The Beginning of My Parent’s Perceptions
I was told that, at the age of two, a high school boy who had a way with kids took my pictures as a photographer and that he always found a way to make me smile. My parents treasure the pictures that he took in which I looked like a porcelain doll.
“[A] quiet child, you know, they’re the difficultest ones sometimes” (Kincaid 92)
Two was the age when I clung to Mom and hid behind her legs. When I was four my parents said I would “talk to a tree” and that I would tell any stranger I met all that I knew about my family’s remembrance. But I soon reverted to my former state. Some people do not see life as a challenge. Some people prefer the Epicurean way, “Don’t worry, be happy” way. I suppose I have always felt challenged because I was shy and the time when you are shy, there is always yourself to overcome. Always. Being shy taught me a lot about secrets. I learned that many held the secret to being outgoing and would not, and in fact, could not share the secret with me because they did not know they harbored a secret. I have since taken people in a journalistic fashion, believing that everyone holds a clue, a puzzle piece, that everyone is a riddle to figure out before moving on to the next step in the treasure hunt for the Answer. I have since learned the secret to being outgoing and the trick was to be comfortable with myself. I have since then learned that the secret, for the greatest part, lies in me too and that I too cannot tell myself what it is because I do not know what secrets I have.
Austin Modderman and Emma Leigh Modderman
Austin Modderman, my grandfather, over 6 feet tall, was a lieutenant police officer. I admired his stature since I knew him as a toddler. When he retired he could not fully retire and continued to work at the night court. He grew up on a tobacco farm. Dad sees people in three ways: smart, stupid, and low self-esteem. Grandpa fell under Dad’s category of low self-esteem because when they would hang out Grandpa would open up his wallet and brag about the fact that it held four 500 dollar bills. He would tell Mom, “All this is yours,” as if promising her a kingdom. He promised to give Mom her birthright when he died, but when the time came his wife, Emma Leigh Modderman, asked Mom to sign over her birthright and Mom did. When April McCoy, Mom’s cousin, found out about her giving up her birthright she was so upset that she teared up because it just wasn’t right.
He was the most adamantly against Mom’s adopting me because he claimed that she must have been that “hard up” in order to resort to adoption. After I had been adopted though, he was so proud of me that every time we came over to visit he would take me off to visit every single person he knew in the town, especially women. Once, he showed me the local jail, I was told, because I do not remember it.
Mom was never very close to him after the age of 11 or so because she thought that he divorced Grandma, Caroline McDonald, because he did not love Mom. His funeral was attended by many other police officers, and they all lined up to honor him, I was told, since I did not attend. Emma Leigh Modderman, my step-grandmother, was an oddball. Grandpa divorced Grandma because Emma was so beautiful and young. After he married her, she became domineering, and he regretted marrying her, but he had too much pride to divorce her. Once he called Grandma up, saying that he wanted to discuss Mom’s future, when in reality he came crawling back to her on his hands and knees, but Grandma would not give in despite the fact that she never stopped loving him.
He died when I was four. When he died, and while she was dying, Grandma Emma’s family got fed up with her selfish demands. She became so lonely that she would call up Grandma. Grandma found it odd, but was too nice to blow her off. The thing I most remember about Emma was that she had a huge collection of dolls and stuffed animals that I was not allowed to touch. She promised to give them to me when she died, but they were sold. She was very weak when she died, skinnier than Grandma ever was. I remember seeing her one last time, and she was so weak that she dropped a cigarette on her lap, and we all panicked trying to get it out. One time, before I can remember, she took me to visit a cemetery for the heck of it. Dad was infuriated, told her never to do it again, and never told Mom. It might have foreboded my intense fascination with ghosts in elementary school.
- Kincaid, Nanci. Balls. New York: Algonquin Books, 1998. 92.
- Christie (kristina64.wordpress.com)
- When Jamie Smiles (ncdads.org)
- Lilly Recommends Some Fun Toddler Books to Check Out (everybodyneedsalittleromance.com)