Monday, October 24, 2011

Carving with a sharp knife

It's funny how much a child can remember about people who passed through her life, then moved on, never to be seen again. I'm thinking now about a man named George. (I remember his last name, too, but won't say it here.) He was my divorced mother's boyfriend when I was about seven or eight years old.

Here's a photo of handsome George, an expression of concentration on his face as he carved a Halloween pumpkin for my little sister and me:

I don't know how long George was a part of our lives. It seemed like a very long time, but when I think back now about the vast span of time between the Christmases of my childhood, I realize his relationship with my mother--with all of us--may not have lasted as long as I thought it did.

George took us along sometimes when he went out with my mother, and he visited us at home (where we lived with my grandparents) often. I remember one of those visits more than others.

George was a policeman. One day he drove up in his patrol car, parked it near the end of the driveway, and left it with the motor running while he sat on the front porch longer than he should have and visited with Mother and my grandparents. When the radio in his car began chattering, George ran to his car, listened for a moment, waved a quick goodbye, then drove away.

He didn't go far. Seconds after he left, he pulled into our next-door neighbor's driveway. The neighbor lady had hosted a card party that night, and while George was sitting on our front porch, someone had climbed through the neighbor's window, stolen the contents of her guests' purses, stuffed the purses with leaves, and fled. This all happened on the other side of a tall hedge that bordered our driveway, but no more than twenty feet away from where we sat.

Considering that plenty of fallen leaves were available for purse-stuffing purposes, I'm thinking that this incident and the pumpkin-carving event must have taken place no more than a few weeks apart.

However long George was around, his role in our lives ended abruptly. I remember feeling disappointed that he wasn't coming over anymore and sad that he hadn't told my sister and me goodbye. I don't remember what Mother told us at the time, but I'm quite sure she didn't tell us the truth.

I mentioned George to my mother once, not many years before she passed away, and she told me then what had really happened. She'd discovered that George was married. He wasn't the first man who had lied to her and wouldn't be the last.

It's funny how much a child can remember about people who passed through her life, then moved on. It's funny how someone can cut a tiny hole in a child's spirit and never even know it.


  1. That's a sad story. At least you had good memories-judging from what I read in the newspaper these days, a lot of men do far worse than lie to a woman and break her kids' hearts.

  2. This is so sad...Ditto what Janet said~

  3. In the grand scheme of things, this didn't have a huge impact on my life--unless it was one of many things that led to still unresolved trust issues. What made me sad when I ran across this photo today is the awareness of how much more frequently this scenario plays out now than it did 60 years ago. There are so many more single moms now, so many more opportunities for children to get attached.

    And, on another note, one reason I felt some attachment to this man was that he spent so much time at our house and, therefore, with my sister and me. Of course, he did! That was a whole lot safer for him than taking Mother out in public.

  4. Linda,

    I remember a painter who did some handiwork and painted some rooms of our house a couple of times over a couple of years. His name was Mr. Estes (I have no idea what his first name was as I would not have been allowed to call him by his first name) and I was about 7 when he came into my life. You could not tear me away from him, much to my parents' amusement. He was funny and he talked with me like I was a person, not just a kid. He'd patiently answer each and every one of my "What are you doing?" and "Why?" questions and he'd listen to me go on and on about whatever was on my mind. He also pull quarters out of thin air, including from behind my ear. He had a buzz cut of very short grey hair and a round friendly face. I absolutely adored him and he most patiently allowed me to be his little shadow. Thank you for prompting those very fond memories of my Mr. Estes.

  5. Alison, what a sweet memory! I guess I should have mentioned in my post that it's also funny how much joy a person passing through a child's life can bring to that child, because that's certainly true. Hm. Maybe the feeling that's left with the child when that person leaves depends on the child's expectations.

  6. At least your Mom saw through this guy finally. Hope you are having a great retirement. I am in a dilemma trying to decide if I should work one more year. It is easy to say 'this is it' but when you say it, you can not go back when you have a contract job. I hope I can muster one more year.

  7. Betty, I know someone else who is in your situation, struggling to decide whether to retire or to work a little longer, so a question for both of you: Do you feel that your job (a) adds to the quality of your life or (b) diminishes it? In my case, I had begun to resent the time I spent on my job because there were so many other things I'd rather be doing, and the pay wasn't enough to make it worth my while to stay. Retirement took a while to get used to, but I'm enjoying it very much now.

  8. Jeez. I was liking ol' George, and wondering why I never remembered you talking about him before, until I got to the end of your post. :(

    He has a nice face in the photo, but knowing that his wedding ring was probably in his pocket the whole time kind of spoils the Norman Rockwell vibe, doesn't it?

    Sorry, Mom.

  9. Kim, I'm sure George brought more enjoyment into my life than he did disappointment. Must have sucked for Mother, though.


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