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Tales of Triumph: Flying through Turbulence

As told to Riva Pomerantz

You know what turbulence feels like, when it seems pretty certain that the plane is going to fall away from under you and your heart is thumping somewhere around your knees and you’re praying like your life depends on it? If you’re nodding your head right now, then you’ll be able to at least identify somewhat with this next line: My childhood was one long, painful turbulence.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

abstarctIt wasn’t just the friction that made my parents forever embroiled in long, drawn-out battles, silent cold wars, and heated arguments. It wasn’t just the poverty in our home that resulted in my classmates ridiculing me for the secondhand clothes I needed to wear. It wasn’t only the tension of my brother’s medical condition and the anxiety we all had about his failing health. It was also the deep, raw fear that kept me up at night wondering: What was the next hurdle that lay in store for me?

I learned to walk through the front door after school and take the “temperature” of my home. What was the expression on my mother’s face? Was my father scowling? Had my older sister shut herself up in her room and locked the door? All these were my clues that it was best to become completely invisible and make as little trouble as possible. I’d wait for another opportunity to ask Mommy to sign my test (not exactly the best of grades, as usual!), and I certainly wasn’t going to tell her that I had lost my navy sweater!

Much of the time, I was assuming the neglected role of mother to the rest of my siblings, being that my own mother was way too overwhelmed with life to take much care of us. I was cooking entire suppers by age ten, and I could change diapers by seven. I could do floors and windows and put up a cholent. My father called me his “little balabusta,” but every time he said it there was a catch in his voice. I think he felt partially guilty for my needing to grow up so fast and so differently than the rest of my friends.

 

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