Roberta's Childhood. Delivered by her older sister, Jessica
Roberta's Memorial Service, November 6, 2010 (audio)
We remember Roberta as a contented and happy baby but also a jumping baby. Our memories of her childhood years will be shared by topic rather than a formal, chronological order. See Slide show and photos.
Our family was small and important. Our maternal grandparents from New York visited frequently and one winter they rented an apartment in PP (with a pool!) There were regular trips to Burbank for Sunday dinner with our paternal grandparents. After our grandparents moved to Santa Monica we saw them more frequently.
Many hours were spent helping our Dad, an electronic engineer, with projects such as working on the roof, feeding wires through walls, crawling between floors, and testing the devices he invented.
Roberta had a congenital, nerve based hearing loss. A major family focus was to mainstream her and make her independent. Her hearing was regularly tested and she was given the best hearing aids. Special games and activities were provided to enhance her language development. She had extensive lip reading and speech lessons to facilitate oral communication. Our dad built devices to overcome her hearing limitations such as a vibrating bed triggered by an alarm clock and a flashing light set off by ringing phone.
This emphasis on teaching and making her independent may be why many of my memories involve helping her – learn to walk, ride a trike, swing, climb trees, jump rope, swim, cook, sew, and read. Dolls were not a big thing; card and board games were. Happy hours were spent teaching her how to play and win. Go Fish, Old Maid, Crazy 8’s, Hearts, I Doubt It, Spit, War, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Parchesi, Barbie game, Clue, Life, Monopoly, and Careers were favorites.
We were excited kids to have our own rooms in the new house. A greater appreciation for other aspects of the house came with age.
The annual holiday card usually featured a family photo from a trip. We had great trips and lots of them. On our longer trips we saw the NY World’s Fair and the fireworks over the Capitol in DC, the glaciers and totem poles in Alaska, the palaces and museums in Scandinavia and the Soviet Union, the Mayan ruins in Mexico, and the castles and museums of France and Spain.
And there are also some great family stories about Roberta from these trips.
1) She was young the first time she packed her own suitcase. She could barely carry it and had filled it entirely with toys and dolls. Yes, dolls even though she didn’t play much with dolls the entire Barbie collection was carefully packed to go. I helped her repack so she had clothes for the multi-week trip to Alaska and a few toys.
2) On long road trips, time was usually passed with games and reading. On one trip she spent hours brushing her hair. It started coming out in huge clumps and there were very thin sections on her head. The hairbrush was taken away from her for several weeks.
She accidently got chewing gum in her hair several times which took out more of her hair on the same trip.
3) On road trips we read the AAA guide in the afternoons and started lobbying for a motel with a pool in the very next town. Once we passed through a town or city, we switched our focus to the next one on our route. This went on all afternoon until we stopped for the day. Her favorite was the sleepy bear motel (Travel Lodge). She liked the logo, advertising billboards, and kid’s goodie bag, plus they always had a pool.
4) Our first family trip to Europe started and ended with her curious fingers.
At the beginning of the trip, we picked up a VW at the factory in Germany. The paperwork was done, our belongings were stowed, and we were ready to leave. Roberta was checking out the door lock and got a finger caught in the door. Our family didn’t have any band aids handy so she was whisked in a cart to the factory hospital which was set up for industrial accidents where she was examined and given a small bandage. And now the crowning trip story. At the end of the trip we went to the Tower of London to see the treasures. We had just gotten in to view them when the steel curtains dropped down over the display, the vault doors automatically shut and locked, sirens went off, and the lights went out. After 30 minutes in the dark followed by security guards checking the tourists we did see the Crown Jewels. Yes Roberta had applied a finger to explore the vault door lock.
She loved swimming in pools, lakes and oceans. She had private swim lessons and public swim lessons at Santa Monica College with the friends she made in kindergarten. She participated in the junior life guard program which included jumping off the end of Santa Monica pier and swimming to shore.
There were regular trips to the beach, often accompanied by friends who surely remember the hike back up the hill. For several summers, she accompanied me, my future husband and his little sister to the beach.
She was active in Scouts throughout her childhood years from Brownies through Senior Girl Scouts. She enjoyed weekend camping trips, backpacking in a co-ed Boy Scout troop, and summer camp in the mountains and on Catalina Island. In high school, she belonged to the MSS Scottish Maid where she learned to sail, row and canoe. The annual spring break canoe trip on the Colorado River was a highlight. In high school she also belonged to the ski club. Her love for backpacking, camping, boating and skiing continued throughout her life.
She always enjoyed reading and visits to the library to check out books. She sewed through her teenage years and made her senior prom dress so she would have something unique.
An integral aspect of mainstreaming and independence was attending and succeeding in regular or public school. It was a challenge which she met. Roberta started at the Methodist Preschool in Pacific Palisades. After a field trip to visit public school, Roberta could hardly wait to begin kindergarten at Marquez. During the first weeks, Roberta explained to the class that she wore a little radio, the sound went in through the hole in front, and down the wire into her ear. Everybody could look at it, but touching it might make it too loud or too soft. Clearly, she dealt well with her school peers from the beginning.
Roberta had a core group of loyal friends starting in K and Brownies. Most of them are here today.
In junior high, she took challenging classes and made more school friends. She and her friends knew Mrs. Beagles, the school librarian, very well. Our mom had gone back to school for a degree in library science and was assigned to Paul Revere.
In high school, Roberta took college prep classes for the UC system. She enjoyed a photography class and took many photos during this period. She continued to hold elective offices. She also participated in a National Science Foundation summer program at the Indiana University- Purdue medical center. She visited colleges during spring break of her senior year and selected UC Irvine.
Roberta was very young for the first pets which is shown by their names. The guinea pigs were Jack (hers) and Jill (mine). The babies were shared. After moving to the new house, she had a parakeet. Bluebell revealed her great capacity for patience, love and devotion. She trained him perfectly! In addition to admiring himself in a mirror, he liked to sit on her head or shoulder and climb through her hair. He also liked to perch on the edge of a glass and taste the contents. Water wasn’t a problem but once he startled my grandmother and ended up fully submerged (was fully dunked) in lemonade! Roberta and her grandmother were horrified. Bluebell was quickly washed and gently patted dry. He learned to be very cautious on large, wide glasses.
At our family’s new home, jobs included trimming festucca, washing rocks from indoor garden and washing windows (actually sliding glass doors). One summer she worked at Irma’s café as a lunchtime dishwasher and rode her bike to town. She worked at the Palisades Library during high school.
And now one final story concludes our section. When she was home from UC Irvine one weekend, she mentioned that she had invited a friend who lived in Pasadena for lunch. When my mom answered the door, there was Norman. "Did you have trouble finding a place to park?" she asked politely, and he said, "I came on my bike."