9 min read

Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Growing Up

Honestly, my memory of growing up is hit-and-miss. As I begin writing I'm hopeful there will be more to share.

My early childhood was filled with trauma and I've been told that I wasn't a very happy child as I worked through all the adjustments to my forever family. Remember, my bio-mom mothered me, nursed me, and did many motherly things until I was removed from her care. I was abruptly and tragically taken from her arms and taken by a stranger (the Social Worker) and left in a strange place where I would remain until I was 21 months old. My bio-mom was visibly pregnant with my bio-brother (Tom) when her parental rights were severed by the Lorain County Courts. Her mother (my bio-grandmother) refused to keep me ... she also refused to allow my mother to keep me. Since my bio-mom was a minor, her mother was granted the right to make the final decision to remove me from the family. The Court also severed my bio-mom's rights over my bio-brother before he was born. She was forced to surrender him to the State immediately at birth.

Earliest Memory

There was a wooden high chair with a teddy bear painted on the tray. I remember sitting in it in the kitchen; I was probably close to 3 years old. That particular day the sun was shining in the window above the sink. On my tray was a bowl of Rice Krispies drenched in milk. I remember being very upset because the milk got warm in the sun and I didn't want to finish it. Of course, Mom wasn't happy! I don't remember who won that skirmish though I like to think my determination prevailed!

Mom told me the first thing I ever ate for them (after several days of refusing all food) was a bowl of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti. As I think back, I must have been super hungry. Apparently I liked it so much that it became a staple in my diet through my early childhood.

My Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Pape, lived across the street from us. She more or less took me under her wing although I remember her being very strict in the classroom. I grew up afraid of her and hated it when my Mom made me visit or take her cookies or a gift.

I was shy as a child, and very self-conscious. I remember always being nervous and worried I'd get in trouble. I'm not sure if it was because I felt unstable in my forever home after being severed from my bio-mom, but I was always wound tight. That said, I learned to love life as a child but I was always on edge. My need to always win the approval of the adults in my life stemmed from my trauma as an infant.

Welcome to Early Puberty

The day puberty knocked at my door caught me by surprise. Our Brownie (or Girl Scout – I don't remember) Troop had gone to the Cleveland Health Museum where we met the "invisible woman" model, listened to a nurse lecture about the maturing female anatomy, and watched a film about a young teenaged girl with her first period. Mom assumed I was prepared; I simply was not at age nine. It's one thing to watch a movie and a totally different thing when it happens to you!

I remember the day fairly well. We had been playing in the snow. Leslie Nyland who lived next to the Stevens family only three houses north of us. He had made a huge snow mound equipped with a step ladder for us to climb to the top with our snow toys. All the neighborhood kids were at his house taking turns sliding down the mound of snow far into the yard (it was quite a ride!!) only to be stopped by a growing puddle of mud. By the time I went home, I was both snowy and muddy and Mom immediately insisted I go to the basement to change before coming in the house.

I remember being in the basement and changing my clothes. The tell-tale sign of puberty was there in my underwear. But, it didn't look like blood – it looked like the mud at the bottom of the snow mound!!! I was convinced I somehow had gotten mud in my private area when we were playing in the snow! I tried to hide the evidence but it just appeared again. I knew I had ruined myself for life!! I kept wiping and wiping and it wouldn't clean up!

Crying and afraid Mom would yell at me, I made my way upstairs to be confronted about my lack of lady-like behavior while playing. Instead, she hugged me and welcomed me to womanhood, took me into the bathroom and equipped me with a sanitary belt and pads.

Mom had spent that day preparing for her dinner party that evening. It wasn't long after our puberty encounter that neighborhood friends began to arrive: Coreys, Stevens, Foltzes, Nylands, Gleisners, Manganis, and others. The living room was full of people who lived on our road. I came out of our bedroom (I was still sharing a bed with Danny) to ask if I could have a snack before bed. Mom met me at the entrance to the living room, took my hand, and announced to everyone: "Janet became a woman today..." I was devastated! Now everyone knew, would go home and tell their family and all my friends would know! I literally wanted to die. I remember thinking: How could she do that to me??? Well, that was my mother! I think she was genuinely proud of having a nine-year-old woman! She never stopped to think about my feelings that ultra-traumatic day!

