Memories Chap 1

Starting with the third accident I had to wear diapers under my shorts every day.  My mother at first was very upset about this way of treating me, even considering changing us from school,

Chapter 1  Early years

I was 3,5 years old when my father died. I don’t have any personal recollections of him. All I can tell about him I learned from others, mainly my mother. They had met when he was 30 years old and my mother 22. My father was an American lawyer send to Europe to start up an office for the law firm of which his father was a senior partner. Almost from the first moment they had fallen in love and married soon afterwards.

After a couple of years the young couple and their 2-year-old son, my brother Maxim, moved to the States. I was born there 2 years later. My father’s very Chicago society family at first was somewhat reserved towards his young European wife. My father’s 4 brothers and sisters were 7 to 18 years older than he was. On her arrival in the States my mother was 25 years old, and her youngest sister in law was 40. But soon her natural charm conquered the whole family, especially my grandfather who was 75 years old at the time.

Nevertheless it seems that my mother never really adjusted to Chicago, and after my father’s tragic death of a brain haemorrhage on the squash court, she decided to go back to Europe. My mother did a tremendous job raising us. With the proceeds of my father’s life insurance she bought a small country house close to the city where they had lived in the first years of their marriage. Preferring to have sufficient time with us she didn’t want a full time job but found a position as a part time medical assistant. Trying to give us an education as close as possible to the one we would have received if my father had lived, in line with her own childhood as a physician’s daughter. We went to a private school, were members of an exclusive tennis club, went on yearly holidays to a fashionable beach resort (even if it was only for 2 weeks). Some years we even went skiing (but usually this was on invitation of friends or of my mother’s sister). At the time we considered this all rather normal but of course it was almost impossible to do this on her small salary, even supplemented by a small allowance of my American grandfather. But my mother did wonders mainly by saving on all ordinary household expenses. For instance I rarely received new cloths, wearing those my brother had outgrown. But we surely didn’t suffer; on the contrary I have very fond memories of those years.

My brother, although only 8 at my father’s death, soon assumed the “man’s” role in the family. He had the muscular build of my father and was very disciplined in all his activities making him excellent at sports and an outstanding student. I admired him a lot and always tried to achieve the same standards. But I had my mother’s slender body and more volatile mind. I compensated those deficiencies by creativity and, mostly, by determination, perseverance and aggressiveness. At both schoolwork, especially in those early years, and sports those characteristics enabled me to achieve very good results, but not reaching the consistent high achievements of my brother.

Among the best memories of those years are those of my frequent visits to my aunt. She was married to a successful manager in charge of the European operations of some American multinational, and had 2 extremely charming daughters, respectively 1 and 2 years older than myself. They lived in a large country house with a large swimming pool (still exceptional in Europe in those years). Very often I stayed there for days at the time. Maxim usually wouldn’t come along since he didn’t enjoy so much the almost exclusive female presence. For me being free of the constant fraternal competition was part of the attractiveness of staying with my aunt. There were often lots of other kids around, swimming, biking, playing tennis etc. But since most of the time I was the only boy present we would often turn to more girlie games such as rope skipping or even playing with dolls. I didn’t mind this at all.

When I was about 5 years old I developed a bedwetting problem. Sometimes nothing happened for 2 or 3 weeks but then I would have “accidents” 2 or 3 days in a row. My very loving and caring mother never scolded me for it and did nothing to make me feel guilty. She told me it happened to a lot of boys my age and that it would pass in due time. For the rest, avoiding any form of humiliation, she would simply renew my pyjamas and sheets whenever necessary. Even Maxim refrained from comments, never using it as a weapon in our occasional fights. Of course I had accidents at my aunts place too. My aunt, being a little more practical than my mother, but as caring and loving, never scolded me either, but one evening, after I had had accidents for two consecutive days, she entered my bedroom carrying diapers. She told me I would feel more relaxed not having to worry about wetting the sheets. Starting from that day she would diaper me every night. At first my nieces didn’t know this, but soon they discovered their mother washing diapers (in those days disposable diapers didn’t exist). My aunt told them matter of factly they were mine and my nieces accepted this as something natural.

