LIMBO as I understood it in the late 60s
LIMBO: as it was taught to me a Catholic girl, Limbo is the place of suspended animation, or abode for the souls of unbaptized infants, and those who died before Christ came to earth to redeem mankind. So, when I found the Limbo Dance on TV, it burned in my brain, scary and magical and Old Testament. Seemed if you could contort yourself enough to slither beneath a rod, especially one held impossibly low to the ground, an act which appeared both insane and agonizing, you could win a free pass for someone you knew to be in Limbo! If you were a type of snake yourself, you might get into Heaven for being able to pull off this unnaturally punishing stunt. Maybe I’m the only one who drew such conclusions. And I was interested. Read: U.S. AND THEM: The Re-Enchantment of a Cold War Childhood
– An Earth Still Flat
The American way was in dire straights as far as back as I could remember and everything I remember was born, or at least bred in our pumpkin-colored cape in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
... Soldiers in Vietnam died on TV every night around dinner time—it was normal. I expected to see Vietnam the same way, every day right up to the very end: an adult show I had to sit through until my father left the room.
... Most people trace everything back to their parents but I neither blame nor credit my parents for our lousy place in history. Truth is, whether you’re in the beginning, middle or the end of time, imagining a future is hardest on the parents.
... Nikita Khrushchev was a mouthful. When I said his name it was like spitting. When I said his name fast I was speaking Communist. But, all you ever need to know about Khrushchev was that he was the madman who pounded the podium at the United Nations and promised to bury us.
One day my little brothers got into a scrap over baseball cards and after some persistent bickering, they brought their dispute into the house and set it before our father, sort of like the dead mouse of our King Solomon parable.
"I wanna swap three of my team cards for just one of his players," Joe-Bins said. "And my cards have perfect corners."
"I'm not trading any of my Bo-Sox," Anthony replied. He held his coveted card to his chest.
My father reached out to Big-A. "Do you trust me?" he asked. My brother nodded yes. "Good. Let me hold the card in question while we settle this-- out of court," my father said, and he chuckled. Then he sighed. "Boys, two-for-one isn't always what it seems--not even three-for one. You see, Anthony's right to change his mind. Carl Yastrezemski! He was one of the greats! Boston won the pennant. He just took the triple crown. You can't put a price on a guy like this."
"But..." Joe-Bins said.
"But nothing, son," my father said. "The team cards aren't worth anything unless they win the pennant--come on!"
"But he didn't keep his promise."
"Okay, let's have a look at your offer. Hmmm. You've got three team cards on the trading block, right? You're offering Milwaukee--that's the city of beer, the Expos--a squad from another country, and the Padres-- a Spanish team. Whoa! Who's trying to pull a fast one here?"
Joe-Bins looked confused. "I like Boston's uniforms," he said
"Your brother Anthony is no fool," my father said. "And here's a tip: You wanna get him talking trade? Stop hording all the Yankees!"
A Countdown for Leaving--a full chapter from my memoir, U.S. and Them is out in this summer's Palooka Journal, Issue 2. Rocket back to space-age innocence and the day of the Apollo 11 touchdown! This issue is absolutely vibrant and the e-edition is just $2.99. Step out of the usual orbit!
I wasn't at all certain as to why my folks didn't trust Martin Luther King and the Kennedys but I understood that the killings were part of the awful conspiracy. The fluoride they told us would protect our teeth was engineered to give us cancer and produce big profits for soulless government agencies. I understood that, like cancer, constant threat and everyday violence was intended to terrorize us, to weaken us, to destroy our ability to resist the Communists when they finally invaded. Communists figured weary citizens would want to stop witnessing elaborate funerals and the swearing-in of presidents we hadn't exactly voted for. Americans were no longer patriots. An alarming number of Americans had actually convinced themselves it was possible to befriend our enemies. People were forgetting who our enemies were in the first place. Nobody said Khrushchev anymore.
As a toddler, Joe-Bins made a name for himself by figuring out how jimmy the refrigerator; he emptied bottles of ketchup, left bite marks in the butter and threw up in the vegetable crisper.
I couldn't exactly put my finger on the place where all the trouble started but like other dads, my father made it clear when things had gone too far. "Saint Catherine, Saint Ann, Saint Jude! Where the Hell are they?" he said. Our Impala slowly rolled out of Our Lady of the Assumption's parking lot. "What's happened to all the saints?" He glanced at my mother who just sighed, then he turned and looked at us in the backseat. "You think they were just called up to Heaven?" In this case, the trouble was Vatican Council II and their latest hedonistic changes, a loosening of restrictions that suddenly allowed churches to engage in interior decorating.
My little brothers didn't attempt to answer and I didn't know what to think--except that it was true. All sorts of relics seem to have disappeared overnight as Assumption got caught up in the streamlining trend: floor-standing candleabra, marble baptisimal fonts and incalculable feet of wrought iron alter-railing were missing. The place looked looted. I watched our church get smaller in the side-view mirror.
Johnny-boy cleared his throat. "Maybe they're cleaning the statues," he said.
"That's a thoughtful idea, Buckeroo, but then where have all the kneelers gone?" He slapped the steering wheel. "How in God's name are you supposed to worship if you can't get on your knees?"
"You can still worship, John," my mother said. She took the lace veil off her head and folded it.
"Really?" my father said. "They're throwing away saints, Jane. Which Dumpster do we go to when we wanna pray to Saint Ann?"
Soldiers in Vietnam died on TV every night around dinner time--it was normal. I expected to see Vietnam the same way, every day for all my life: an adult show I had to sit through until my father left the room. The American way was in dire straights as far back as I could remember--and what I remembered was born, or at least bred in our pumpkin-colored cape in Bridgeport, CT. History was speeding toward its end by the time I snatched my first breath. It was just bad timing. Kennedys and Kings and Xs were getting shot for no reason at all. I was four years old in 1963. My deepest memories come from the screen of our Zenith: President Kennedy's head snapping back and then slumping forward, the First Lady crawling across the moving convertible--to save herself, or to get help--I always wondered which. The world was almost over. I had always known this. I knew it the way I was drawn to the smell of my mother's neck, the way I'd grown to turn toward the sound of my name--Patricia.