Growing Up In North Olmsted

We lived next to the Corey family; they had three girls. The oldest, Betty, had a hairlip and a cleft palate, was mentally handicapped, and quite older than the other two. She lived upstairs in their house and was pretty much separate from the family. Most days you could find her swinging in the backyard. The two other girls were Susan and Barbara. Sue was about 3 years older than me ... Barbara was a year older.

Next to them was the Stevens family with two adopted girls: Jill and Pamela. Jill and I were the same age; Pamela was a few years younger.

Just about any given day you could find us together doing girly things. Both Mrs. Corey and Mrs. Stevens had a treasure chest of old clothing that we loved to dig into. We would get all dressed up and parade up and down the street pretending we were some kind of royalty, I suppose. Those were fun days, to be sure!

We loved to roller skate on the sidewalks, ride our bikes all over (within our limits – most of the time), and play school! Susan, being the oldest in our group, would "teach" us on their screened-in front porch during the summer months. She was super creative as a child and ended up with a career at American Greetings in Cleveland, writing verse and designing artwork for greeting cards.

38 North Olmsted Middle School 8/29/15 ideas | north olmsted, middle ...
Butternut Elementary (Left) ... NOHS (Right)

Down the street was the Folley family. I remember three kids – Donald was the oldest (epileptic), then Beryl (my bestest friend) and Bruce her youngest brother. They were a great family and I loved spending time with them. One of my best memories was sitting on the floor in her bedroom playing Clue. Bruce would barge in and mess things up for us and we'd get so mad, chasing him down the stairs and outside!

Susan gave me a nickname derived from Danny (my adopted brother). He couldn't say "Janet" – it always came out "Nannet". So, Susan picked up on that and called me Nannet. It really didn't catch on beyond our little group of kids, but it stuck with me as a warm memory. I thought I was a bit special with a nickname given to me by Susan – I think I idolized her. She was beautiful and still is (I found her on Facebook).

I shared a room with my brother who was about 6 years younger than me. He was in a crib for the first few years and we shared a bed for a few years. It was a workable solution for a house with only two bedrooms until puberty hit. At that point, Dad began working in the attic to create a room for me. It was so hot up there that they even bought an air conditioner for me – the only one in the house. It was a God-send!!

My Own Room

I loved my room! Dad had their bedroom suit refinished in white with gold trim. It was beautiful! Since the mid-60's were phasing into a more "colorful" era, my bedspread was flowered with orange and yellow and brown print. I had curtains that matched! It was pretty wild but it was modern for that era.

I can remember on Saturday mornings, Dad would come upstairs to wake me up for breakfast. I think he was in the midst of a personal crisis during that time and found comfort in being with me. Looking back, I can easily see why – Mom wasn't always easy to live with.

There's a lot more I could say about all that but best to leave the dust of those memories where it lays.

I had a horse (large pony) named Rusty. He didn't like me and always threw me or, when I was riding him, run me under a tree branch and knock me off. Dad loved him and worked hard to keep him during the cold winters. I remember the smell of oats in a big barrel in the garage. We would take a couple of empty coffee cans filled with oats out to the shanty and spend time with Rusty when it was too cold to ride. Dad finally decided to board him at a farm on Butternut Ridge in North Royalton when it got hard for him to care for him. Danny was supposed to take care of him but he never wanted to do much other than ride (he was successful – Rusty loved him).

Other memories include School, Piano Lessons, Swimming Lessons, bus rides to Fairview with Mom to get groceries, and things like that. I'm sure I'll touch on more details as my autobiography develops!


Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen
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