Posts Tagged ‘Childhood’


October 31, 2013 16 comments

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich &

People wear masks all the time, covering up all kinds of situations and emotions.

Halloween is one of my favorite celebrations. In disguise, you get to openly be whatever you want to be and get a bag full of free candy to boot! My memories of Halloween as a child are filled with endless hours of trick-or-treating (mostly treating) first through the 5-stories of our apartment building and then, all over town until our legs could take us no further. After that, my Dad would put us in the back of his shiny, red, Volkswagen bus and drive us to friends’ houses until our bags were stuffed and our eyes were bleary.

I don’t cut my Dad a lot of slack when it comes to my childhood. I can’t sugar-coat fear or disappointment. No one ever wanted to be on the receiving end of his wrath. You never knew what kind of mood he would come home in, if, or when he came home. Every day was unpredictable. He enjoyed holidays and parties though and could really get into the “spirit” of things– when he wanted to. Despite his ominous nature, he was big on costuming and we could pretty much count on his help for a clever idea and creative way of making it happen. He had an impressive repertoire of costumes himself. I remember him spending weeks working on them before the annual masquerade ball he and my mom attended every February at the German Club they belonged to. (I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my Dad is from Germany.) Every winter, the German Club celebrated Fasching which is a German holiday that resembles our Mardi Gras and is similar to Halloween in that parades are held and “clubs” host costume balls.

My Dad’s costumes always won awards, if not First Place.

These are a few of my favorites.


Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich &

My Dad, the mummy.

The old man on the right is my Dad.

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich &

This “old man” was only in his late 20s.

old group

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich &

A group shot of my “old man” and his date who, of course, is my mom.

Third man on the right. My Dad is the Godfather.

Circa 1970s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich &

The Godfather (4th man in)– is my father.

One year my Dad went as the Statue of Liberty. Another year he was a Prize Fighter who lost to a midget. He even dressed in Blackface as a Minstrel which now-a-days of course, would be considered offensive.

The minstrel and my mom.  Circa 1960s

Circa 1960s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich &

The Minstrel and my mom.

Another questionable but winning costume; large, blond lady wearing a dress made from potato sacks.

This blond woman wearing the dress made out of potato sacks is my Dad.

Circa 1970s
©2013 Karen Szczuka Teich &

My Dad loved masquerades and wore many masks.

As an adult, I realize he was a resourceful, creative man and I often wonder how different his life might have been if he had been raised and educated in this country. Like many people, he had to contend with his demons while they competed with his redeeming qualities. He loved to cook and I have happy memories of him lifting me up and setting me on top of the refrigerator so I could watch him roll out the dough on the kitchen counter to make donuts or melt sugar and butter in a pan on the stove-top to make candy. He’d dribble the hot mixture into ice-cold water to form droplets of yummy home-made caramel. He took our family camping and taught us how to play Yahtzee and Monopoly and passed along his love for puzzling.  I love my Dad.

He did the best he could.

Children are resilient. Thankfully, despite the imperfections of our childhoods or the tumultuous relations we have with our parents, most of us also have unconditional love for them or at least forgiveness. I don’t deny the turmoil of my youth but I do try to have compassion for the fact that no matter how tough I believe some parts of my childhood were, my Dad’s was unimaginable; growing up in Germany during WWII. As a parent myself now, I realize we all just do the best we can and I hope that when my kids reflect on some of the mistakes I’m making, they will have compassion too.

Wild Thing, She Makes My Heart Sing!

December 21, 2010 3 comments

Talk about taking the world on with a smile…..

How about the 9-yr old who does it everyday and isn’t even trying? I’m talking about the same one whose first kiss was from a dolphin and who swims with sea lions. No inhibitions. Although she was born with a tooth in her mouth, her hair did not start growing until she was two and even then, it was only at a snail’s pace.  People mistook her for a boy until she was four, even if she was wearing a pink dress.  Her first haircut wasn’t until she was six. At nine she happily struts her stuff in her older brother’s hand-me-downs. She never wears matching socks and only has one ear pierced. If there is a revolt at school, she will be the leader, ever speaking her mind. She has a healthy disregard for authority.  She once devised a plan for her and her peers to escape the school’s playground at the injustice of having a “made-up” game, banned. (Think Lord of the Flies.) They were going to take the city’s Loop Bus……. somewhere. I’m thankful she had no money.

This child actually smiles when she’s sleeping. No lie. And yes, she wakes up smiling too. Joyful. That’s the word that comes to mind. A blessing. She is a modern-day Pollyanna, not only drinking from the cup of kindness but always sharing it too. I’m often amazed at the wisdom that comes from such a youthful mind.  I am equally humbled when she tells me everything is going to be alright and I believe her. She’s inspirational. I used to say, when I grow up I want to be just like her but now I say, whenever I’m ready to stop being so grown-up, I’d like to be just like her.

Sometimes you need only look in the room at the end of the hall for a reason to keep trying to take the world on with a smile.

Mayhem Makers

“Wild thing you make my heart sing. You make every thang…….. groovy!”         The Troggs

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