GRAPES of CHOICE - Segment 2
This segment of Grapes of Choice is not easy to write. It seeps with real-life family struggles in a dysfunctional family, back in the days when the divorce rate was 3%. Of course, my siblings and I knew that our parents didn't get along. The reasons for the tension between them was not obvious to us as young children though. Nevertheless, some events that took place in our home between our parents will never be written and will remain unspoken.
What impressed me most as a child and adult is that our mother lived and showed us children how to live by Biblical family values. She exemplified these values through kindness, trust, caring, love, and deep personal integrity. Likewise, these values gave us individual self-worth, and they ultimately nurtured us in such a way as to be reflected in our personal lives.
Unfortunately, my father was baffling - was not a family man, but was creditably diligent in his occupations. When it came to other life matters that pertained to his progeny, he was neither a father to us, nor a supporter of his immediate family, emotionally or monetarily.
The only reason I have included this short family segment is that I am aware that untold millions today are denied their blood "father" or blood "mother" for whatever reasons. Obviously for these same millions of families, their birth "mothers" and/or birth "fathers" are/were not possible inclusions when it comes to Grapes of Choice for their growing-up years.
Sure, I learned to forgive and not carry remorse, hate, grudges, or unforgiveness in my life. However the reality is that every family deals with errant commissions and omissions as a result of selfishness and hasty judgment.
Isn't it amazing how time heals some of the deepest heart wounds? When moving forward, day by day with a positive attitude, much good can accrue and fill one's life when choosing the best GRAPES available ... whenever possible!
I am including this one picture taken July, 1943. This is the only picture of my dad with our family from the time I was 6 months old until I was nearly 13 years old.
Soon after this picture was taken, my dad went to medical school and became a physician. He and my mother were divorced on their 18th wedding anniversary. Although his medical school was about twenty miles from where we lived on five acres at the time, we saw our father only a handful of times until the day he graduated at age 35. Even so, my siblings and I, to a large degree, felt safe and secure because our mother was caringly selfless, working day and night to provide for her four children. We knew who really had love and heart for us!
Importantly, I tend to conclude that Grapes of Choice were for me "seeded" by my "Hartmann" great-grandparents, married Friday, May 13, 1870. I was born exactly 68 years later, May 13, 1938.
Then again, my Grapes of Choice begin to "germinate" visually and experientially through my "Hartmann" grandparents. My grandfather Hartmann was born January 25, 1886. Although having received only three years of schooling, he entered the upholstery trade and became the Master Craftsman at Barker Brothers (high-end fine furniture makers) in Los Angeles, California.
My grandmother, Daisy Hartmann was born April 25, 1889 and received four years of elementary education. She became a dutifully godly woman who loved to study and memorize large portions of the Bible. Together with my mother, she was of strong influence on my life relative to living a Christian life. They were women of "faith" strongly believing in the love and miracle power of God to save anyone from a life of sin ... instantaneously gifting righteous eternal life though Jesus Christ ... he being the extraordinary "miracle" One who made each of these wonders real through his own life, death, and resurrection.
A picture of my "Hartmann" grandparents can be seen on the "Home" page of this website. They spent some vacation time at Wawona, CA (huge Sequoia Trees) with their only two daughters at that time, Ruby Jewell, age 10, and Marion, age 9 (Ruby, my mother, is sitting on the driver-side front fender), 1921.
In 1941, my mother started a preschool music kindergarten. It was not long until she had to hire one precious older woman to help her (this "helper" woman was killed a couple of years later when her car stalled crossing a series of railway tracks on her way to work). Soon my mother's preschool grew to 45 children. That meant dealing with a lot of clothes, diapers, and runny noses, skinned-up knees, bruised arms and hands, bandages, and hurt feelings. It also meant each child required a cot for naps, and the whole group of children had set times for snacks, lunch, play, and of course various crafts, music, dance, finger plays, and memorization of poems. Oh, yes, every day there were at least three specific story times.
The years of World War II were extremely difficult for most people. Where we lived in southern California, there many blackouts. Warning sirens were common suggesting the possibility of an attack or an invasion. Every car had to have metal black plates that covered the entire headlight except for a thin slit to allow some light through. Tokens and trading stamps commonly took the place of money for some groceries.
