As I recall, I was generally a quiet and well-behaved child. I kept to myself, since I did not find the world of humans particularly appealing, and would often spend hours at a time in my backyard, looking at clouds and enjoying the subtle changes of light. Moreover, I had taught myself to read, thanks to a wonderful book series with which a family friend had graced us. It was called “My Book House”, edited by Olive Beaupre Miller, and that, combined with a set of Encyclopedias my parents had purchased, provided me with all the information I needed to get a sense of the world around me, as well as embark on frequent flights of fantasy via the legends of yore contained in the Book House series.
My maternal grandmother had gradually become something of an invalid, due to a frail heart, and lived with us for much of my early years. Besides my mother, she had another daughter in Seattle, and a son who served in Germany during World War 2, and who had remained in Austria after the occupation. He had married a woman who reputedly had been a secretary to Hitler in the Reichstag. Her first husband had been a German fighter pilot who had been killed shortly after they were married, and she apparently found in my uncle a sense of security after the Nazi dream collapsed.
When I was about 5 years of age, my uncle and his wife visited us in San Francisco. Her english was still rather tentative, and I had a difficult time understanding her. Nevertheless, both my parents were working, and so when Aunt Elfreda indicated that she wanted to go downtown shopping, it was suggested that she take me along for the trip (perhaps to give my grandmother a break from baby-sitting). In any case, it was to be one of the strangest adventures of my young life. As soon as we were on the bus, for example, I was rudely grasped by the neck and forced down into a seat, as if I couldn’t figure out the bus protocols by myself.
As we traveled downtown, she didn’t speak a word to me, which gave me time to look out the window and take in the various city scenes, which was enjoyable enough, but when we finally arrived at our destination, I was to learn more than I needed to know about my aunt’s child-management style. At the front of the store was a long heavy metal chain that was used to lock up the shopping carts in the evening. My aunt immediately took the chain and tied me up, wrapping it around my neck, chest, and mid-section. She then gave me a hard look, told me not to move, and then wandered off to do her shopping.
I stood there for quite some time, until a store employee found me and removed the shackles. They asked me who had done this, and I replied that Aunt Elfie was responsible. They then made a call over the public address system, and Elfie eventually made her way to the booth at the front of the store where I was waiting. She exchanged loud but unintelligible words with the employee, then grabbed me by the neck again and stormed out of the store.
On the bus home, I could feel the rage simmering in my Aunt, and wisely said nothing. Once home however, I reported the whole incident to my parents. I am not sure what transpired later between Aunt Elfie and my folks, but within a few days my Aunt and Uncle had departed, and no mention of them was made for quite some time to come.