Granddaddy Bill was my hero at the time. When he was around, I felt safe and at home as much as a 2-year-old could. Every afternoon meant more candy from granddaddy! The green and red peppermints and also wrapped sour balls. Seeing a bowl of sour balls brings back memories to this day. In the mind of an infant everything must seem so permanent. Like if we could remember back in more detail, we would feel as thought time went by really slow. I was enjoying my slow life of milk bottles and sour balls. Mama, Phyllis and Barney along with Granddaddy were the only life I knew.
Then along comes George Davis. I don’t remember the exact first time I met him, but the day Mama and me left Nana Avenue with him sticks with me.
“It’s okay. We’re going to go live with George in Savannah” Mama assured me with a smile. I looked up at him, a menacing form towering over me with his arms crossed in defiance of only he knows what. Smiling, at least.
I was scared, but didn’t cry. I was worried about how our stuff was going to get to Save Anna. Did George know about spaghettios? When did I get to come back here? To Orlando and Barney and Sissy (I called Phyllis ‘Sissy’ for years). To Grandaddy and daily sour balls.
Jump ahead a few weeks – George, Clarice and Barrett (Now Barrett Steven Davis) as George had adopted me legally) moved into Savannah Club Apartments (SCA) – The Cabrini Green of Savannah. Candyman. Candyman. Can…
… I had my own room! There was a fish tank, and lots of candles. Also in the living room was a giant black and white chair that spun around and around! It was very hippie! There was a nice stereo with a turntable and a nice selection of vinyl records! Savannah Club Apartments was actually a housing development and the apartments were actually small homes. The kitchen was old school with basic sink and fridge and a gas stove and oven. I do remember Mama cooking in the broiler. I think the gas might have been leaking a little bit, because whenever I smell an unlit pilot light, it reminds me of Mama cooking.
George was a pretty cool guy to me at this point. He would take me riding on his motorcycle, and even got me my own helmet! He and Mama were quite the hippie couple! Mama had long, straight brown hair and big, beautiful, hazel brown eyes. She wore lots of halter tops and bell bottoms and things with fringe. George had a longer haircut than most non-hippie men of the time and had a nice JC Penny wardrobe of hippie shirts and slacks. Paisley and colorful and actually pretty stylish. Unfortunately, the cool clothes and the peace and love attitude was temporary.
I got to be quite the wanderer on that street in Savannah Club Apartments. I must have watched Mr Rogers because I decided to go meet my neighbors. I went door to door and said hello to everyone that answered. I’d even go “visit” certain neighbors who were receptive. There was a house with about half a dozen middle age hippies living together, and a house with a couple I was convinced was Archie and Edith Bunker from “All In the Family”. I was given candy, lunches, Kool-aid and once a Hershey Bar of my own from the house hippies, which must have clued in Mama. She explained that we couldn’t visit people we didn’t know and how some people aren’t nice to little boys. She and I walked house to house to apologize and meet the neighbors for herself. My street bestie, Wanda was one of them. Wanda and Clarice became instant best friends and their relationship lasted up until 1981. George didn’t like her.
Chasing the ice cream truck was the highlight of my days on that street. As soon as you heard those musical chimes playing “Pop Goes the Weasel”, you knew it was time to roll! No worse feeling than missing the ice cream truck. A chase that ended in failure also ended in tears.
I got my first eye scar around this time. I was playing with the two kids who were siblings, Michelle and Chris. For some stupid reason we decided to play catch with a coffee can. Now coffee cans in 1973 were heavy tin cans sealed close with lead. You had to use a can opener to get the top off resulting in jagged edges. Well, I missed and the can hit me in the face, it just barely missed poking or slicing my eye open. Blood poured from the cut and my nose. George and Mama came running and took me to the emergency room. I got some stitches which I was terrified of, but they actually didn’t hurt much. I have a scar by each of my eyes, but I don’t remember which one was scarred when.
One particularly embarrassing event happened when I got back from one of my walks to greet the neighbors. I believe I had just visited Edith and Archie and I really had to poop. Well I got home to find all the doors locked – front and back. I knocked and got no answer. Oh shit! I’m gonna poop! If I’d know the phrase then I’d have said I was crowning. I knocked again. Banged as hard as a 3-year-old could, actually.
“Mama, I have to poo poo!” I tried yelling through the door. No answer. I wondered if she went somewhere or if she was taking a nap.
