet of sand! It was grand, and we made the most of it.
I do not remember how I got to the new school. I think it likely that I met Jeff and he showed me the way. School was no longer a block away, it was a walking mile, up a small rise, down a hill, up a hill, up some more, school.
Third grade began my year of terror. I was the new kid on the block and I had a strange name, Kermit. The children were vicious. Every day for the next two weeks since school began, I came home crying. My brother decided that he didn’t want a cry baby for a brother, so he taught me how to box and toughened me up by punching me in the shoulders often as I walked by or holding me on the floor and punching one shoulder ten times, turning me over and punching the other. My parents promoted his action.
Soon I was no longer a cry baby. Soon my parents had to go to the school every day for a month. I was a fighter and beating the snot out of everyone. My parents and my brother had made me into a monster. I had no more friends, no one trusted me, and I don’t blame them, I didn’t trust me.
One event is stuck forever in my memory. It was recess and I had just kicked some kid off the bars because I wanted them. He ran off to tell the yard teacher who told him to tell me to see her. He returned to tell me and I told him to kiss off. He ran back to her and she told him to bring me to her. As he ran back to me, the entire playground was witnessing a first and everyone had stopped playing. As he approached me, all the kids lined up like good little soldiers and took me by force, several kids on each arm, as they dragged me to this sweet yard teacher. As they dragged me to her, I could see her face and she was stunned at the children’s ferocity with me. I looked over my shoulder to see most of the children in a nice line behind me with mean faces, I don’t recall their shouts of fury but I know they were there.
Thankfully, that school only had kindergarten through third grade for my fourth grade, so that I was bused to another school. A school with other children that didn’t know me as the Monster.
I can count the number of good teachers I had on one hand. I had only two excellent teacher outside of college.
No shop, minimal on everything.
No shop, minimal on everything.
The first day I was bussed to Marello Prep, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I had spent my life in crappy public schools, mixing with all kinds of children whose names and faces changed every year. When two private schools closed, one in Watsonville with the other in Santa Cruz, a group of people formed another private school situated in a catholic monastery, of sorts, next to Lighthouse Point.
In a private school, ninety-nine percent of the kids were in school with their friends and family all their lives. Whereas, a public school might have a hundred different children arriving and leaving every month.
Marello Prep was a private high school. It had a yard a tad larger than a football field, so that became our practice field.
Some class I was in, there were about thirty kids. It was a rainy day as I recall and the teacher was bored so asked us what we would like to do. I spoke up third and told them about the Death Eye game. Intriqued, we shuffled thirty cards and passed them out to each kid. The one that got the queen of spades was the Death Eye. The Death Eye was to wink at someone and that person would count fifteen then announce they were dead. If someone saw the Death Eye wink at someone but not at them they were discovered and the game was over. As time passed and people died, it became quite exciting and frightening too. The first person that was the Death Eye killed about eight kids before being discovered. The second kid killed twelve. The third kid killed twenty-eight. I was the third Death Eye.
I have this fury inside me, I watch and control it every day. I must control it, it is an integral part of me, and ruthless when it slips past my guard.
When I was 33 years old, I realized I was an very angry man. I sought professional help to discover the guts of the matter.
At the time, I was living in Capitola with a female roommate that I have blocked out of my mind, for no reason except that I must, subconsciously, have labeled her untouchable. She and a good friend of hers suggested this doctor of psychology that was also a professor at University of California, Santa Cruz.
The first meeting took place at his personal office above his garage. We met, walked upstairs and sat down in this office, and he asked me what he could do for me. He was stunned at my point-blank request, at the directness of what I sought.
It took a year and a half of weekly visits to work through the details of pain. During that time, I estranged my parents from my presense for a year. I could not handle their hypocrisy, their “instruction,” nor their method of loving me. Emphasis is placed on those two words for future reference.
When I was seven years of age, my parents shipped me off to summer camp, the Watsonville YMCA camp with my brother. Richard is seven years older than I, and was ready, able, and prepared to be away for two weeks. The first time I went to Y-camp, it was for one week. During that week, I was taunted terribly by the other children, treated as less than I was, and generally ignored. I was extremely homesick. I distinctly remember crying myself to sleep every night.
As I recall we left on a Saturday by bus and were to return the next Saturday, but not before our parents were allowed to visit us on that Wednesday for just the day.