Clean Windows

Within the next couple of years Jalene’s family status changed again. Their family of 7 was reversed to 5. Uncle Don was now serving in the US military, while Grandma Rose was residing in a state mental institution.

Perhaps the family could regain some normalcy, but it wasn’t meant to be. As cited in a previous post, Jalene’s family would never be deemed typical. Jalene’s love of roller skating and gathering treasures along the way, was now merely a dim memory.

Suddenly, her parents had begun moving from house to house while her father jumped from job to job. Jalene had been mandated to accept full time responsibilities of an adult. When not in school, she was the caregiver for her brother and sister, as well as the housekeeper and chief ironer. In the 1950’s, permanent press garments were not readily available. Therefore, Jalene was ordered to iron not only the family’s typical attire, but also dish towels, sheets and pillow cases.

With each passing year, the family’s level of poverty increased. There were no birthday or holiday celebrations. However, once a year in their small OH town, the local fire department held a fall festival on Halloween night. The town’s children of all ages and income were welcomed for homemade chili, treats and a night of games and prizes.

Jalene’s excitement had continued to increase from the moment she first heard about it until the day of the event. There was so little happiness in the Maher family but tonight would be a wonderful memory for Jalene. Little did she realize her excitement would turn to sadness within a matter of hours.

When Glenn arrived home, he noticed there was soap on some of the windows. Quizzing Jalene, she readily admitted she was the guilty one, for children in her 3rd grade class at school said they were going to soap windows as a traditional Halloween event.

Jalene believed if the other children were going to do this, she wanted to partake.  She wouldn’t dream of leaving home to soap windows for she would encounter the harsh wrath and punishment from Glenn for not remaining at home. Thus, she soaped only a few of her windows. When her classmates queried her the next day, she could exclaim that she too had participated in such an adventuresome tradition.

When Jalene admitted her crime, Glenn hastened to deal with what he deemed a most dastardly deed. As he immediately removed his large, leather belt, Jalene knew what awaited her. Following her beating, she was forced to remain at home scrubbing all windows, including those she had not soaped. Glenn was always eager to use Jalene as a free maid and this time was no different. While other children were attending the fireman’s party, Jalene sobbed and pleaded for her father’s mercy.

As Jalene carried the bucket of water from window to window her hands were numb and painful from the water and cold, northern OH night air. Jalene’s emotional frustration only exacerbated Glenn’s delight in witnessing Jalene’s distress. The few soaped windows could have easily been cleaned the following night, but Glenn insisted Jalene would receive the maximum punishment that very night. Certainly one would have thought the physical thrashing would be enough punishment, but not for Glenn.

Jalene’s schoolmates passed by her home asking if she was attending the party. Her moans and cries could be heard for several houses away as she continued to plead with her father to attend the party. It wasn’t meant to be. This wouldn’t be the last time Glenn inflicted great punishment for a lesser crime, but it would be one which Jalene would never forget. Over 60 decades later, that night is a clear vision in Jalene’s memory.

With the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, those events also would be minimized in the Maher family. Jayne had little tolerance for the holidays. Therefore, such feelings of dislike were felt by each of the children. The custom in the Maher home was to have one gift for the holidays. Routinely, it was a necessary item of clothing, such as a coat, a pair of pajamas or perhaps only socks and underwear.

Jalene always vowed when “she was big” she would make certain all the holidays were special, but especially Christmas. She maintained that promise not only to herself, but to her family.

Please continue to join me on Jalene’s journey.

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