I know I am probably in the minority when I say this.
Being a kid really isn’t as easy as you think. As much as you are focused on your toys, watching GI Joe make Cobra Commander, his bitch in the early morning cartoon, taking your vitamins and saying your prayers like a True Hulkamaniac you were or you get some weird sensation when you see Kelly Kapowski on “Saved by the Bell” re-runs for the first time that makes you feel weird until you go to health class and find out that is normal and you cannot try out to be on the X-Men because you get one. You know “Childhood Innonence”… What stories like “Peter Pan” or movies like “Stand By Me” talked about.
There is so much going on the world around you don’t even know about especially involving you:
Like your teachers talking to your other teachers about your inability to talk to kids in a normal manner or talk in class without a stutter or mispronuncing words.
Other parents wondering why you can’t tie your shoes at all or why you get to carry a Tandy Radio Shack Laptop around school into class and not #2 pencils because you can’t handwrite or properly grip a writing object.
Your parents are fighting school officials over your education especially when the you were literally, a week away from being moved to The Churchill School for Kids with Learning Disabilities, where the school thinks it’s “best for you”.
When kids wonder what is wrong with you and why you have to be such a weirdo around them?
The funny thing is… you don’t notice it happening, but you still do if that makes any possible sense?
It was so frustrating having the development problems I was having. I hated myself and I was only 9 years old. There are times today I can still feel like that especially when things are bad. I always feel like it’s my fault when things happen.
I would throw pencils and papers across my desk at home out of pure anger that I couldn’t write one legible line on a piece of paper. Not one fucking sentence.
The invisible wall I felt near other kids. Because I was too scared to talk them or because they thought I was some weird kid because I talked funny and couldn’t look at them straight or saying random things that didn’t make sense. I did have a few friends who “got me” but there were to far and in between. Mostly the kids on my block in Bay Ridge.
The disappointment I felt I couldn’t have a normal conversation with other adults and worrying they thought I was some kind of deformed freak.
Crying myself to sleep some nights, wondering when you are going to be normal. But doing as quietly as possible so your parents were more worried about you.
Atleast in term of myself. Being a kid was not easy. It felt like I was in some kind of war with myself with no end in sight.
Fortunately, I had strong parents and a strong family who cared about me. My parents solution for me was simple. Get me help, force me to be more social and let me figure out ways to help myself.
Get me significant help but never during school hours, it would now have to be before or after school so kids didn’t notice. I would go to a speech therapist on mornings, and an occupational therapist in afternoons after school to address my motor skills and my social skills.
Speech Therapy was kinda annoying. It’s really about repeition. Reading and talking over and over again until you get the pronuciations right without a stammer. I had memories of one speech therapist giving me a Starburst fruit chew everything I pronounced “th” right and not like Elmer Fudd.
Occupational Therapy was kinda fun. To help my hand writing, they gave me this “Buzzy pen”. I would grip this pen and would have to follow the lines on the paper, when I veered off the line, the pen would buzz like crazy. I would grip these diffrent clays like play-doh which were designed for me to better grip objects. I learned how to tie my shoes (though I still struggle with it to this day) and I had to walk on a balancing beam for balance so I stop tripping all over the place…
My parents also sought to force me ” to interact with people” anyway they could. It was the only way to get me out of my shell.
Now one thing people didn’t worry about me was my “IQ” despite my problems. I was considered an exceptional student, who for someone at a very young age knew a lot of things beyond me years with a thirst for knowledge.
My parents capitialized on that. My dad made sure I was registered in any organized sport he could enroll me in. Football, Soccer, Basketball, and Baseball. He knew I loved sports a lot and it would be something I could ease into.
My dad knew I wasn’t particular athletic though I loved sports but he knew I was already creative and crafty to find ways to excel because I was very astute observer when I watched sports.
For Baseball, he taught me how to use my small height to my advantage by choking up on the bat and being more focused on pitch recongition because I was small meaning a tough strike zone for little league pitchers to get out and wearing them out by fouling a lot of balls. My dad with me was practicing “Moneyball” with me before Billy Beane did… I had no power but I was a still an All Star because of my batting average, hits and walks always lead the league up until my senior year in high school.
