Long-time readers of my blog will recall my original post about The Chestnut Prison. From July to November of 1978, because I could not live with my emotionally abusive and toxic parents – my mother and stepfather – I chose to move to Abington, Massachusetts, and live with my father and his wife (and his wife’s kid) in a sprawling ranch house at 604 Chestnut Avenue.
Unfortunately, I traded one form of hell for another. Whereas my first set of parental units were physically abusive, this set was verbally and emotionally abusive. They used their claims of superior education to fracture my confidence and my mind and my psyche.
It’s been 32 years, and the things they did to me still reverberates through my life. Sort of the equivalent of a war veteran suffering from shell shock.
And 32 years ago this week, something happened that never truly allowed me to celebrate a great event.
It’s October 2, 1978. I believe I had a class between physical education and the end of day, so of course I put my books and personal items in my locker, as is my normal routine for phys ed.
At the time, I was forbidden to watch any television. Any television. Yep, I was told I didn’t deserve to watch television when I should be in my room studying and making up for my faulty New York education. They even told me that the television was wired in such a way that if I turned it on, a special television circuit would alert them at their jobs, and I would be punished for disobeying their orders. It was a vacuum-tubed SONY Trinitron, but I was so mentally fucked up, I actually believed them.
But today, I was going to break the rule. Because the Yankees were going to play the Red Sox in a special afternoon playoff game to determine the American League East playoff champion. And the coolest pitcher in all of baseball, Ron Guidry, was starting for the Yankees.
It wasn’t that I was a Yankees fan, so much as when I was living in New York, I could pick up Yankees radio broadcasts on the local AM stations, and I followed along with the crazy 1978 season. That, and I was surrounded by hordes of Red Sox fans who swore up and down that this would be Boston’s year.
I don’t care if I get punished by my parents. This is an important game.
Went to catch the school bus for the ride home. It was at that moment that I realized … I left my house keys back in my gymnasium locker.
I got off the bus, then went to the gymnasium. Unlocked my locker, grabbed my set of keys. Oh, Lord, if I lost those keys, I would be in deep shit.
Returned to the front of the school … just in time to watch the school bus drive away.
The bus is gone. I missed the school bus.
So I knew what that meant. I have to walk home.
It’s only eight miles, right?
Yeah, eight miles.
But I had to get home. If I wasn’t home when my folks arrived, I would receive more punishment.
I had no choice.
I walked. Eight freakin’ miles. And along the way, I asked people if they were watching the Yankees-Red So game.
“Oh yeah, the Sox are leading.”
“What’s the score?”
Further down the road.
“What’s the score?”
Ugh. How is Ron Guidry letting these people score at will?
The final stretch of my marathon walk took me through Chestnut Street. Chestnut Street had some houses on it, but they were tucked away in a recently developed condominium neighborhood. You had to travel for miles in woodland to reach 604 Chestnut.
So during that time, I had no idea what had happened with the playoff game. I couldn’t ask a tree who was leading. I doubt trees really care about baseball. Unless one of their branches is made into a bat, I suppose.
I finally got home. Went in the house. If I turn on the television right now, maybe I can catch the last of the game…
I wasn’t six inches away from the television’s on-off switch, when I heard that distinctive sound of a well-tuned SAAB engine.
My father and stepmother just pulled into the driveway.
I scrambled up the stairs, running into my bedroom. Had to make things like I was studying and not just walking home.
I was later called down for supper. One of the things they hated about my dining habits was that if there were three items on a plate, I would eat each food and completely consume all that was on my plate before I went to another item. In other words, if there was a meal of pork chops, carrots and potatoes, I would finish the potatoes, then I would finish the carrots, and save the pork chops for last.
My father hated when I did that. He called that uncivilized and disrespectful to the person who made the meal. And he let me know whenever I violated this basic tenet of culinary consumption, like I had essentially ruined a meal by not eating it properly.
Upstairs. Bedtime at the Chestnut Prison was 7:00 for me.
So I never found out about this moment … until the next day at school.
Yeah, nothing like a bunch of angry Sox fans who got screwed out of their playoff destiny by a light-hitting shortstop who made the biggest hit of his career. Oh, and Reggie Jackson hit a homer. And Ron Guidry was the winning pitcher. And Yaz popped out to send all the Sox fans home.
It felt good. But I also felt like I was keeping some deep, dark secret. I wanted to celebrate. The Yankees were headed to the playoffs … and I had to hear about everything third-hand. And I couldn’t celebrate in the moment.
Such, I suppose, was my lot.
Which is why, yesterday, during the final push for the 2020 election, I left social media. I didn’t look at Twitter or Facebook. I needed to not be part of the huddled masses yearning to determine who won. Or who lost.
In that moment, it was as if I was still walking down Hancock Street, making that left turn into the woodlands of Chestnut Street in Abington. That I had emotionally and physically distanced myself from anything involving a major event – the election – and, for that moment in time, it was just another Tuesday evening.
By the way, I survived for at least another month in the Chestnut Prison, and eventually moved into a different emotional hellscape by December 1978 – away from both sets of parents, and living with an aunt and uncle who provided their OWN form of emotional abuse upon me.
But that’s a story for another blog post.