Where I Was in October of ’72…. (A Tempus Fugit Gig)
“Seasons change, people grow together and apart, life moves on. You will be OK, embrace it.” ― Alexandra Elle, Words from a Wanderer
Author’s Note: In less than three days (as I write this, at any rate) it will be my late mother’s 94th birthday, and the seventh recurrence of the occasion since her death on July 19, 2015. On Monday, October 17, 2022, eight years will have passed since her last, somewhat bittersweet birthday party, and, for me at least, the date is one hell of an emotional minefield, partly because the birthdays that she “celebrated” during the years of her final illness (2010-2014) weren’t particularly “happy,” but mostly because I love my mom and miss her immensely.
Time flies, regardless of whether your having fun or not. This my sixth year in Lithia and away from Miami, as well as the 50th year since Mom, my older sister Vicky, and I decamped from a comfortable life in Bogota, Colombia and returned to the United States in the spring of 1972 – a move suggested by the pediatrician who oversaw my care after I suffered a cerebral hemorrhage shortly after my ninth birthday.
This Tempus Fugit piece is a look at where I was in October of 1972, based, of course, on my best recollection of the times, the places, and people I met and knew at the time. I don’t have a scrapbook or a family history to refer to, nor was I old enough to think about keeping a diary or any other written record, so this is not going to be a detailed account of everything I experienced 50 years ago.
“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” – Tagline to Days of Our Lives
It’s October 14, 2022. Where were you on this date in 1972?
October 14, 1972 fell on a Saturday, so I was probably playing with my friends in the Coral Estates Park neighborhood, in the unincorporated community of Westchester, a suburb of Miami.
What school did you attend then?
Coral Park Elementary School. It was five blocks from my house, which was at 1001 SW 102nd Avenue.
What grade were you in?
I was in Ms. Cynthia Turtletaub’s third grade class, along with some 30 other students.
Do you remember much from Coral Park Elementary?
Sadly, no. All I remember was that I still didn’t speak English fluently, nor could I read or write it well. I had a difficult time adapting to the U.S. educational system having started school as a pre-K kiddo at Bogota’s Colegio El Nogal (a Catholic private school), in a country where English was taught in school but not spoken or heard on a regular basis outside of school.
I also felt what I call “non-English speaker’s paranoia.” Since I couldn’t understand what was being said in a conversation unless a bilingual student translated stuff for me, I always assumed that some of the kids were making fun of me or were talking about me. Of course, most of the time this was not the case, but that’s how I perceived it at the time.
Did you get along well with your teachers at Coral Park?
I can’t say that I got along either well or badly with Ms. Turtletaub, who is the only teacher I remember from my brief stay at Coral Park. I do remember that I had mixed feelings about her. She was pretty; she had fair skin, dark hair, and had a nice smile – when she smiled, anyway. I dimly remember that my difficulties with English, plus the resulting issues with my ability to do homework, hindered my performance in class, and I wasn’t exactly one of her better students.
I remember that we had instructors for some specific courses, such as arithmetic, art, and music, but I don’t remember them clearly.
Did you have friends at Coral Park? Besides the kids you knew from your neighborhood?
I probably did, although I don’t remember any names or faces. Oddly, I didn’t have any of the kids I knew from my block in Ms. Turtletaub’s class; some of them were in fourth grade while I was in third grade – which was the grade I was in when I started the 1971-72 school year in Bogota the year before.
You were nine years old at the time, which is when many boys get over the “girls have cooties” stage and start “liking” girls. Were there any girls at Coral Park that you especially liked?
Yeah. There were a couple of cute girls in class that I thought were pretty, in a puppy-love, innocent way. But I had a crush on one who sat two desks – to my right, as I recall – away from me in Ms. Turtletaub’s class. She looked a lot like Suzanne Crough, the child actress who played Tracy Partridge on The Partridge Family, only prettier.
Do you remember her name?
Yeah. Of all the kids who attended Coral Park Elementary then, she is the only one – besides the kids I knew from the block where I lived – whose name I remember. Her name was Cheryl.
Just “Cheryl”? No last name?
Well, she had a last name that ended with “T.” I remember that because, in our class of 30, there were two boys named Alex, and two girls named Cheryl.
