View Sidebar

A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Four Months' Report

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 3/20/2023
Occurred: 8/29/1951
Page Views: 242
Topics: #Autobiography #Clifton #NewJersey #StyertowneApartments
My mom kept a baby book on me.

As the first born, my mom went all out to document my every moment. (My younger sisters enjoyed more anonymity.) Here's her first six months' report.

August 29, 1951

Paul can now turn over by himself and he tries to sit up more often. No more turning him on his tummy and expecting him to stay there. He sleeps now in whatever way suits him best—side or back. He is a light sleeper and snores like an old man.

I feed him differently, also. He seems to like food in general, and fruit alone, even forgetting his bottle.

Today, in an emergency not having an extra bottle, I boiled his formula in a pan and substituted water in his Pablum and peaches and it went over big—not enough of it!

He has "discovered" his feet and plays with them. Also, he likes the little bar on his car crib and plays with that with hands and feet.

Swimming is a little more effort and he doesn't do quite as much of it as he used to. Likes to float better, just relaxed.

He is a good little traveler and seldom complains no matter how tired. He doesn't like to be left in someone's care unless they are young and play with him.

He seems to recognize Billy, Betty and Shirley as belonging to him, and gets along well with them.

He is drooling quite a bit but his teeth are still just peeping through.

He will replaced his bottle now, and put his teething ring in and out of his mouth. But he likes to chew blankets and the "cat's" ears and feet.

Putting diapers on isn't quite as easy as before. He turns and twists more, tho' he can still be depended on to "help Mommy" as before, most of the time.

He awakens early but lies quietly until Daddy and I stir around nefore he cries for his breakfast.

My dad worked an evening shift at Bendix Corporation. So, when Bendix came out with a line of television sets, he of course brought one home. It was an upright console model, and when it was later replaced by a set with a larger screen, my sisters and I were allowed to play with the old one.

Pinky Lee

Pinky Lee, 1950s TV personality.

My memory begins somewhere around 6 months old. I can describe the layout of the apartment itself, and I distinctly remember sitting in my high chair, watching Pinky Lee on my parent's brand-new, black-and-white television with a 16-inch screen.. (And I was gay even then; even in my high chair, I knew that striped pants and a polka dot shirt did not go together.)

I could walk by the time I was 1 year old, and in later years my mom never let me forget the time I "locked [her] out of the apartment. Apparently she had stepped outside the door to get the milk and newspaper, and the moment the door closed behind her, I ran to it and turned the lock. When she couldn't get back in, she pleaded with me to open the door, but apparently my physical prowess was advancing faster than my vocabulary. Mom was in her bathrobe and therefore mortified by having to go to the apartment complex' office to get them to let her in.

Looking back, I'm not so sure I was guilty of this crime. Having now had four kids of my own, and paying attention to each one at the age of one…well, none of them could have run to a door, much less worked the lock. It seems more likely that the door was already locked, and she simply let it slam shut behind her while picking up the milk bottles and newspaper.

Although my dad's name was Walter, everyone in his family called him "Bill". When his son, little Walter, was born, everyone called him "Billy". No one knows how this odd name substitution began, but when Betty Ann and her husband had their first boy, the aunts pressured them to name him Walter, but call him Bill! Betty Ann's husband, John Dow, responded that instead, he would name the boy "Edward" but call him "Otto." (The kid was actually named, and called, Craig.)

Back Row: Aunt Lou, Grandmother Cilwa, Aunt Gene, Cousin Rosemary Ryan McGraw, Aunt Rose, Aunt Al
Front Row: Cousin Phyllis Ryan, Me, Mom

Some time before my sister was born, we visited someone—I'm thinking my half-brother Walt and his family—where I first encountered a piano.

And here I am on my first birthday, with my present: A hobby horse.

Me on my first birthday hobby horse.

One night, after midnight, a fire alarm woke up the family and I was carried outside, wrapped in blankets. The apartment above us had caught fire. The building was saved, but water damage from the hoses soaked into our apartment and destroyed many of our things, particularly a valued bedspread. I remember looking at the apartment at night, surrounded by people in pajamas and coats and blankets, but do not recall seeing any flames. We eventually spent the rest of the night in a friend's apartment.