Saturday, April 3, 2010

"The Paper Route"

One fateful day in seventh grade marked a major turning point in my life. I was walking home from school (as I did everyday) and as I approached our house, I spotted something on the front porch. Something bright, shiny, and new...It was clearly a brand new bicycle. Why was it there? Who did it belong to?  Could it possibly be mine?

I couldn't get in the house fast enough. Hoping...Knowing better, but still hoping...

"Mom! What's that on the front porch?"
"That's a new bike!"
"Whose bike is it?"
"It's your bike!"
"My bike?"
"Yes, your bike!"
"Thanks mom!"
"You are welcome!"
"I got you something else too..."
"What else?"
"I got you a paper route!"
"You start on Saturday morning!"
"Don't ever ask me for another fucking penny!"

That was the day I wrote my mother off. Any response by me would have led to something very severe. Things falling under the category of “any response” would include: arguing, asking why, crying, saying I hate you, or giving her a dirty look…..anything at all.

Looking back on it now, I never really got much from her before that day. I guess it falls under the “you can’t lose what you never had” category.

The paper route was one of the best things that ever happened to me. While my mom never did give me another penny, it made me even more self reliant than I already was. The paper route was seven days a week. Back in those days you delivered the paper by bicycle. At the end of the month you had to go out and do “collections.” You knocked on the door of every house you delivered to and asked to be paid in cash. After my first month was over I cleared a little less than 40 dollars. Seriously, I was in seventh grade, and I’d never had that much money in my life. I liked it. So I started looking for other jobs as well. Sweeping and cleaning at a local bar. Doing dirty work at a nearby hamburger place, doing odd jobs at the local cleaners. I was too young to get a work permit, so I always told them up front that I’d like to work for cash. When I was old enough, I got a job at McDonald’s and other places. I couldn’t care less about going to school and ditched all the time. But I never missed work.

For the first time in my life I was able to wear decent clothes. I was able to actually do things with other kids that required money. Before that, the only way I could do something simple, like go to movies was to go through trash cans to find soda bottles to redeem. In those days, you could take them right back to the store and turn them in for money. I think it was usually 2 or 3 cents per bottle.

Please don’t get me wrong. My life wasn’t turned completely around. I was still screwed up emotionally and did some bad and crazy things. But I always worked. The morning of the day I turned 16, a family friend took me to get my driver’s license. Later that same day, I bought a car. You’d think that my mom would be happy, or maybe even a bit proud. Nope! She was angry with me.

“What were you thinking?"
"Do you have insurance?”
“You aren’t driving that piece of shit until you get insurance!”

Growing up with my mom taught me a thing or two. What was my response to what she said about the insurance? Right, I didn’t say a single word. I just walked out of the house, got in the car and drove away. Not forever, but for a few days. When I did return, she didn’t say anything about it. I got my insurance soon after that, but it was on my timetable not hers. At this point in time, I wasn’t worried about her beating me, or screaming at me, as those things had no longer had any effect. But still, I can’t express how much I hated that woman. Well, I guess I can. And I soon will.


  1. Of all the things I could or would like to say, none of them can justify or change the horror that was your childhood. So I will say this that REALLY you and your bike in the photo above (I hope so) because that is the coolest bike I have ever seen !!! Brings back all kinds of good memories for me.

  2. Hi Vickie,
    Yup, it is I...
    Ape hanger handle bars
    Springer front in
    Built in paper rack
    whoo whoo

    An interesting childhood, to say the least!

  3. Hi Pat- I wanted you to know that I read all your post-
    Also I gave you a shout out on my blog last week for your follower title- here is the link:

  4. I am telling you, we need to see these stories in a book. They are so packed with emotion and meaning. I am glad that is you on the bike and it IS extremely cool!

  5. There's that cool bike again = )
    Here in the midwest we called those kind of handle bars monkey bars...funny how terminology differs across the states.

  6. What made her so bitter and angry? I mean in no way belittle her words and actions towards you, but it seems she was one unhappy woman. Do you know why? I may be too curious... if so, pardon me. :)

  7. Lady Ren - thanks for the mention on your blog!

    Betty - I'd like to do so, but I'd need lots of help tying it all together. (more to come also)

    Vickie - There was another name also "wilson" bars. I have no idea where that came from!