During these same years, daily prayer in homes and public schools was the norm. People looked out for people in terms of safety. Survival and securing basic needs were the norm, too.
Early one morning, 1941, when I was three years old, my mother called each of her four children to her side. “My children, this morning we have no food. Look, see our cupboards are bare – no bread, no milk, no more dry rolled oats for cereal, and no raw carrots or potatoes either,” she said. “Children, Jesus will take care of us. Let’s ask him for some money so we can buy some food, because I know he will hear us.” We prayed. She then spoke softly saying, “We must go to the door and check to see if God has blessed us.” That we did.
Sure enough, God did provide us with breakfast, because on the small concrete slab under the stoop, one shiny 50-cent piece glistened. With that experience, my faith in the actuality of miracles firmly rooted in my life! That 50-cent piece was just enough to buy a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and some dry rolled oats at the little market on the highway about two miles away. We had breakfast! That was the first miracle of God in my life that I remember, and it was just the beginning of many, many miracles of the living God to impact my life.
Now then, there was one significant difficult relationship for me in my early childhood years ... no doubt about it. I did not like other children getting all of my mother’s attention. She was always taking care of other preschool children. Occasionally, one or two other preschoolers slept in our one-room house at night. Consequently, I found mischievous things to do, like using crayons to create long curvy lines on interior and exterior walls of our house and the public school building were she started the first public school preschool (1943) in Fontana, California.
If that were not enough, at four years of age, I had all of the preschool girls get in a long line and come forward one girl at a time so that I could teach them how to kiss short and long kisses. I had never seen my father kiss my mother, and I rarely saw him anyway. However, I had seen several Cowboy movies at a local theater (non-compliant with our Church rules). That is where I learned what kissing was and thought, "If my favorite Cowboys such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, could kiss their women, so could I". Can you believe that I was caught doing my kissing thing? Yup! That was one time when I visited my Grandmother Hartmann in Glendale, California.
Grandmothers, you know, have eyes that do not miss anything! My grandmother cringed when she saw me kissing her neighbor’s daughter, age three, under the picnic table in the back yard! My Grandmother scolded me good saying, “Ronny, don’t you ever kiss girls again! You are a very naughty boy!” Shucks – that ended my kissing spree as a preschooler.
Well, needless to say, I loved sugar-cubes when I was five years old. My mother told me not to ride my little bicycle to the neighbor’s house about one-half mile away. Why not? The boy who lived at that house told me that his mom had sugar-cubes ... way up high in the kitchen cupboard.
Contrary to my mother’s instructions, I went to the boy’s house when my mother left to take some children home. He told me his mother had gone to town. This was my long-awaited opportunity to suck on some sugar cubes. I thought, of course, that his mother would never know!
Most likely, you can already visualize and hear the rest of the story … it is true, there really were sugar-cubes high up in the kitchen cupboard, in the cupboard that was not in my house. When my mom came home, I was not there. Terribly worried, she was ready to call the police, afraid that I may have been kidnapped. Then she saw me riding toward our house on our sandy twig-strewn driveway. “Ronny, where have you been? Did you go to the neighbor’s for sugar-cubes? Ronny, did you?” Her eyes were very big - wide open ... and that was enough to engrave shame right into my emotions. “Ronny, I bought a Popsicle for you! I was worried to death! Since you did not obey me … no Popsicle for you!” With that, I began to cry repentant tears, and I got the Popsicle! Of course, Popsicles would not last long in those days at our house because we did not have a refrigerator, only a small ice box ... if the "ice man" brought ice ... and my mom could afford the ice.
When my mother considered all of my pranks, kissing and all of the wild crayon activity, she had more to deal with than she wanted, given all of her other responsibilities. At five and a half years old, it landed me in the Fontana, CA public school kindergarten! My teacher had to figure me out and "mother" me a bit. I cried for the first three weeks in kindergarten, because it separated me even more from my mother! As it was, I spent as much time as I could hiding under my mother's dress.
The moral of that story is: children naturally learn how to manipulate their parents. However, children need their mothers and fathers, too. I told you that I was not always a “good” boy, and it is true; I did not always make “right” choices. Can you see Ronny's behavior pattern developing? I wonder if I am the only child who is/was like this. What do you think?
Here I am, seven years old with my dog, Happy! She was my best friend and became such a special member of our family as a tiny puppy when I was just four years old.
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