Watching from my living room the vehicles lights as they made there way through the falling snow last Friday night. I was suddenly conscious of the fact that I couldn’t tell who any of the vehicles occupants were. Most were pickups or suv’s towing snow sleds on trailers headed for moose head lake for some snowmobiling, but some no doubt were neighbors going to or from home. The cars and trucks today all seem to look alike to me, no distinguishing features to tell them apart. Some different from where I grew up, or maybe it was when I grew up. Living on a dirt road in a small town in southern Maine in the fifties there wasn’t much traffic going by, especially at night in a snowstorm. My brother and I would always run to the window when ever we heard a vehicle coming and most of the time could tell who was driving, even at night. We could tell by the shape of the car or by the tail lights who might be passing our house in the dark. Those were different times, good times for the most part, a slower more laid back way of live. But they also harbored a darker side, a side that doesn’t come up often in conversation when people talk about the “good ole days”. I don’t think it even had a name back then, today we call it domestic violence.
This subject that is so much in the news lately, and that has directly affected one of our own members, was quite common place as I grew up. So I would like to take the time to relate a story from my childhood. A story that after fifty plus years is still vividly played out in my mine.
My family like so many others back then would get together on the weekends to play cards. This particular night everyone had come to our new home that my mother and father had just finished building. There was to tables of adults in the kitchen playing “63” and us kids playing games in the living room. The game of ‘63” is played with partners, who take turns bidding on the possible worth of their combined hands plus the five cards in the ‘kitty” which goes to the winning bidder. The cards have values attached to them which add up to a total of 63 points, thus the name of the game. On this particular night my aunt kept messing up the play of her cards causing her and my uncle to not make there bid. In short they were losing. My uncle then announced that he had to take my aunt outside and have a talk with her. I remember them coming through the living room and going out into the cold night air of winter onto a entrance way we had on the front of the house. What followed was a lot of yelling, then a “slap slap” sound that all us kids could hear from where we were playing. The outside door then opened, letting in a blast of cold air as my aunt came running into the house, followed in a few minutes by my uncle. My aunt was crying and her face was bright red as she took her place at the table. My uncle as he sat back down in his chair simply said “Alice is ready to play cards now”. As I stood in the door way to the kitchen I could see my mother and the other woman were all kinda looking down at their cards and making small talk, but they said nothing about what had just happened. My dad and the other men were all chuckling and making wisecracks, my favorite uncle even saying that women need a “tune-up” every so often.
This incident was only one of many over the years, but for some reason this one always stands out in my memories. I can’t ever imagine a situation today where a group us were gathered and something like this were to happen and no one was to say anything. Gains in domestic violence have been made. I don’t believe kids today grow up thinking its cool to smack your partner around? But us baby boomers sure did. My best friend from school days, the best man at my wedding went on to kill his girl friend after a messy break up and her dating some one new. I found myself one night standing at that fork in the road, only seconds away from joining my friend after a breakup in my own marriage. What is the difference in two kids that grew up together, surrounded by the same influences, one kills the other doesn’t. I think in our cases the underlying difference was in our parents, especially our mothers. Mine installed in me a sense of values that have serve me well all my live, a sense that I couldn’t do something that would let her down. Thanks mom.
As gobbler so amply put it at KK’s gathering. There but for the grace of God go I.