    RA - To sum it up in a few words, she was an insane prostitute with four sons, who hated men. Here a link to an ealier post. It's a pretty good thumbnail sketch of the woman.
    Thanks for reading and commenting...

  8. Aww that picture of a boy and his bike. Yet still...the horror behind it all is chilling. And to think I felt like a bad mom because I made my oldest sons go out and deliver their papers on foot, in snowstorms and all kinds of adverse weather. Then my younger boys came along & they got driven everywhere. So I wasn't fair. Ahh, the guilt!

  9. I don't know what happened to this entry. It wasn't all out of order when I posted it...
    Sorry! Gotta revamp a bit!

  10. That was weird... I read it, proofed it, and posted it. When I looked at it a few minutes ago. Things weren't where I put them....hmmmm!

    Karen - I'm happy to say I didn't have to deal with snowstorms. It seldom even rains here. I think kids should work a bit if possible! Makes them appreciate what they have a bit more.

  11. Pat, I just love reading your tales about your childhood, harsh though they were. There is something about them that just stops me dead, and I have to read more.
    You know, this could so easily be turned into a book. It reminds me a lot about the stories that Frank McCourt used to tell about his life growing up in Ireland.
    I still can't understand why you stayed around your Mother when you so easily could have left her with your brother.
    Such a sad childhood, but what a happy looking kid with his bike!
    Big hugs, Pat. It must take some guts to relate all this again.

  12. I love to read all of your posts, and they are so amazing! They sort of remind me of the stories that Frank McCourt used to relate.
    I agree with you that kids get things far too easily now. It is much better to have worked and earned them yourself, but, boy, what a life you led! Why didn't you leave your brother to see to your Mother, and go off and see the world?
    We would have all done things differently if we could go back and change things, but we have to get on with what life has thrown at us.
    Keep on writing, my friend!

  13. Hey Pat, great story dude! I can understand your pain with regards to your horrid mother because my children's mom turned into just that type of beast after our divorce and continues to be like that. Fortunately one is out of the house and another will be out soon so hopefully she won't be able to harm them anymore. My wife's mom was the same way. My hat's off to you, my friend, for surviving as well as you did.

  14. I love the picture..and the story that went with. But like most--about every one--of your stories, I'm flabbergasted after reading them..!

  15. Agreed. I think you need to write all of these childhood stories in a book of some kind. Would it be bad if I asked you want kind of car you bought?

  16. Pat, you look adorable, and that IS a very cool bike. I'm glad it brought you an ounce of freedom. If your mom were alive, I'd like to kill her. Oh, did I say that?
    Hugs to you!

  17. Thanks for reading and for all the nice words!

    Alice - Even as an adult, I guess I was still trying. I'm very good now. Still have more stories though.

    Tom - Thanks! Surviving was touch and go sometimes. She was nuts.

    Sarah - you know, some times I flabbergasted also. There's more on the way!

    Copyboy - I really would like to tie them all together. I'm looking at each story as a sort of chapter. There's several more to come. Oh yeah, the car was a 1949 Chevy Slopeback. Low and loud.
    Got many tickets for both of those things.

    Robyn - Why thanks, but how did y.... oh, you're talking about on the bike! LOL! Yup, I hated the fact that she made me start working, but I did enjoy having some transportation. There's a post coming up soon about wanting to end it all (her, not me).

  18. Thank you for the link. And thank you for sharing. :)

  19. We need precious little for freedom don't we. For you it was a bicycle and cash. For me it was the park and books, never was allowed a job of my own until I could do it as a credit in school. Not comparing, just saying. Thanks for this post Pat.

  20. RA - Thanks to you as well. Thanks for reading!

    Jhon - As strange it might seem, I also read everything I could get my hands on. It was a good way to escape. The only "real" books in our house was anencyclopdia set. I read almost every word. Too bad I fried so many brain cells afterwards. There's a blog post coming up about that subject. Encyclopedias, not brain cells...


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