Chapter One:

The soil in which we are raised can dictate who we will become.

Some children accept everything that they are told and others question everything. Some kids take things apart wanting to know how they are made and struggle to put them back together. Some have a thirst for the eternal “why” which seems to have been implanted within them from birth.

The first time I ran away from home was when we lived on Esplanade St. in Montreal. I was six. It was 1953. I was tired of being told that I had to go to bed at six o’clock. It was unjust; it was unfair. I reached the end of the block, turned around, and ran home just in time for bed. Psychology teaches that the soil in which our characters are developed stems from our early years up to the age of 6 and from that age, I was a runner, an explorer.

Ours was a struggling Jewish family living in a Jewish ghetto wanting little to do what makes us “Jewish”. My mother loved to work; she was a feminist in the days when feminism was just beginning. My dad was very handsome and wanted to be a movie star. He too ran away from home but his first time was at 13 and then again at 17 when he moved to Hollywood. He might have succeeded as an actor/comedian, but his mother, whom he adored, got sick with cancer, so he came home, forgot his dream, and joined the army at the outbreak of WW2. I believe that he suffered from undiagnosed PTSD most of his life. The only solution in those days was to drink.

Both my parents married late, more because they were pushed into it than for love.  My dad would say “With my looks and her brains, we’ll go far”. I think, however,  that they believed that I had her looks and his brains since they never really expected much from me.  They told my sister and me that they didn’t want kids, as evidenced by the fact that they didn’t spend a lot of time raising us. They were too busy trying to make a living. My mother tried her best. She brought music into our home.  Every month a record came in the mail with a  book containing the words of all the magical stories and songs. My sister and I loved to sing and we learned every word.  Today I know thousands of songs because of those early days. Again, the soil to prepare me for singing for the elderly…which I still do. My mom would constantly break out in song whenever someone said something that reminded her of that song. I still do that today.

We were raised by live-in nannies (called shiksas in those days). They never lasted long often until Phyllis entered our life when she was 27, I was 10, my sister was 7 and my baby brother was just born. Phyllis became like our second mother but she was a simple country girl, from a strict Pentecostal background who had broken all their rules and had run away from home. She did everything for us and so I learned nothing about keeping a house. We pretty much were left to figure things out for ourselves and for the first half of my life, I didn’t do a very good job of it.

Since we moved every three years, making and keeping friends was not in the cards. I’ll never understand why I kept quiet about certain painful experiences in those early years; perhaps it was because there was no forum for discussion at home.

After my first year of High School, my parents moved again. My mom left it up to my dad and me to find our next duplex since she had a full-time job.  All I knew was that I wanted my very own room and that it would be close enough to my high school that I would not be transferred to another school. We found exactly what “I” wanted…it had a tiny room in the front with a balcony that could be mine alone. Up to then, my sister and I always shared a bedroom. I gave little thought to the rest of the duplex, which was horrid now that I think about it. There were consequences for my selfish attitude. I found out later that it was 3 houses outside the district of my previous high school, so I would have to be transferred to the High School for Girls across from McGill University all the way downtown.  I begged my mom to go to the principal, like other parents did, and fight for me to get back in, but she simply wouldn’t.  I hated her at the time and cried every day for weeks. The school building looked like a prison or an old orphanage from a Dicken’s novel… bars on the windows…cement playground in front with no grass or trees and far from home.  It was only years later as an adult that could I muster the courage to ask my mother why she didn’t fight for me.  She said, “Are you kidding?  I wanted to go to that school. It had the highest academic standard in the city at the time and I wanted to go there myself.”  Today I believe that God was using her to save me from more terrible experiences with boys that I was simply not equipped to handle. Thank you, Mom!  I was able to focus on my studies without the pressures that young boys and girls had to deal with then and so much more now!

Yom Atzmaut Sameach 5775
Listen to Peggy
Tikvah Peggy's first CD, Tikvah, is now available.

Songs to Soothe the Soul