Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Two

Over at Mommy’s Piggy Tales there’s a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she’s hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

When I was about 3-1/2,  we moved into a downtown loft that covered most of the top floor of a large bank. While there are advantages to such a home, like ample floorspace for riding tike bikes and easy walking access to nearby German barbecue and strudel, a distinct disadvantage is the lack of a yard. My parents overcame this with frequent trips to the park, but Easter presented a problem. The park was too crowded so my folks came up with a creative solution.

In those days, stores sold marshmallow eggs that had a hard candy shell and came in bright cellophane wrappers. My dad took a bag full of them and hid them along the railroad tracks that ran near our home. He told me we were going for a walk and grabbed my plastic pail “in case we found anything”. As soon as I spotted the first brightly colored candy egg amongst the railroad ties, I was off and running. Anyway, we lived there long enough for me to develop a love of German food and books. I received the first books I ever owned,  in the mail while we lived in that loft.

After a while, we moved to Austin so my parents could attend the University of Texas. I was enrolled in a nursery school caddy-corner from the white frame house we lived in. After a few months, my mom figured out that their “hot meals” consisted of pb&j and “educational activities” were playing outside and watching TV.  I was removed from the school and began going to classes with my parents, switching off to avoid classes where tests were being given. I sat quietly and looked at books or drew pictures. I was occasionally used as an example in my mom’s early childhood education classes. One time I attended my dad’s figure drawing class, complete with live nude model, and sat quietly on my stool, avoiding looking that direction. I was sitting so still, that one of the students who was finished, drew me on the side of her drawing. A few weeks later, when the model called in sick, I was pressed into service (fully clothed) after the student showed off her drawing and convinced the instructor I really could sit still that long.

At the university, I saw and experienced a lot of things most 4 and 5 year-olds aren’t exposed to. I saw, in addition to nude models, Hare Krishna followers, drunkeness, drug use, lewd behavior and much more. This all seemed like perfectly normal behavior for the time and location. But it wasn’t all bad. I also learned to read, learned how to make pottery on a potter’s wheel, learned how to make an etching and print it, learned a lot about art history and appreciation and developed a strong love of learning. Over the years, my parents joked about me attending college instead of kindergarten, which was a rousing start to an unconventional childhood.

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