My Early Days

Original Art by Emma Fae Sloviksy

Original Art by Emma Fae Sloviksy

I’m not sure what Emma had in mind beyond that fact that she loves her muggaw (her pet name for Grandma Lu) simply because she does… love her.

I’ve recently made contact with some distant cousins. Frank Leeds III and his son, Oliver, and Barbarajean Leeds. After answering questions about my past, I feel very strongly that I need to pull a project off the back burner and get back to it. So far, I’ve written two or three chapters about our family history – beginning with Thomas Leeds who was born in England in 1620.

The next chapter will deal with William Leeds who was born sometime after 1670. A number of sources state that William sailed with Captain Kidd. At least one source claims that he was, in fact, Captain Kidd himself. Since Captain Kidd was captured and executed in 1701 and William died in 1739, little credence can be lent to the assertion that William Leeds was using the alias William Kidd – unless of course, someone else was hung in London.

I have yet to learn how William earned the money he bestowed upon the churches in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. Those who say it was ill-gotten gains insist he was offering the money as a tribute (penance) against his feelings of guilt. They may well be correct.

To hear the rest of the story, you’ll have to wait until the book is published.

Getting back to my background, I included Emma’s art work because I’m sure I did similar portraits for my parents when I was Emma’s age. So it reminds me of my early childhood.

I was born in 1944, the youngest child in a family with six children. In truth, we considered it seven, so as not to ignore our brother, Richard, who died at birth.

My oldest sibling, Wilda, was born in 1921. The next oldest, Gertie, was born in 1923. We believe Richard was born between the two girls, but we failed to ask our parents about it before they passed on.

Next came the twins who were born in 1928. The oldest, Seward, was named after Dad. His twin, Somers, was named after a childhood friend of my father.

Then came the dry spell. It wasn’t until 1942 that my brother Lewis was born. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to a new neighborhood. It wasn’t long before the gossips decided Lewis was the son of either Wilda, who was 20 at the time, or Gertie, who was 18.

In 1942, having a child out of wedlock was worse than having a scarlet letter branded on one’s face. So, in 1944, I was brought into the world to save my sisters’ reputations.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

By the way, if you recall, my three brothers were name Seward, Somers, and Lewis. Outside the family, they are known as Bill, Lew, and Doug. It’s a long story.

For whatever reason, my parents failed to send me to kindergarten. (That may explain a lot of things.) I began first grade at Scheafer School in the Crafton Heights section of Pittsburgh. My favorite subjects were finger painting and playing with the small box of blocks that we each had in our desks.

Our teacher was Miss Beggs, with whom my sister, Gertie, still maintains a friendship.

The memory that stands out in my mind is the day I found myself in a real dilemma. My parents had taught me to hold up one finger if I had to urinate and two fingers if I had a more urgent bathroom need. They failed to tell me what to do if my problem dealt with my stomach.

As I sat there trying to decide what to do, my stomach got tired of waiting. It was then I realized why our school so often smelled of vomit. Obviously, nobody told their children how to let the teacher know of stomach problems.

Second grade was taught by Miss Jacobs. Two significant events happened during the 1951-52 time frame. First, Tony Civello moved into the neighborhood. Tony became one of my best friends and, to my knowledge, became the most successful businessman among our high school classmates.

The second event came about on my brother Lewis’ tenth birthday. As the family was preparing for the celebration, my mother noticed my rash and called Dr. Crumb. Back in those days, doctors still made house-calls. He arrived within the hour and diagnosed me with Scarletina. I was told that it was a mild case of Scarlet Fever.

Scarlet Fever is highly contagious. That meant my brother got to kiss his birthday party good-bye. Perhaps that is why, years later, he told his young daughters that my favorite dessert is Jello. I had to eat two bowls of the stuff I absolutely hate… to avoid disappointing my nieces.

I missed a good bit of school because of my disease. Years later, one of my older brothers asked me the time. When I told him the big hand was on the seven and the little hand was on the nine, we came to realize I’d missed the part of second grade when children are taught how to tell time.

In truth, I didn’t need to learn how to tell time. I had my mother telling me it was time to get up, time to eat my breakfast, time to go to school, time to come in from playing, time to eat dinner, time to get a bath, and time to go to bed. Who needs a clock when someone else keeps you on schedule?

Speaking of time, it’s time for me to get busy with other things. I’ll continue this story at a later date. In the meantime, here’s another work of art by Emma.

Self Portrait by Emma Fae Slovisky

Self Portrait by Emma Fae Slovisky

I may be making a mistake in guessing this is a self portrait. I know it isn’t a picture of me because my hair isn’t that long and you’d be hard pressed to see my ribs.

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