WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2011
Ahh, the teen years….Not a period of my life as a whole I’d like to live over. Adolescence is marked by such personal uncertainty. You have no idea who you are. Do you take a stand or follow the crowd? Are you pretty enough, smart enough, do you people like you? Yes – I had alot of great times as a teen. I made alot of great friends. But I am certain of one thing; the only way I would go back and relive my teen years is if I could take everything I’ve learned along the way and bring it with me.
11. My Father’s Death – Unfortunate but true, the second decade of my life began with the death of my father. I was 11; he was 44. It was the first day of summer vacation, a Friday and early in the morning. I had walked into my parents room to drop off the paper as I did most mornings. Both of my parents were asleep but what was unusual was the fact that my father was laying upside down in the bed. My mother told me later that he had been having trouble breathing and had put his head at the bottom of the bed, which was closer to the open window (no central air back in those days) in an attempt to get some fresh air. A few hours later as my mother sat in the living room, talking to my sisters and me, my father yelled her name. It was the last thing he ever said. He suffered a massive heart attack in my parents bed. My younger sister and I ran to the neighbors, who were nurses to get help, while my other sister called for an ambulance. We stood in the living room and watched them try to shock his heart back into a sustainable rhythm, which never happened. I can honestly say, it was the first heart break of my life. It has colored my life in innumerable ways. Interestingly, for many years I believed that because I was 11 when my father died, I had somehow been spared the brunt of the full impact of his passing. My siblings lives appeared to be influenced in much more profound ways but it is only with time and lots of therapy that I came to realize that being 11 when your parent dies will impact your life in a rudimentary way. At 11, self image is really just beginning to form in a way that defines lifelong personal identity. My family as I knew it (crazy as they could be) ceased to exist. My security was ripped from me at the exact developmental moment in which I was supposed to asking myself “who am I really and where do I belong?” Heavy stuff for a prepubescent girl.
12. Taking the First Puff – As ridiculous as it seems, only weeks after my father died of a smoking related disease, my friend Lisa and I decided that we should doing a little experimenting. So we stole some of her dad’s Winston Lights that he kept in his pickup truck and went out behind the shed and lit up. We did this on and off for a few weeks until somehow, someway, we were busted. While I don’t remember the specifics, I remember smelling like cigarettes and being mortified. I also remember telling my mother (in an attempt to garner understanding and sympathy) that maybe if my father hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have smoked. That didn’t go over real well. Unfortunately, that first puff led to many other puffs, which eventually led to a regular smoking habit by about age 16. Which went on for about 15 more years until I had Max. Dumb, dumb, dumb….
13. Discovering U2 – I have told this story many times but it never gets old. Not to anyone who remembers the moment they figured out that music could “change the world.” I was about 12 or 13, sitting on the floor in my living room, watching MTV (back when they played actual videos). “Sunday Bloody Sunday” came on and Bono marched across the stage at Red Rocks like he was marching into war (which I think was the actual image he was trying to portray). I was mesmerized. I cannot stress the level of mesmerized I was experiencing enough. My brother Ralph was standing in the dining room, watching me, watch Bono. And he, who believed that music was the root of all that was good and right with the world, knew I was hooked. And I distinctly remember the look on his face. It was almost one of pride that said “She gets it. I always knew she’d get it.” Bizarre but very true.
14. Taking the First Drink – I am happy to report that my first drink was not quite as exciting or enticing as the first cigarette. I think I had my first beer at about age 14. Again, with Lisa (we were always getting in trouble) and it was Moosehead beer. It was disgusting and I may have only drank 1/3 of the bottle. On the other hand, Lisa thoroughly enjoyed it. I will say, that experience taught me that I never really wanted a drink bad enough to drink a beer. So I never did. In my life, I have drank, maybe, a total of 2 bottles of beers (and that’s all the sips added up). Although I have developed an affinity for vodka.
15. Live Aid – It wouldn’t have mattered how old I was when I attended Live Aid (the original one; not the “remake”), it would have made it on to my list. The reasons may have differed but it truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m so thankful that I was there. I was 14 and at the height of my “music can change the world phase”, which was being reinforced by the whole social climate. There was no advance notice of when tickets went on sale; they just announced on the radio one day. Either Ralph or I heard; not sure which one but he made a run for the car and we were off the Granite Run Mall to hit the Ticket Tron. Of course, all good Ciliberti stories require a comedy of errors, and we aim to please. About 3 miles from home, and 1/2 a mile past Leader Sunoco in Chadds Ford, we ran out of gas. I don’t remember if we walked back to the gas station or if we caught a ride but eventually we made it to the mall, running as fast as we could to ensure we got our tickets before they sold out. There were about 3 people in the store and no one looked terribly excited. Except for us, of course. I still am in awe of the fact that my brother, 26 at the time, took me and my teenybopper friend Laura to the all day Woodstock of our time. And he didn’t party like it was Woodstock. In fact, I’m pretty sure he didn’t “party” at all but of course he could have hid it from me. I mean what 26 year old music loving Dead head wants to take his 14 year old sister to Live Aid. And be responsible?? But he did and for that, I am very thankful.
