Guest Writer, Cathy Klarin–Writer’s Salon

The Tastes of my Childhood

Summertime in Lido Beach.
Fireflies forts and Ring a leave e ohhhhh!
No clocks, no phones. Only the rhythm of long hot
squalid days marked by heat and wet T-shirts in
front of a fan long before wet T-shirt contests
came into being.
Blood sisters–well before shared blood was
dangerous.
Dangerous was sneaking into an abandoned
beach house to conduct our initiations. A blood
sister’s ritual.

Debbie and Donna King Beautiful, athletic sisters.
Always daring me to cross a street I knew I wasn’t
allowed to cross.
To jump off of sand dunes made steep after a
hurricane.
To tell scary stories, to swim faster,compete in
gymnastics, to tap dance.
A childhood that was filled with recitals and
competitions and secret seances.

Sharing blood in an old abandoned Beach House
with odd shaped windows and shutters shaped
like crescent moons, creaky and moldy smelling. it
was a perfect place for a seance.
Debbie was the oldest–our Leader.
Our summer plays on neighbors’ lawns selling
lemonade and rice crispy treats, drew a crowd,
or so it seemed.

Fireflies and flashlights lit the stage and props and
paintings on poster boards set the stage.
We were bold blood sisters after all.
Their father Ed always seemed to have a beer in
his hand.
Their mother Dot was always in a bathing suit.
Kids were always running in and out of the King’s
house as there were other brothers and sisters.

But beautiful Debbie and Donna King drew me
out. Forts in the sand dunes in summer, ice caves in
the winter. Dance recitals and swim team.
My mother became a lifeguard at our local pool
with Dot.

It was my Mother’s first job besides being a
Mother. Now she too was always in a bathing suit
with sand between her toes.

Secrets and initiations. There were many. Dares
and double dares.

Everything was exciting at their house.
Music was there.
Boys were there.
A piano was there.
They were studying to receive their first Holy
communion and I was mesmerized because it
was yet another secret Ritual. An initiation. I
secretly wanted to go to catechism…
The King sisters–beautiful, daring Fireflies
flashlights and handsprings

Plays.
Staying out until the last bit of light was absorbed
into the darkness, so still we could hear the
crashing of the waves and still taste the salt from our sweat, even after our Submarine Showers.
An invention of ours to take outdoor showers with
our bathing suits on with as many as we could fit
in. A fun way to play and eventually to include the
boys in our tribe. Boys. Must have been
Debbie’s idea. She was the oldest.

Yes, we’d started a tribe in those long languid
summer days when wet T-shirts and zinc oxide
ruled the day.

That wonderful summer when the Hamilton Boys
arrived. We were year round beach residents.
Back then there were many summer recruits from
the city or Sands Point–Actors and Actresses,
writers and producers.

We were blood sisters with our secret initiations
and we would practice kissing on each others
hands. Thumb and pointer finger, lips and
make our elbow folds in our arms look like our
then hairless vaginas.

But then the boys arrived–a lot of them. I think
Joe Hamilton had 8 sons. Joe Hamilton was the
producer of the Carole Burnett show and had
recently divorced his wife and was with Carol now.
With Carol and the boys we had an instant
baseball team.

We were tomboys with tap shoes because we
loved to preform. Carol encouraged us.
There was a lot of baseball and plays that
particular summer. Ironed T-shirts board shots
and either barefoot or Keds. Bangs,
surfboards, handsprings and tap shoes.

The King sisters both had long beautiful hair.
Debbie, a stunning brunette with red streaks from the salt and
summer sun, and donna a gorgeous blond.
I was still recuperating from an unwanted initiation
into boyhood given to me by a senile barber that
forgot I was a girl and gave me a boy’s summer
crewcut.

From hair I could sit on to having to have a bow
tapped to my head so people would know I was a
girl. I used to like to go topless, even then! Mr
Beriztz who came around every year to give out
our private beach tags, said ‘Happy Birthday Sonny’, and for a time my grandpa Naty called me Butch.

Having a crew cut was a pretty shocking
transition. At the end of that school year we put on
the play Noah’s ark. I was the bird that
carried Noah the leaf. Ahhh yes, was I ever
teased, and called the bald eagle for a while. I
remember trying to hide under the back seat of
our Desoto when my mother picked up a hitch- hiker.
My first real humiliation.

But it was a-okay with the Kings girls. My hair grew
over the three or four summers we spent together,
but for the time being I was cool with my Mia
Farrow type pixie cut. An they were goddesses to
me. Candles, blood, oaths of loyalty, and best of
all, they shared secret prayers of catechism
with me.

Oh how I longed to receive Holy Communion.
Could I just go? Would they let me?
You see,I was neither Jewish or Catholic. My
mother had converted to marry my jewish father.
He was not a practicing jew–almost agnostic and more of a scholar,.

