In my earliest memories of being spanked or hit I don't remember what had led up to the punishment. Based on later memories, I may have done something bad, as infants do, but I also may simply have been hit because hitting was the order of the moment. Certainly by the age of five, when we were living at Cherry Point, I was afraid to do anything without my parents' explicit permission. It was safer to do nothing at all rather than risk a beating. On the other hand, doing nothing at all also angered my parents. Better to be doing something they wanted you to do. Unless you did not do it up to their standards of perfection.
I remember being hit for pretending to sleep when I was supposed to be taking an afternoon nap. I associate this with a sort of rundown apartment that was probably in the Jacksonville, Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point area of North Carolina. I also remember bad dreams from that era, which might have been when I was four years old. I would be trying to walk a tightrope from my bed, over an abyss, to some distant place. In the dream I was terrified of falling, and every time I fell.
When I was five I fell off a dock into a river when I was fishing with Father and Tom. I was trying to empty a bucket of water and it took me over the edge with it. After some confusion I got to the surface and dogpaddled to where Father could pull me out of the water. I expected a serious beating but instead he made light of the whole incident.
On the other hand, that same year more or less, I got my pants muddy while outside playing. Mother had it just enough together to make sure I was bare-bottomed before she laid into me. After that I was very careful about my clothes. Better to lose a football game than make Mother wash an extra load of laundry.
Despite all that, we did have fun at times. Father took us fishing on occasion. More than once some incident resulted in a beating, and almost always there was the usual bossing around to yelling spectrum of teaching or criticism. He managed to teach Tom and I the rudiments of baseball, how to ride a bike, and how to roller skate. On a few occasions he took us to his office, which was just a desk in a quonset hut. He and Mother had taught me how to count and how to add. I would kill time by writing the number 1 on a sheet of paper, then 2, on up until the allotted time had passed. I marveled that when you got to 99 or 999, you never needed to stop, you just went on to 100 or 1000 or 1 with as many zeroes as you needed. On occasion he would play card games or board games with us.
Mother's tender moments with us were few and far between. I wonder now where she was on the spectrum between normal and autistic. She never used warmth as a control mechanism, even, though she did sometimes try to use carrots instead of sticks. Everything seemed to be about rules that had to be followed. She managed to make acts that normally would be interpreted as acts of generosity, like cooking and serving a meal, into a command and control situation. Dessert was not so much for enjoyment as to coerce children into eating their vegetables. I don't recall a single instance of her playing with me. Not one.
As a child I did not think this was strange. It was just the way things were in the Meyers family.
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