We adopted a cat that year, and named him Chester. We also had a Dachshund named Duchess and a gaggle of ducks. There were 6 children in my family and I was in the middle. We lived with our mom and “Dad O’Neill” in a huge Victorian home in Atlantic Highlands N.J. I was in 6th grade, I was a cheer leader for Pop Warner football and a Cadette in Girl Scouts. I would graduate from grammar school that year. (1967) My sister, Bambi, and I walked to school together every morning, about a mile into town. We were the last ones to leave the house. Everyone else had gone to work, and to catch the bus for high school. My mom took the littlest ones to daycare by 6am, then she went off to work too.
I remember loving Jersey in the spring time. I loved to see the flowering Magnolia and Dogwood trees in bloom on our route to school. We would pick wild flowers by the side of the road, Cornflowers, Daisies, Lilacs, Buttercups, Queen Ann’s Lace…(Yes, I Know it’s a weed, but I liked it in my bouquet!) The houses were well kept, some with fences and some with hedgerows. We each had our favorite houses to check out on the way. We would gather up our little hand picked bouquets of wildflowers, and put a little rubber band around them to give to the teacher we liked the most that day.
Bam and I were the closest of 6 children in our family. There were 5 girls and one boy. My little sister, Cyd, was the youngest. She was 5 years old at the time. She and the rest of the family called me “Bear” as a nick name and I remember Cyd always asking me, “Brush your hair Bear, brush your hair?” I had long dark hair down to my waist and it was so thick I would have my sisters help me brush and braid it to keep it off my face. Cyd loved to help and I would sit on the floor and read her stories from the Golden Books and let her brush away.
I loved all things in nature and especially animals. I was always “saving” animals from the road, the yard, the parking lot at the grocery store in town. I especially loved to collect turtles in the summer. We kept them in our sandbox in the back yard for a little while and fed them worms.
I would go on long bike rides with a group of friends (about 7 of us) to the Old Mill and the Green Light Cemetery in Leonardo. The Green Light Cemetery was really Bay View Cemetery, but was named Green Light by the kids in town because of the unexplained green light that emanated from the cemetery at night. It is said that no one who explored it’s origin, ever lived to tell the tale!
It was closed off from the road by an ancient gate that towered above our heads. The iron gate had points on the top to discourage entering after hours. (After hours for a graveyard?)
There was a caretaker that lived in a small shack on the premise. He didn’t want to be bothered after dark. That was fine with me, I didn’t want to go there after dark!
We did stop at the cemetery on the way to the mill though, as a resting spot and to have something to drink. We would bring paper and a crayon to do etchings from the oldest stones in the farthest corners of the property. Beautiful angel and Saint reliefs protruding out of stone and rock.
The entire trip took more than an hour to bike ride there.
The Old Mill was a relic.
Kid’s went there to swim, smoke and make out, and in my case to watch the turtles sun on the large tree that fell across the pond. I was a very late bloomer! There were Boxer turtles there (!) that loved to sun on the trunk of the tree lying across the water. When they got too hot or we disturbed them by climbing out on the limb to put our feet in the water, they would slip back into the water and scoot away!
Bam and I were getting ready for school one morning and since it was a hot day, we both had shorts and tee shirts on. I was ready first and decided to wait outside in the back yard for Bambi to come out. I just remembered my lunch was still in the house, so I went up to the back screen door and passed Bambi as she was going out.
“I just have to get my lunch, I will be right…..Meeeeeoooooowwww!!!” Chester had tried to get in the house and as the screen door shut, it closed on his tail!!! He was screaming and writhing. I quickly opened the door to free his tail. He took only a second to give me that crazed look you get from a cat just before they Attack!
He had a grip on my leg with both claws and teeth before I knew it and I cried out! Bambi was afraid to come in, but I shrieked so loudly and for so long, she thought better of it. I shook my leg hard and tried to push Chester off, but he hung on and finally tore the flesh before letting go. He decided to latch himself onto my arm instead! Bambi and I were flailing around trying to get him off, the whole time I’m screaming and crying…….Finally, Chester decides he has done enough damage and releases my arm. I am a bleeding, emotional mess. Bambi tries to calm me down as she looks for something to clean me up with. All we could find were regular band aids and they weren’t nearly big enough to cover the wounds. She tried to get me to wash them, but I was too scared it would hurt even more. We decided to let the school nurse do it. We walked to school. By the time we got to the playground at the school yard, all the kids were inside. We were late.
Bambi helped me into the school and we looked for an adult. We saw our music teacher Mrs. Blumberg. When we had her in class, she would use a pitch pipe before singing, “Good morning children!”and we would have to sing back in the same key;
“Good morning Mrs. Blumbeeeeerrrrrg!”
She was a big woman, and very sweet.
The boys on the playground sang a different tune when they weren’t in class.
“Bl u-blu-blu-blumberg…Bl u-blu-blu-blumberg….She’s got the biggest bu-bu-bu-boom’s you’ve ever seen!” Everyone laughed…….including me, sorry to say;0(
She took one look at my leg and arm with blood dripping down into my socks and shoes and rushed to my side.
“What in the world!? What happened to you? Here, come and sit down and let me get a cloth to clean you up.” She led me down stairs to the overflow. This is where the kid’s ate who brought their lunch, it was downstairs in the basement of the school. I have never heard of an overflow before or since.
We explained about Chester and the screen door and Bambi left to go to her class room. She cleaned my leg and arm up a little and took me up to the nurse’s office to get checked out. I finished out the day, but I was embarrassed by all the attention I received. The school asked my mom about Chester having his rabies shots. My mom said he did….thank God!
The next day, Bambi and I gave our bouquet’s to Mrs. Blumberg!
Do you remember “Clan of The Cave Bear?” The main character is a little girl who ends up with a Mountain Lion as her totem after it scratches her. An animal totem is an animal, insect or amphibian that you may resonate with, be attracted to, or shows up in your life at certain times to help you when you need it, very similar to Guardian Angels or the Blessed Mother, in my case. Anyway, now I am feeling like I have the cat as a totem at this age to help me to cope with my life. Of course, I didn’t realize at that time that I would only have another 6 years with my mom before I would be on my own. So, the cat was there to teach and instill in me a sense of independence when I needed it. Turtle and Dog are another totem that I have…
Littlest lion, panther in miniature,
Help me in a my magical endeavors,
Teach me to see my path through the dark places.
(my mom’s death and the betrayal of my boyfriend)
Help me to sift the necessary from the unnecessary
(my sisters taking what was mine when my mom died)
And to relax and enjoy life.
Strengthen my magic and carry it to its destination.
If a Turtle totem shows up in your life,
slow down the pace of your life.
Bigger, stronger, faster are not always the best ways to reach your goals.
Turtle is the keeper of doors
and one of the ways into the Faerie Realm.
(Yes! I Always wanted to meet the Faeries!)
Faithfulness and Protection
The Dog is a symbol of the small becoming the great.
People with this totem have great spirit
and a great ability to love.
It takes a lot to break a dog spirit.
People with a Dog totem are usually helping others or serving humanity in some way. (I am the mother of 6 and a yoga teacher)
Finally, don’t you love the sound of “peepers” on a warm summer night?
Frog Energy, simply put, means: Fully Rely on God! As a totem, it’s a really good place to start!