Tag Archives: raised Catholic

Changing The Past To Change The Present

13 Sep

When the stay home order was issued in Mexico in April, I thought to myself, “cool, my introverted tendencies will make this a walk in the park.” As time has gone on, it’s not been as easy as I thought it would be.

This week I remembered where the desire to hole up, live in a cave, retreat from the world began. It started literally at a Retreat. As I have mentioned before, I was raised Catholic. I loved the ritual, incense, mystery of it all. In the early 60s the mass was still said in Latin. We learned the Lord’s Prayer in Latin at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Catholic School. Something about it spoke to my young spirit.

My first communion.

About a half hour from our house in New Jersey, there was a convent/retreat center run by nuns. My mother pulled some strings so that I could attend a girls weekend. Apparently I was below the age limit. When I arrived I was assigned a cell-like room containing a single bed, side table, bible and cross on the wall. It was heaven! With four brothers at home, three younger than me, I reveled in my own space and solitude.

Two of my three younger brothers.

We attended mass in a beautiful little chapel with stained glass windows and rich, warm, wooden pews. Quiet was everywhere. Meals were silent with a nun reading aloud to the clink of glasses and scraping of plates. During free time I walked the grounds among tall trees, flowers blooming and nature sounds. It felt like another planet compared to my day-to-day life in a small 1950s house with two adults and five children.

There was no front patio when we lived here.

On Saturday afternoon each girl met individually with one of the sisters who asked about our lives. It was perhaps a first that someone asked me about ME, how I felt, how my life was going, what I wanted, and then listened. I poured out my heart thinking, or perhaps not thinking that my words were confidential. I told the sympathetic confidant that I didn’t think my mother loved me. Innocent words from a child lost in the shuffle of her mother’s incredibly busy life.

These pictures are of a younger me than the story. All dates are dubious.

The nun told my mother, who was ashamed and humiliated. My mother had attended Catholic school as a child and was subject to shame and humiliation by the nuns then as well. I guess it all came back. On the way home in the car she passed on that hurt to me. “How could you say such a thing?” She was very upset and needless to say, I never went back.

My mother at 30 on my christening day.

The conversation was never mentioned again, as happened frequently in our family. But somehow I think it changed her. I used to have to go for weekly allergy shots and we went just the two of us. She would take me out for a banana split after the very painful treatments. It would have been prohibitively expensive with my siblings in tow. Although the personal words were rarely uttered and the physical caress was lacking, I remember moments of feeling loved by her. Stringing them together, I can sincerely change the past. My mother loved me, and as all mothers, did the best she could.

DOS TORTAS

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