But even though she had
converted to please his parents, my
grandparents, we were all baptized just in
case. Covering all the bases.

I went to church and Temple with anyone who
would take me and I more than once heard
whispers of “Just who DOES she belong to?”
“One God”, I was told in both places, but so
many rules! Who made up these rules on just how you are
supposed to love and worship God? Certainly not God.

Is there really a rule on how you are supposed to
hold your hands and pray? I remember once in
temple holding my hands together and praying
like I did in church and being told we don’t pray
like that here.

It was one of those women who had a place with
her name on it in the front of the synagogue. Was
she really any closer to God than I was having a
front row seat with her name on it?

Intrigued by the ritual and traditions of the church
and lured by the beautiful voices of the cantors. I was confused and the Blood sisters would have to do for now.

They accepted me. The girl with hardly any hair
who no one really knew “who I belonged to”. I
belonged to them.

Their mom Dot, always in a bathing suit. Their
father Ed, always with a beer in his hand.
The outdoor submarine showers with all the
Hamilton Boys. My first real kiss from my ultimate
crush Joey Hamilton. Each brother was better
looking than the next, but Joey. His younger
brother Chris who I found out recently became a
TV costume designer and died young, well he
had a crush on me. But I only had eyes for Joey.

We had a boardwalk with rides and an arcaed
and a ferris wheel back in those days.
The ferris wheel got stuck on the very top and
Joey was rocking it. I got frightened and he gave
me a nano second kiss. My first real kiss..
Debbie and Donna hadn’t even dared me on that
one, but secretly I wondered if they had
somehow stopped the ferris wheel or if Joey had
asked the machine operator to stop us at the top.

I could never find out much of what became of
Joey Hamilton.
Oh…those wonderful summers we spent playing
baseball ring a leave e o and freeze tag.
Fireflies, flashlights and initiations.
Blood sisters
Creaking houses
first kisses.

Years later when I was a PSA flight attendant, I
had Carol on a flight. Of course I knew Carol, but
would she remember me? She broke her leg
sliding into first base on one of those lazy salty
way too hot firefly lit evenings with lingering light
that seemed to stretch out like pulling taffy.
I cannot remember if the night she broke her leg
was the same night she let us taste wine.

I know it was the first time for me.
But I wonder if it was the first time for Debbie and
Donna. Their abusive father Ed always had a beer
in his hand.

Anyway, I just couldn’t help myself and I
approached Carol who was sitting in what little bit
of first class we had back in those early PSA days
of hot pants and go go boots, and I asked her if she
had been playing any baseball lately?
She looked at me and sent out a lovingly familiar
scream that I had only heard on Television in all
the in-between years of childhood and innocence
had left behind.

She had lost a daughter. What had become of
those beautiful Hamilton brothers. It wasn’t
something I was about to ask.
I was flooded with the tastes and sounds of
childhood memories. Ones that I could never
share again with the King sisters.

My Blood sisters
My seance sisters
My initiation sisters
I would never be able to share that story of seeing
Carol again with them.
I had been living for years on another coast in
another time. My mother never spoke of Dot or
the girls and I suppose I never really asked.

Then I heard that beautiful Donna had been in a
car accident and lost her arm. Gymnast, swimmer,
Diver, Dancer, Donna.
I heard she never quite recovered from that.
She lost her boyfriend, her spirit and her courage.
There was no one there to dare her or double
dare her.Those were the long ago days before
DARE programs were in schools.

She was murdered by drug dealing addicts. She
herself had become one.
Beautiful daring Donna King. I can see you doing
double flips off of the sand dunes after the
Hurricane that shared your name passed.
Where are you now my dear blood sister?
I saw Debbie about two years ago when she was
on a weekend visitation from the institution she
had been living in for years. Her mother Dot had
come to visit my mother and I just so happened to
be visiting my mom at our home on the beach that
day.

It was summer, but only my mother and I were
wearing bathing suits and t-shirts and had sand
between our toes.

Dot was obviously broken from heartache and
years of unimaginable pain. She had lost three of
her children and her abusive husband Ed.

I do not think that Debbie could recall the fire she
once had. The creatively beautiful firefly force that
she once was.

For a moment our eyes locked and tears formed
in both our eyes.
The bold fearless King Sister’s. Flawless but
already broken in their youth? They were already
pushing limits so early in their lives.
Hearts afire diminished.

I couldn’t draw on our long ago Blood sister
initiation to give her back her lost strength and
courage or even a memory to cling to.
She was too far gone.
Lost in pain and drugs and loss.
I wonder if either one of them ever knew how
much I loved them.

How much it meant that they accepted my shaven
head long before it become a statement of
something far more insidious.
How we collected fireflies in jars that guided my
many adventures in life because of the confidence
they instilled in me to be bold.
They have both been with me somehow
because of those secret and daring initiations that
somehow catapulted me into
adventures, because they encouraged my
dreams.

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