Wisdom of MY Words

Random Musings & Book Reviews

14 August


I was pregnant, my belly prodigious, full of a ginger haired baby. A mercurial Pisces birth. A contrarian at heart, he was raised fiercely. It was the same old single mother story, my husband hit me when I was pregnant with his first-born son. Right prior to the wedding he threw me in to a full-length door mirror. I was 7 months pregnant. Dave drank to excess and he hit me. But I was me, and I took what little love he gave me and I stomped all over it. Matter of fact I was so angry and so cold that when he did finally apologize, with overflowing green eyes, I refused to accept his apology. At that point we were both in the wrong. Dave wanted another chance at that point. He wanted to start over and woo me, as if I’d date him after discovering that he was an abuser.

It was the same old story you hear from plenty of working women who also juggle their house and kids—I’d had an affair and fallen head over heels. I didn’t mean to fall in love. I’d had sex with other men because my husband was more in love with an amber liquid in a glass bottle than me. I stuck exclusively with my exes. Boyfriends that knew me, knew how to get me off, in relationships or newly divorced. I stayed away from anyone new. Yet new is what I got. I’d married David Michael Meyer for a couple of reasons. I was pregnant. Never wanting children I’d had Robbinsdale Clinic’s abortion punch card. Scared of commitment. Scared that my mother’s vitriolic words were true: no man would love me.

My mother’s wholesale rejection of men started at birth. Major William Gilbert Davis III showed up at St. Joe’s just as Margaret Davis the junior crowned between Margaret Davis senior’s legs. Marge Davis the elder turned her head to see her curly haired husband whispering behind his hand to her mother as the wee baby was whisked away. Her maternity floor at St. Joe’s was staffed by Marquette University Nursing School students. Most had been educated with her before the war. The elder knew some of them. She knew them by sight, either from university classes or mass. A group of women displaced by the war now working at the overflowing hospitals all over the country as the boys came marching home.

Helen Wolski’s jaw was set as she listened to the mumblings and grumblings and petty grievances by this man. Major William Gilbert no longer wanted to grow old with Nana Davis. He’d fallen wildly for a French woman. Much later, when my mother had firmly decided she liked women and not men, Nana told me that he’d cheated on the second wife too. Like mother, like daughter; my mother called me Tom’s bastard and her mother called her Will’s. The sins of the mother repeated, as my mother picked an equally emotionally unavailable man for my father.

Since I didn’t meet Tom until I was well into my 30s, I wasn’t able to learn in advance that my ex-husband was exactly like him. An emotionally unavailable man. Not understanding men because I had no siblings and no father, no grandfather, just a bunch of male cousins who teased me, and were beaten senseless by their father, my Great Uncle Gerry, just like my mother beat me, caused me any number of problems in life. The message in my house was that men wanted one thing and if you gave them that one thing they’d be happy. I assumed I’d eventually be happy by making men happy. Instead I felt empty. Most of the time I felt no better than a whore in relationships. Men (and women) wanted me either as a friend or a fuck. Yet I could never confide in any of them for fear that if they knew my thoughts and feelings they wouldn’t like me.

Sundays Grandpa Wolski would drive us down Santa Monica in his big, wide, baby blue Chrysler to Temple Sinai where he’d scrub the floors, dust the doodads and beebawbs, and plant me in a classroom to learn about living as a Jew. I learned Hebrew, and talked with other children about G-d. Then on Wednesday nights I’d run through the St. Eugene’s School doors and into a classroom where Steven Dragos would be waiting to make me smile, giggle, and laugh as someone taught us about Jesus. The son of god made the divine human.

I learned that the prophet Isiah’s suffering somehow made him a better man. A better person. Five-year-old children were told that Isiah suffered because we Jews suffer in order to redeem the wicked of humanity. They’d bring in Holocaust survivors twice a year, like a circus act. They’d talk about their horrors and their truths. G-d abandoned us during the war, they’d tell us, as they unconsciously patted their paper-thin skin with it’s faded black numbers. The North Avenue dam kept the riffraff in Milwaukee proper where they belonged. In the North Shore, elitism and money, a sort of suburban classism, divided us. Nana Davis always spoke in terms of new money, as opposed to us, somehow, was the implication, We were not the Steinhafel’s, we weren’t old money. We fancied ourselves old money though. I didn’t understand it until I read Blanche McCrary Boyd. She said, as poor white trash in the South they defined themselves with their smarts, their education, and elevated themselves.

Helen married and in 1916, at the wee age of 18 gave birth to her first daughter.

Aunt Regina moved from the farm to the Wolski duplex on Humboldt Avenue after Margaret Mary was born, baptized at Holy Redeemer. She was the second girl born, baby number sixteen. Females weren’t as desirable as males in the agrarian lifestyle of the Great Lakes region.

My family was exactly like that. A century ago my maternal great grandmother was working in a sweatshop making clothes.

I’d done the worst thing possible. I’d fallen in love.



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