I’d seen dogs pooping around the neighborhood and they didn’t have to go inside to do it. So, I copped a squat and started doing my business. Unfortunately, a woman who I didn’t know was walking by and called me an animal. I remember trying to explain myself, but she probably only heard baby talk. She walked away mumbling to herself and soon after that one sided conversation, Mama opened the door. I went running up to her, crying and told her what happened. She comforted me and apologized. She said she would never lock me out again and I could tell she felt bad. But soon enough, everything was forgotten and the day went on. Once I was a little older I realized that the reason the door was locked was because Mama was smoking pot. After the yard poop incident, they smoked in the bedroom. I always smelled it, but I never got a contact high that I can recall…Dude. Mama and George smoked weed daily/nightly to borrow from a Monkees song title. When I smell certain strain of pot, I am often reminded of certain events or things I can trace back to the parents smoking – smelling for research of course. Marijuana was a staple for most of the adults in my life, but alcohol was the real problem. Both the Davis and the Brinson families have alcoholism in their blood. I have no idea about the Kaminsky’s, but I’d assume there was a problem from what little I know.
I met Georges mother and brother at this apartment. For some reason, George had kept me and Clarice away from his family. Gloria, his mother, pretty much insisted, so George let her come over for my third birthday party. Steve, George’s younger brother, drove Gloria over. She and Big George, George’s dad, lived nearby with Steve. Mary and Ivy, George’s sisters, had already married and moved out of the house. Ivy had a daughter already named Summer. Gloria, or Grandma, as I would come to call her, smelled nice and was super friendly and grandmotherly. She brought me a gift, but I can’t remember what it was, but she always gave thoughtful gifts and I’m sure this was no exception. I never questioned why these people weren’t around before and it didn’t dawn on me to call George “Dad”. Ever.
My first Halloween with Trick or Treating was amazing! I couldn’t believe the concept of free candy! My first costume was Mickey Mouse! Talk about foreshadowing. I still have the same costume (same type of costume, not the actual one I wore) as part of my Halloween decorations. I always took picking out my costume as a big deal, in fact I still do to this day.
Christmas 1973 at SCA was the first one in memory that I really understood what occurred. Santa sounded too good to be true, but George was actually a huge fan of Christmas-time. He loved everything from the decorations to the carols to the food. Traditionally we would go over to the Davis’ home on Christmas Eve and exchange gifts to each other. Then Santa would come that night to our individual homes. That would start next year, but this year was just at the apartment with Mama, George and me. While 99% of the time he was a cheap tightwad worthy of the name Scrooge, at Christmas, he was very generous. I can’t remember a year we didn’t get what we wanted. If only he behaved a fraction of this way the other times of the year.
Needless to say, I loved Christmas, Still do – I remember being fascinated at the wrapping paper and the ornaments on the tree. The lights and the smells, mixed with the taste of chocolate and peppermint. The music! I absolutely loved the record “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff Singers. I’ve owned a copy of some sort my entire life including to this day! Record, cassette, cd and back to record. Also for some reason the song “Crocodile Rock” is a Christmas song. I think it must have played on a heavy rotation while were out driving at night looking at Christmas lights. Apparently, I drove George nuts by Exclaiming “CHRISTMAS TREE” every time I’d see bright colorful lights, and it didn’t matter what time of year it was.
George was always complaining I talked to much. Sorry, but I was a curious kid. He would always remind me later in life how I was always talking as a wee toddler, as if it was some sort of birth defect. He didn’t like kids around when he was partying with his friends, and would use any excuse to send me to bed early so the weed and beer could commence. I’ve wondered many times why he even got with Clarice knowing she had a kid, if he didn’t like kids so much. He had to know that having a kid would harsh his party-mellow. He was easily irritated by the slightest silliness or tom foolery and many times he seemed jealous about how happy I could be. How happy anyone could be.
I digress. As my alter ego, Tangent-man, I do that sometimes. George was a pretty decent guy while were living at Savannah Club Apartments. I met my Savannah family (some of them anyway) and I learned to joys of Halloween and Christmas here. I made my first friend, Michelle, here. I also got my first set of stiches here. I chased my first and last ice cream truck here. I barely thought about Nana Avenue or granddaddy or Phyllis, Marsha and Barney. I was in Savannah now with George Davis as The Dad. Everything was comfortable here, until…
One night I’m told we are moving! George was also selling his motorcycle. Mama seems excited so I was too. It’s not too far from where we lived now, he told us, just across the bridge in Wilmington Island and on Richardson’s Creek (called that even though it was a river). There were kids nearby and a tree with a swing. We would have a dock and eventually a boat. It sounded great and the house itself…
Was horrifying! Okay not really horrifying, but the house was on stilts and jutted out into the river itself! I was convinced it would fall into the water, killing us all, but George assured me it wouldn’t. It didn’t.
“To Be Contondered”
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