For Basketball, my dad made me take a lot of jumpers. A lot. Focused on my technique. I was never fast enough or would be tall enough to score in the paint so he made me into a pure shooter. He also made it a point for me to always play very close attention to Larry Bird, his favorite player though he was a diehard Knicks fan like I am and how he always squared up to shoot and use angles or run through screens to get open though he was also unathletic. While I was never a complete player, I had a killer jump shot and was crafty enough to be passable on defense though it was being tough being a really, really undersized pudgy shooting guard.
I would teach myself how to play Football and Soccer also excelling because of my craftiness approach to my defiencies whether it was using angles to stay ahead of faster forwards or bouncing coffin corner punts in NYC.
Not only was it designed to boost my confidence, it made me interact with other people especially being a teammate which made me more into a talker with kids.
I also used sports as a mnemoic device to help me with memory. Also as a social tool to interact with people and to analyze situations in my mind. It really helps me process because with I am so ingrained with sports always in my mind, it comes natural to me.
My mom also would take to the library, shopping in the city, museums, broadway shows and always via the train so I see more people and feel comfortable with them. She knew I was the type of person who really become observant and curious about different things, so the more “culture” I took in, the more comfortable I will be because it gives me something to talk to people about.
My family also was a big help for growing up. My aunts and uncles were very diverse… one was a grease monkey/carpenter/fireman who took no shit from anyone as was my aunt, you had the street smart aunt and uncle who were covered in Tatts who loved comic books, horror films and rap. The loud/cool uncle, The Gay Uncle who taught me how to embrace Sushi and was a great cook…
I love my Grandmother very much, but she is REALLY REALLY LOUD! I can’t watch a game when she’s over because she is TOO LOUD! But man she can cook.
Some of my best childhood memories involved weekends at my great grandparents house in Park Slope though I would get stuck to the plastic on their furniture and they put way too much sugar in the Kool Aid. My mom for a while grew up there so I understood why she liked going there. I would hang there with my cool older cousins while swimming in my grandpa’s cement pool with my parents hoping I didn’t concuss myself near the tomatoes he grew and going apeshit whenever i heard the ice cream man to the point, one time I ripped my shorts hopping the gate to get to him because I was hopped up on sugar.
Of my immediate family, I was closest to my Uncle David because me and him were alike in many ways. My uncle, David was diagnosed with schizophrenia but was harmless to a fly though he was stronger than an Ox and I seriously mean that. He lived with my grandmother. He was a wonderful man who no one could ever say a bad thing about. A better man than I ever will be. When he passed away from Leukeumia about 3 years ago afrer a year and a half battle, my family including self was devastated…It wss one of the few times I ever saw my Uncle Angel, My Uncle Felix and my brother Tony cry and they are very buttoned up about that.
He loved comics, movies, sports, TV and professional wrestling as much as I did. We went to the movies alot, my uncle believe it or not, went to more movies than I ever did to the point he occassionally would spoil the movie for me. I would get pissed but that was David being David and I loved him 🙂 He would always visit on sundays to see a movie, my mom would always make him a sandwich and my dad would talk to him about articles in the newspaper. He would always make funny jokes about grandma’s Colombian friends. I would sometimes stay at Grandma’s to watch WWF PPV’s cause my grandma had a “hotbox”… 🙂
A lot of my current traits can be traced back to him someway or another. Losing him, was the worst “loss” I have had in my life so far. I cried so much. I am tearing up right now as I write this thinking of him and not a day goes by when I don’t think about him and hope he’s up there in heaven watching over me and my family before he goes sees another movie at the Heaven Multiplex. I love him and always will.
In my later adolescence, my identity and personality started to take shape when I grew more comfortable in my skin. I started to wear my jerseys alot as a kid, everyone where I went.
Little me in a Yankees jersey or a basketball jersey everywhere regardless of there being a game or not. I also in a complete reversal of fortune, became too talkative… Seriously, I went to from mute to motormouth over the course of 3 years.
I also became a caffiene addict in the worst way at a too young age and never looked back. When I was visiting my Uncle Popo and Aunt Millie in Connecticut, I saw my Aunt Millie drinking coffee, I asked her for a sip… I never looked back from coffee.
I guess thats why I related to Goob from “Meet the Robinsons”… Caffiene addicted lil sports kids with cool trapper keepers.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of The Story of Me, Part 3, “The Goober Years”, when I was in High School!
-V. for Vinnie