Because I had a sort of free day, I took advantage of the situation to go through picture boxes. It took me over four hours, but I sorted pictures into piles for each of my kids, my brother and one of my sisters. When possible I wrote names, dates, and places on the backs, as appropriate.
I also found my report card from Fifth Grade. I was an average student, with As and Bs in Language, Spelling, and Arithmetic, with Cs and then Bs in most other subjects. The one check mark (indicating needs improvement) was in completing work on time. Report cards had spaced for parents to write their own comments. For the first reporting period, Mother wrote this:
Although we can help [Ray] with some basics (flash cards, reading aloud) about the only way we can help his study habits here at home is to continue to foster a general sense of responsibility. The most important aspect of his development is his current willingness to participate at all. Having always before been completely withdrawn, hehas begun to show a willingness to communicate only in recent months. Under your leadership this tendency has progressed much faster than we expected.
I was barely 10 years old at first grading period of that school year. It was also the first year I was eligible to join Glee Club, which I enjoyed. And it was my first year having a male teacher, Mr. Carl Fuchs. Reading Mother’s note tells me what I’ve long suspected, or at least underscores it — that I grew up somewhere on the spectrum and remained undiagnosed. In my school days the term Mother often used was that I was “not living up to my potential.” My IQ scores in 5th grade were very high (148), which has nothing to do with my ability to interact with others.
My parents’ concept of instilling a ‘general sense of responsibility’ was to assign household chores including some rather contrived tasks; like, that year I was made responsible for sweeping the driveway and front walkway, every morning before school. Who the fuck takes a push broom and sweeps the driveway every fucking morning? And because it had paving similar to the street, it was asphalt and didn’t sweep as easily as the concrete front walkway. Also, two or three times a week, I’d come home from school and find one or more loads of laundry dumped on my bed, which I had to fold before being allowed to play with the neighborhood kids or do any homework that I brought home (which was rare, as I recall). So, when other kids were playing after school, I had chores. My brother got to hang out with his friends, but I was often told “If your friends wanted to play they would call or come over; go to your room and find something constructive to do.” In all my school years, I can only remember two or three times anyone came over to play with me. More often I went to other kids’ homes to play. And since Mother was often drinking, my home wasn’t a place I really wanted to invite anyone over to anyway.
Whatever socializing problems I have, I suspect much of it was given to me early on, long before I had a sense of the actual dynamics involved.
I didn’t spend a lot of time reminiscing through the pictures. Mostly I just wanted to go through them and get them sorted. The project has been nagging at me for several years, and I’m glad it is done.