My Realizations The Autobiography of Julian Lee  /  COPYRIGHT 2009 JULIAN LEE
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The Isolation of the "Middle Child,"
A Mother Present but Not Present


As the third I was basically a middle child and had the middle-child experience. That is, I was basically missed, or unnoticed compared to my older brothers and my younger sisters. At least it felt that way. This often creates a child who is in large measure unknown to his family as there is not enough attention to go around. I was aware of it by the age of four, with a strong feeling of being neglected. It also, I believe, creates a strong observer. You tend to back away from the complexities and conflicts of the family, observe, and learn. You don't get listened to a lot, so you become strong at listening. Both of these qualities -- observing and listening -- ended up being at the basis for my strong career as an astrologer that came later.

I run away from home for the first time
 
My mother's mind was always on housework. She was a neat freak. You couldn't get comfortable or hide a mug of tea anywhere. It seemed she was always washing dishes or cleaning the floor. 

I would get to wondering, "If I disappeared, I am not sure anybody would miss me." To test this theory, and also to punish my mother who I sensed had her mind on many other things besides me, I ran away from home at least five times, starting at the age of four. I remember walking out of the house on a winter's day to undertake this. I had seen pictures of hobos and "runaways" having a stick with a cloth sack hanging off the end, a handkerchief stuffed with their belongings, and hoisted over their back. This looked like the way it was done, so I tried to cook that up. It seemed like too much trouble and thought, so I abandoned that and just walked out the door. I ended up crouching beside a neighbor's garage, in a place just outside our yard, and waiting, hoping, that my mother would notice I was not in the house on this cold wintery day. I waited for her to miss me. I was four years old.

The experiment turned out tragically for me. It seem that hours were wearing on, and as they did, my heart sank lower and lower. Soon I was very cold, and night had begun to fall. I had positioned myself by this garage because it was both outside of our property (I never left our property at these hours and I was trying to make a statement) and it was in view of the window where my mother washed the dishes and could look out. I could actually see her face there. I was hoping she would notice me there and at least get curious about why I was crouching in the snow alone by that garage, on such a cold winter, for so long, and with night now falling.

She never looked out at me. She never saw me. I never heard her call out the door. I could have easily heard it. As I got colder and the night got darker, my concept of running away from home got more and more confused. I really didn't want to run away from home or my mom. I just wanted her to know that I existed and to care about it in some way. A little bit would have gone a long way. Look at me. "What have we here? What are you thinking right now?" Right now I was just doing an experiment to see if my hunch was correct or if I was just imagining that she never had her mind no me. The experiment wasn't going well. I didn't even have proper mittens. That was probably one of the saddest moments of my life, there at four in the snow by that garage as the night settled and the bright snow went gray.

Finally, nature and the weakness of a four-year-old boy worked their natural arithmetic and I came into the warm house, beaten and disappointed. It was warmly warm but there was no joy in entering. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it was just a vagary of fate. Maybe there was steam on the window and she couldn't actually see me though I could see her and I was just a dark shape stooping in  snow against a white painted garage. Maybe she just assumed I was on my latest trip to the planet Mercury with Sage Rastus the Kid Doctor. I had one last hope that she would express some relief or dismay when she saw me again, like "Where have you been??? I have been so worried about you!!? But no cigar. Maybe it was just the way she was that day. I put thoughts in my mind that might enable me to go on living, and tried to forget about it. I vaguely recall she might have said, "Where have you been?" but not overly interested or concerned, just slightly annoyed. Or possibly she did not say a thing and never even noticed. That is probably what actually happened because I seem to have blocked that out.