On hot summer days my aunt would tell me to sleep without wearing my pyjama pants, leaving those next to the bed so I could put them on in the morning to come to breakfast. One day, being once more distracted, I went down wearing my wet diapers and plastic pants without my pyjama pants. When I entered the kitchen the whole family looked amused. At first I didn’t understand until my uncle asked if I hadn’t forgotten something or if I was just feeling hot. We all laughed and from then on I often had breakfast just wearing diapers and plastic pants.

The problem complicated however when I started wetting my pants at school. Nuns, whose pedagogic theories dated from somewhere in the middle ages, ran the school. The first time they took off my wet things and pretending not to have nice shorts made me run the rest of the day in underpants. Since we wore smocks it didn’t show too much. But at the end of the day we took off the smocks to go in rows to the exit doors where the parents were waiting for us. The nuns made me put on the still wet shorts, which of course caused my little friends to make remarks about me smelling bad etc. Starting with the third accident I had to wear diapers under my shorts every day. My mother at first was very upset about this way of treating me, even considering changing us from school, but after a while she accepted it, always assuring me that there was nothing to worry about and that in time it would be solved automatically. Of course having to wear diapers made it impossible for me to go to the bathroom without help, and the nuns wouldn’t take time to help me. So I soon took the habit to wet my diapers every day. That’s when some of my little friends began to call me diaperboy. Whenever this happened however I would start a fight, which despite my slender build, I always won. I compensated also by having good notes and by being the best at sports and gymnastics. All this made me a respected figure with my peers despite me wearing diapers.

After a couple of weeks my mother pleaded with the nuns to give me another chance and I never had another daytime accident but the occasional use of the nickname “diaperboy” continued for many years.

The bedwetting problem continued for a couple of years. During all this time, whenever I stayed at my aunt’s place she would come to diaper me every night and I got to really love this special attention and the safe feeling. Gradually I stopped wetting them but my aunt continued to diaper me for many years.

I remember a very specific occurrence from those years which at the time didn’t have any importance but which with hindsight get special significance. My aunt kept a large wardrobe in the attic with all kinds of old cloths; old dresses, used coats, shoes etc. One of our winter games was to dress ourselves in those and to show us to my uncle and aunt. We were very creative at this and were able to change into kozak soldiers, pirates or whatever we fancied. One day when I was 7, maybe 8 years old, my oldest niece discovered the white dress which her sister had worn to do her first communion a couple of years before, and wanted me to put it on. At first I refused, saying I would look silly, but both of them insisted. Soon I was standing in front of the mirror wearing this pretty white dress with short balloon sleeves and a small round collar over a short petticoat showing a bit of ripples and making the skirt stand nicely open. Both dress and petticoat were very short since they were 1 or 2 sizes too small. I remember t was a real shock for me having to admit that I did look pretty. Both my nieces were wildly enthusiastic, so they finished the job by putting some white flowers in my hair, and having me put on white socks and a pair of mary-jane shoes of my niece. Then we went down to meet my aunt. She too was kind of overwhelmed with the result and, repeating over and over how beautiful I looked, insisted I would keep on the dress so that my mother, who was going to fetch me that evening, could see it too. The rest of the day I spend being “a nice girl”. When my mother arrived she too was very surprised and appreciative of “her sweet little girl”. She insisted I would keep on the dress to drive home, pretending to be in a hurry. I didn’t mind at all because all the appreciative comments had convinced me that I really looked pretty and I felt quiet at ease in my dress. At home my mother took a couple of pictures. I soon forgot the whole thing, even forgetting to ask how the pictures had come out, until some time later my eye fell on the frame in my mother’s bedroom in which she kept a number of very special pictures, mostly from the time my father still lived, and noticed the picture of “her sweet little girl” had received a place in it. I remember this made me happy but embarrassed at the same time. I didn’t comment my discovery. I don’t know how long she has kept the picture in that frame and I ignore if my brother, or anybody else, ever noticed it. As I said before, this whole episode didn’t seem of any importance at the time but as a prelude to what was to come it can’t be overlooked.

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