Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Never enough quarters in her pocket to put gas in the tank, always a passel of kids swarming around her, the inborn taste of Fifth Avenue with a Lower East Side pocketbook. This was the fate of my mother when I was young. I don't think she ever got to shop alone. And worse yet, she didn't get the luxury of shopping for herself.  For most of my childhood, necessity was the mother of all purchases.

I was number six of seven children, the middle of three little girls born at the tail end of the stream, the three of us being less than two years apart from each other. Her kids came in two batches, batch one was old enough to be in college or out working, while we in the second batch were too young to stay home alone, so most often when Mom went shopping, we went shopping. 

Ann Marie was quiet, intelligent, dutiful and obedient.  Always trusted then, and worthy of all trust to this day.  Lib was also obedient, and intelligent, and happy, and though she was the youngest she was not a whiny spoiled kind of kid.  And then there was me.  I know now that there were issues with my brain, ADD, aka. Attention Deficit Disorder. But we did not know it then. I think it came on when I was 5 years old and skated around on a patch of ice on the back porch.  I got so dizzy I fell smack on my face on the cement.  Passed out for a while, though no one knows how long.  I just remember coming to, lifting myself off the frozen ground and walking into the kitchen.  I stood at the top of the basement stairs and called down to Mom, who was doing laundry.  The scent of Tide and warm air of the dryer vent washed across me as I stood there., reeling.  “Mom,” I moaned, “I think I fell.”  Next thing I knew I was at the doctor, who told us I was not allowed to sleep for 24 hours.  Mom sat up with me all the night through, patting my hand to wake me up, playing games and feeding me Popsicles and pudding.  Next morning I was weepy weary, and my whole face was black and blue.  I still have a little bump on the right side of my forehead from where I fell.  I think it caused frontal lobe damage.  I am not joking.

Anyway, I had attention issues.  And I suffered from ITI - Irresistible Tactile Inquisitiveness.  

I remember loading into the old station wagon and heading down Broughton Road, down to the bottom of the road where it intersected with Curry Hollow. This was in the era of  belching steel mills along the rivers of Pittsburgh PA.  The  streets and buildings were dirty, windows filmed with coal smoke.  The evening air was pungent, a rosy glow lighting the horizon over by South Hills Village when they poured the slag off the rail cars. Down at the bottom of Broughton Road someone had strung the black plastic letters of a street sign with this tongue in cheek message:
Welcome to beautiful downtown Broughton.

Broughton did not have a downtown to speak of.  And beauty was not in its Chamber of Commerce description. But, by golly, it did have Daniel’s Hardware Store! Just the mention of that name makes my middle tingle, my eyes close, my head lay back just a little as I inhale, hoping to find in my memory banks that familiar scent of shaved metal and grease and plastic, with the occasional waft of bubble gum we got for a penny from the gumball machine.  Lovely, lovely aroma of creative potential!  I adored Daniel’s Hardware!  Aisles of bins, nuts and bolts and odd shaped thinga-ma-bobs, and dowels of all sizes and piles of balsa wood and Exacto knives.  Model paints and clothes pins and glue and wire and oh so much that could be used to make something or other.  My mind went crazy imagining what I could do if I only had a five dollar bill! 

We visited Daniels regularly, as Mom was the resident handy man at our house.  But it was at Christmas time that my imagination flung about like a wild horse.  My hands could not resist touching…everything!  Mom devised the most effective method of dealing with this ADD - ITI child of hers.  Outside the store, before we pulled on the old worn wood handle and heard the hanging bell jingle our arrival, Mom instructed me to grasp the pointer finger of my left hand with my right hand.  I was to hold that finger with my hand until we went back to the car, or at least until I got the penny for the gumball. It took years for me to understand that she was keeping both my hands busy.  My eyes could look all they wanted, but my fingers were out of the bins and off the shelves.

Genius mother.

I’m thinking now that it might not be a bad idea for me to pull out the old trick on myself when I go shopping next time.  Think of all the money we would save!

And better yet, I could just hold that old index finger next time I head for the fridge as well.


  1. I love picturing little you holding your finger. You had to have been the cutest most entertaining child ever!

  2. Hey, do you think that trick would work for the computer for the Amazon Fairy? Just saying!! Great Idea Gram!!