(Right now, I’m focusing on my memoirist work that I’ll call, simply, “Pictures of Tommy” -- all about my psychotic brother and his legacy. If so inclined, please share, and tell me what you think. . . )
So of course, parents back in the day didn’t question whether Johnny or Mary were feeling good about themselves -- or indeed, whether they were really learning. I started feeling bad about myself around the second grade. I went to Catholic school. In between spelling, penmanship, and learning the “times tables,” we had first Holy Communion classes, where I’d ask the awkward questions about the sixth commandment: What’s adultery?
The priest answered, “Children don’t need to be concerned about that.”
I was the sensitive kid who’d cry often and try to hide it. I was the pudgy girl who sat in the back, reading, writing, drawing. My favorite story was about “Sarah and the Adventures of the Ruby Ring,” which I wrote about a fictitious twelve-year-old, a person I’d longed to be: smart, thin, self assured, popular with the ghosts in the graveyard.
And then, my big brother had a psychotic episode, wound up in the hospital, then was transferred to Creedmoor State Hospital -- the official loony bin of Queens County, New York. My family spoke about it all in angry, hushed tones, leaving my little sister and me in the dark, confused and hurt.
We saw little of my brother Tom at all from the years I was in junior high and high school.
Then, in high school, I started hanging out with boys and getting high. . . which didn’t help matters at all.