There was, I think, a class roster on one of the classroom walls – next to the door, I think – where we put little gold stars that Ms. Turtletaub handed out whenever we got a good grade or behaved especially well in class. I rarely got gold stars, but I did get one or two in my brief time at Coral Park. I was Alex D. There was another kid with a similar name, Alex R. or something like that.
Likewise, there was a Cheryl A. and then there was “my” Cheryl, who was listed as Cheryl T.
I don’t remember much about how Ms. Turtletaub took attendance in 1972, whether she called the roll and we had to answer “here” or “present.” But I do remember the roll sheet with the gold stars, and that the Cheryl that I liked was “Cheryl T.”
In 1972, I didn’t know what exactly the “T” stood for, although several years after I left Coral Park Elementary, I did ask some of my friends who were still there if they knew Cheryl and what her last name was. One guy who knew her casually said it was “Thigpen.”
You seem wistful. Why?
Cheryl was the first girl that I remember “being in love with.” Of course, it was more infatuation than true love because we never got to know each other, but she was the first girl I summoned up the courage to say “I love you” to…at the age of nine…going on 10.
I’ll tell you more about that story in November, though. In October of 1972, though, I still only liked her from afar, and I had no idea what – if anything – she thought about me.
Oddly enough, Suzanne Crough, the late actress who I thought Cheryl resembled, was only one day younger than me – she was born on March 6, 1963, so we were the same age then. I don’t remember if I had a crush on her (I liked Susan Dey more, even though she’s older), but after I left Coral Park and saw Suzanne Crough’s Tracey on The Partridge Family (which was on ABC in 1972 and still had two seasons left in its network run), I’d get sad because she reminded me of Cheryl.
What else do you remember about October of 1972?
Well, Mom’s birthday was coming up around this time, and Vicky and I got along well enough then, so there wasn’t any of the drama and angsty sibling competition related to Mom’s birthday, the gifts, the party venue, or any of the bullshit that marred the occasion in our mother’s last years. I was fond of my big sister then – I didn’t yet refer to her as a “half-sister” or have any negative feelings toward her.
I can’t vouch for her feelings about me, though. Later in life, people who knew us both would tell me that she often complained to them about being “forced” to move to Miami against her wishes in ’72 and that she resented me for causing the move to Miami from Bogota. She is a consummate actor and can put on a decent performance as a nice, loving person, and that is how she acted around me most of the time, although every so often she added some micro-aggressive behaviors.
As for Mom’s birthday in 1972: It was her 44th birthday, that much I can remember, but I don’t recall if we went out to dinner at a restaurant, celebrated at home, or went to the Blascos – who lived two houses to the north of us – for the occasion. Vicky probably bought Mom a present so I had something to give her; the whole chores-for-an-allowance thing was still a year or so in the future.
Later in life, my relationship with my half-sister was stormy and full of recriminations, rivalry, and hatred. But in October of 1972, Vicky helped me with my homework, tutored me – when she could – with my reading and writing, and we’d even watch TV together. Emergency! was one of our favorite shows to watch as brother and sister.
Okay, we’ve talked about your mom’s birthday, which was on October 17. What about Halloween of 1972?
Gosh. I don’t remember Halloween of 1972. I know Mom got me a costume and that I went trick-or-treating with some of my friends on the block. But I don’t remember what I went disguised as.
I also remember that it was around this time that the days started getting a bit shorter and the temperatures were beginning to drop, especially after sunset. And I think it was around October of 1972 that I first saw the 1953 Titanic on the Eight PM Movie on Channel Six, which at the time was an independent station on the VHF dial. I can’t be sure, though.
In Other News….
My Amazon order with the two-disc Blu-ray set of The Mist (2007) is in the Tampa Bay area and should arrive tomorrow. It arrived at the Ybor City Distribution Center shortly after midnight and left that facility at 1:54 this afternoon. It has not been scanned at the Lithia post office, so I assume it has not gotten to this part of Hillsborough County yet.
Other than that, I don’t have much to say about life here except that, for a change, I did not suffer from insomnia and slept relatively well last night.
On this note, I will close this post here so I can publish it on WordPress, so, ciao for now, Dear Reader. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.