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Secrets of My Childhood

I think that you are thinking that I will talk about my abuse as a child again. Gossip was for adults and we children were supposed to leave the room unless there was no place else to go and then we children learned something.. There were many words that described concepts that we weren’t supposed to know about or understand like war, rape, divorce.

Sex was to remain a secret until you were married unless there was something your parents had to prepare you for like menstruation or buy you special clothing for like jock straps and bras, erections, and ejaculation and then they usually took you by surprise. Then came secrets like prostitution, homosexuality and being gay. Finally, the secrets were about usually (married) affairs. Sexual abuse wasn’t known then and therefore not detected just accepted especially in families where this was a way of life, brothers and sisters, uncles and nieces, next door neighbors and young boys. Secrecy promoted this type of behavior because it was kept in the dark where it often happened. Thus some children became afraid of the dark.

Money often remained a secret until you grew up. You might earn money babysitting or delivering newspapers or have an allowance. These were somethings you couldn’t negotiate, just accept. Bills were secretly argued over. Loans and mortgages were scary things and nobody knew what your dad’s salary was usually except him, maybe your mom, and his boss. If there was a budget at all, you wouldn’t know about it unless it was something like this. When your parents said, “This won’t” fit in our budget. When college came. It was either we can afford it or we can’t afford it and once you got there you might notice that some students had more money to spend on snacks, clothes, and maybe a car. Also, those with more money were often in sororities and frats and lived in sororities and frat houses. I learned my randomly chosen roommate my freshman year had money because she had matched sets of bras and panties in different colors.
What’s it like now?

War and political conflict was another type of secret. I would read these familiar words in the newspapers when I was nine or ten but I didn’t understand them I knew they were bad like the Korean War was but all I knew was that they were bad and I wanted them to be over. Things like wars cast a dark shadow over my life. I knew it was bad for us but I didn’t understand it and I was glad when it was over. I was lucky almost no one in my family participated in either of these wars when I was a child. I didn’t understand, who, what for, why, or how. I just knew it was bad and again it created a dark cloud hanging over my life and I wanted it to be over.

Obviously, there were a lot of best-kept secrets during the war (WWII and possibly the Koran War). “Loose lips sink ships.” Turning off lights at nite so the enemy couldn’t see our towns and highways from the air. Not getting war news until after the fact. Doesn’t seem to happen now, but it does make sense. I remember the news breaks at the movie theater. There was no TV just radio. Before that it was postcards. Telephones and electricity weren’t installed everywhere.

Finally, all I knew at that time was that I wasn’t to keep secrets although others were keeping them from me. The first thing that I learned to do about this was to listen at the cold air radiators in the floor of our house or I just perked up my ears in my room as my parents often talked things over in their bedroom next to me or sat down at the kitchen table which was just down the hall. I knew more than they thought I knew. I learned the scary details about our finances like when my Dad co-signed a loan so his younger brother could run a gas station. Then it failed and his brother sold off the stock and spent the money leaving my dad and his older brother holding the bag.

I learned to keep secrets when I consistently got into trouble in grade school and did not give my parents the notes my teachers wrote and sent home from school. I learned my parents were not very sympathetic and kept my worries and troubles to myself. When I got older my girlfriend and I giggled when we kept secrets from my grandfather when we were in the backseat of his car and he was taking us someplace. We thought our silly secrets were fun. We didn’t know that much then.

Do we keep so many secrets from our children now? Maybe they know too much and begin to worry a lot more at a younger age than in the past. Sometimes us adults get so much news, that we can’t think of anything else. Just like surprise parties some things are best when they are kept secret until the proper moment.

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