…My first recollection of “it” was when I was 3 years old, on X-Mas morning, 1959:
Looks like an idyllic scene at first blush, doesn’t it? Mom leaning into the picture, older sister smiling ever-so-slightly, shiny new GIRL’s bicycle and a new record player in the background, hands clutching a new doll; fuckin’ Norman Rockwell, right?
Well, not so FAST, Kids — lemme play Paul Harvey here and tighten my readers up on “The Rest Of The Story”…
Uh-hunh, that’s yours truly, Little Dickie there, footie pajamas, big load in my pants and all — let’s zoom in with our Analyze-Meter, shall we?
We’ll start with Mommy Dearest first. All smiles, right — but EXACTLY how come? ‘Cause BOTH Mom & Dad are on their respective third highballs mostly — I mean — doesn’t ANY proper celebration of The Birth of The Late JC start out with a drink and a toast to the man? It did where *I* came from — and if ONE drink was GOOD, then THREE drinks is — a good START!
Mom put the Pall Mall Unfiltered aside for a quick second, right alongside her drinkie-winkie, so she could step in and try her best Photo Bomb; she was the GRAND MASTER of turning a frown upside down ANY & EVERY time there was a camera in the area!
Dad, on the other hand, didn’t give TWO SHITS about anybody pulling off a “scowl capture” on HIS pug-mug — WWII vet who came back from the Pacific Theater with a .30 caliber Japanese sniper bullet STILL in his forearm; LIFETIME smoker & drinker who had to put up with Mom’s incessant & nefarious efforts to “make him into the man that SHE thought he should be”; drove 90 minutes to work and back EVERY fuckin’ weekday — to NEWARK, no less; in retrospect, I guess I shouldn’t blame him TOO much for being Mr. Curmudgeon. During the infamous “Newark Riots” of 1967, he drove into work and back with a .12 gauge shotgun on the passenger chair of his ’64 Biscayne wagon, but that’s a whole ‘NUTHER Oprah!
And then there’s dear old Sis — she’s the one with the smarmy gloat on her face. Why? ‘Cause SHE is the proud new owner of that shiny bicycle, that scha-weet phonograph that she NEVER EVER let ME play, that Baby-Wets-Her-Britches Doll that she’s clutching with possessive pride — but MOST of all, ’cause yet again, here was proof-positive that SHE was Mommy & Daddy’s FAVORITE…
Then there’s ME — I was six fuckin’ years old before I found out that my name was really “Dick Jones” and NOT “The Mistake”. Back in those days, if you were the dumb-lucky bastard that popped out the hole LAST in your respective “Cleaver Family”, with more than a 2 year spread between you and an older sibling, ever’BODY above the age of eight just KNEW that you were “the mistake”. And in lower middle class America in the ’50s & ’60’s, that meant that you were an unplanned-for fiscal LIABILITY!
So — “Merry Fuckin’ Christmas, Dickie-Do — now here’s YOUR present — a 3rd-hand piece o’ shite plastic guitar that I snatched outta the pawn shop window on my way home last night, paid for with the money I had left over after my Fifth of Seagram’s Seven Crown & carton of Marlboros purchase; pay no attention to that big crack across the front of it — whaddya want for 59 cents?”
I’ll never forget what Sis said to me after the X-Mas festivities were over with; exactly 90 seconds after she opened HER 152 presents and I got my unwrapped Roy Rogers six-string — the one with the big crack across the face from some John Belushi/Animal House “smash the guitar on the stairwell” re-enactment in ITs recent past: “See — Mom & Dad like ME better!” Like *I* needed to hear THAT news-flash from HER!
But the “cherry on the Sundae”, following the obvious look of bewilderment on my face in this shot (“Uh — this is IT, Mom & Dad? This is MY X-Mas present?”) was Dad’s “send-off”, as he walked outta the house to go spend the rest of HIS day & night drinking & playing poker with his pals, were his parting words: “ONE more SYLLABLE about your present, and I’ll take you back to the orphanage where I GOT you from, and get another one looks JUST like you!”
It started early…