16. Concerts in General – Concerts really do deserve their own mention on this list, especially during my teen years. My sister Joanie took me to my very first concert, which was U2, a few months before Live Aid. I don’t give her as much credit as I do Ralph, because she was always responsible. But I saw U2 at least 6 times in my teens, including at the Amnesty International show at the Meadowlands (another one my brother took me to). I also fell in love with Peter Gabriel as a teen and was lucky enough to see him about 7 times. And I must say I ventured into a few Dead shows in my day, including the very last one before they tore down JFK. But while I loved the music, I found the counterculture just a little too to the left for my taste. Not by much, but enough that I passed on the hit of acid I won when I bought the soda from one of the many encampments that had the “X” on the bottom of it.
17. Stepping Foot into the Kennett Square Inn – All I wanted was to make a little money, not change the course of my life. But I got both. It’s interesting when you take this walk down memory lane like I’m doing and you start to see all of moments that really changed who you were. Going to work at the Inn at 15 altered the course of my life (Steve – I can see your head expanding right now so please grab a pin and pop it). I was pretty lost at 15. My father had died, my mother was still very much in the throws of her grief and I wasn’t getting alot of direction. I had gone in and filled out an application in October of 1986 and it wasn’t until a few months later in January of 1987 that I got a call from a guy named Zack, asking if I still was looking for a job and could I start at 4:30 that day. So I said hold on and I asked my mom (which I find pretty comical looking back on it). And so the story goes. I really could write a book. Over the next 25 years I worked for Steve about a total of 12 years. I consider him to be one of my closest friends and many of the people I worked with and who were customers have become life long friends. They have seen me through the highs and lows of my life. We have fought like family, drank and smoked way too much and laughed all along the way. This may be one of my most grateful lifetime moments.
18. Falling in Love – There is nothing worse than a teenage girl who thinks she is in love. NOTHING. And unfortunately my first love ended with the tragic notion that he didn’t really love me. And he was way too old. And it kinda grosses me out just thinking about it. But I am grateful that it is steeped in my memories of my first days at the Kennett Square Inn, spending time with other people who truly made me happy. I realize that alot of people who were older and wiser than me at the time had to sit by helplessly and watch me get my heart broke, as the rite of passage requires. And I love them for doing it. But there is something absolutely beautiful in the art of falling in love for the first time – something pure and good that you will never feel again in your life. Because when it happens again, you’ve already learned that the world can be a cruel place. Thanks to your first love. Thanks. Thanks alot.
19. Going to College – I am the first and only of my siblings to attend and graduate from a traditional college. I grew up in an environment that did not place emphasis or importance on higher education but rather on a strong work ethic, which all of my siblings have. So while they didn’t attend college, they have all done very well for themselves in their respective fields and I admire each of them for that. But I knew from the time I was very young that I wanted to go to college and become a teacher, which later changed to a psychologist. The problem I encountered was this: no one in my family had every gone to college. I had no role model. I had no support in the sense that there wasn’t anyone there to lead me on this journey. In fact, my mother told me that, while she was ok with me going to college, she thought I was too young to go away. She refused to visit colleges with me and ultimately the underlying message of “don’t leave me” won out and I chose to stay home and commute the first 1 1/2 years. I loved college. And when I say I loved college, I mean I loved learning. Forget the partying, I had already done that at the KSI. I was there to learn something about everything. Except Math, which I really hated. The interesting thing is (and I’ll expand on it in my next installment) is that while I knew I wanted to go to college, I was ill equipped to take that education and use it in a way that one would expect. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the blue collar mentality I was born in to. I wanted the education but not the job that went along with it. I was perfectly fine waiting tables and tending bar. And I’m still very much that way – I often scan the parttime want ads and think “Hmm. Maybe I’ll pump gas one night a week.” There’s something very powerful, moral and good about being raised in a working class home.
20. Meeting Mark – I was 17 when I met the man who would later become my husband, and then my ex husband. I was a freshman in college and he was a “forever junior”. He was in my Math class (remember I said I hated Math) and the teacher was brutal. It was dumb people Math – for the people who had no aspirations of ever doing anything which involved numbers and we still cheated. But anyway, it was a slow start to a strange relationship. I thought he was a bit of a geek but he appeared to admire me in a way that no one really had before. I ended up falling very deeply in love with him and we had a nearly 2 year relationship that was marked with some very stormy moments. I admit that by the time the relationship ended, a role reversal had occurred and the guy who I always thought loved me a little bit more than I loved him, left me devastated and destroyed in the parking lot of a dry cleaner in State College. And this all happened before we got back together in our 20’s and married. But you’ll hear about that later.