My family was a hubbub. It seemed that my energetic older brothers, and now the vital young Joe, were plenty enough to occupy my parents' minds. Dad had many hobby interests and  constructive projects. During this time he was likely reading about installing stone patios, because he did install one. This was one of the first instances of learning to help my dad with his building projects, and it didn't go very well. He loved to read "how-to" books and much of his weekend was spent reading them. Mother seemed to be heavily pre-occupied with pleasing father in the realm of housework and cooking, and only seemed to turn her attention to me at all when dad was gone. It seemed that dad's very presence made her uptight compared to when she was alone with us. Then when he was gone, her interest turned to reaching out to friends by phone and car, and not to her third son. I have one memory of her getting some library books explicitly with me in mind, and of her taking the time to read to me at around age four. In retrospect, she may have been stimulated by some kind of public service announcement -- about reading to your kids. Or, she was thinking about the fact that she would soon dump me in a kindergarten, and she had heard this might help me cope with that. The one memory I have of mother reading me a book -- I remember it was one of those strange Dr. Seuss things -- is almost sweet to me. I say "almost" because her mind was not really there. She was not enjoying reading to me.

I run away from home the 2nd time

Still at the little bungalow on a dead-end, and a very aware age six, I repeated my statement, this time in a more serious way. Again the thought besieged me: "Do they even know I exist?"

This time I went further. I went to a hiding place behind some bushes at the brick apartments behind our house. I don't know how long I had to crouch there before they noticed I was gone. It might have been an hour. It might have been three hours. Finally I had gone missing for what was, to them, a perceivable strange long time. As the moments ticked on, my heart was breaking again.

Finally I began to hear my name called out. My whole family -- brothers and mother included -- were shouting out my name "Curt!" The world was suddenly right again.


I had never seen my father run, and it was the only time that I was to see it. I heard my dad's call coming nearer. Then I heard the thumping of his bare heels down the concrete driveway to my left and his voice called loud towards the rising walnut-treed hills of the campus of the Smouse School across the street -- a great place for a boy to wander and maybe get lost. But I was right beside him. Seeing and hearing his pained heart, I emerged out of my place, both hot and cool, behind the dark of the bushes.

I feel a some pain to this day when when I recall that vivid image and hear in my ears my father urgently calling my name.
He touched my shoulder, claiming me, and I silently went with him as he called "I have him!" I was partly abashed to have frightened my family. Yet I did  not make up any story or give any explanation. I thought he might reprove me angrily. But at this moment I have often thought -- in my later years -- that he understood it all. He knew exactly what I had done, and why. It probably gave him pain.

I was to have other moments like that with my mother in my teens. Each time I repeated the same actions, which became bolder and more capable over the years, each time going further.

In later years, when I was a parent, I realized that my mother was aware of me in her own way, and did have part of her mind on me. Later I saw that she would write about me often in her diary, starting young, noting what was going on with me and making observations. I realized that part of her approach was to simply give me a long leash and allow me a lot of freedom. Both of my parents were creative people. Later with my own children I found that I was happy and contented with a child as long as she was at least creatively engaged. I always was. I was always working on one thing or another --  digging for fossils, building a plane model, learning guitar chords. I think it was her habit to be satisfied and leave me alone as long as I was creatively engaged. I think she was aware of me most of the time; she just didn't convey that to me. So I grew up feeling neglected and it was painful. I think this is stronger for the middle child. Parents can give you, usually, only just a bit more than they themselves have been given. And my mother got little attention from her own mother, and likely improved on that with me. One thing she was very good at was praise, acceptance, and positive words. Once she would decide to put her mind or you for a moment, she tried to make up for her long neglect with a surfeit of positive words. It was a lifesaver. More about that later.

But after the pain of it, the middle child becomes his own person. With benign neglect comes freedom, freedom to explore, learn, become anything you can dream of. With lack of attention there is also lack of demands. This may make the child immature since fewer demands and responsibilities are placed on him. But he becomes a unique and intrepid individual unafraid to go his own way, even unsupported. This was me.

So as a middle child I had much freedom. Then even more when my mother became a single mother with sole custody at the age of 13. I was basically unsupervised. At an early stage this freedom saw me exploring music, musical performing, then finally religions. I needed to study religions, because the world had become a very confusing place by the middle 1960's.