Friday, October 25, 2013

Hi There Georgie Girl

I try to capture in a few paragraphs an idea of who I am and from whence I’ve come.  This will not be an easy task.  For reasons not totally understood by me, I have blocked out huge portions of my life not the least of which is a total and complete lack of recall for my early childhood years.  I will share with you what I do remember and hopefully you will gain a little insight into who I am.

Now in my 80th year I become more and more interested in the previous 79 years, particularly the earliest years for which I have litle or no memory. Often, instead of looking ahead as we so often do in our earlier years, I find myself looking back in time.  It’s as if I began to live, not as I entered the world kicking and screaming, but on the day my mother died when I was 12 years old.  Her death was so wrenching for this young pre-menstrual, bewildered, and frightened child that every protective mechanism I possessed kicked in.  An impenetrable wall surrounded my broken heart so no one could ever reach it again.    The scars remain and to this day I try to remember my early years.   What was my mother like?  Was she short or tall?  Did she like to sing and dance?  Did she knit or sew or paint?  Was she happy?  Did she like being a mom?   There is a lingering and ever present search for buried memories that will only be satisfied when she and I are once again united in eternity.  

One thing is eminently clear as I reflect.  A mother is the center of a family, the glue and tape that holds things together, the protective mat that cushions every fall.. Without a mom, the basic structure is fractured and splintered.  No father, sibling or relative can capture that bond in the same way.  We need her presence to make us whole.  I buried my beloved mom and I never fully recovered from the shock. 
I was packed up bag and baggage and, without a great deal of fanfare and no understanding and I found myself in a convent boarding school in Albany, NY.  I was terrified.  To my young and confused mind, overcome with sadness and grief, this was yet another painful abandonment.   Distant relatives choreographed an extraordinary effort to ensure I would be not only protected and educated, but also molded into a polished and sophisticated young woman.  well versed academically and socially.  Family members possessed strong ties to the religious order of the Madams of the Sacred Heart and clearly wielded a great deal of authority. “ “Tickets” from friends and contributors to this elite organization of educations and my admission to this special academy was effected.   I was, bewildered, frightened and crippled by loneliness as I arrived at this strange new place where I would spend the next five years of my life.

The Academy of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood was one of eight exclusive and elite boarding schools for young ladies from privileged backgrounds.  It was run by the religious order of the Madams de Scare Jesu, or the Madams of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Their dedication to providing the highest level of education to young woman and their lofty goal of charity and service to God combined to build a foundation for my future.  Unquestionably, the five years spent in their care was the guiding force in making me the woman I became. My classmates were daughters of the wealthiest American, European and South American families. We were vigorously immersed in academics and were challenged and stimulated at every turn.  There were no electives for us.  We were required to study math, science, English, history, and all the romance languages in addition to four years of Spanish and French.   We were taught to diagram sentences endlessly as well as become proficient in “critical things for ladies of privilege to know”;  how to set a “proper” table; how to curtsy, sit up straight, say please and thank you and address our elders in a respectful and lady like manner.  Every evening we were required to dress for dinner and an unwritten dress code for genteel ladies was understood and strictly enforced.
While the first few weeks were sad, frightening and very lonely, I soon responded to the care and concern so consistently present.  I was wrapped in the loving arms of these holy women who surrounded me with comfort and solace. I came to love every minute of my time there and credit them with molding me into the person I am today. I will be forever in their debt.  The day I graduated, at the vulnerable age of 17, I begged the Mistress of Novices to allow me to enter the convent.  I was terrified to be out on my own and lose the comfort and support I’d come to expect. She smiled sweetly and calmly suggested that I test the real world and the waters of life more fully before making up my mind.  She sent me on my way with hugs and encouragement.  My story gets boring and unimportant for the next 3 years as I struggled to find my path.  In the 50’s, young women simply did not live alone.  After graduation typically, one went on to college, lived at home with mom and dad, or got married.  Since there was no mom or dad, no money for college and no young man to marry, I found an apartment and a job and entered into the very lonely next phase of my life.  

I was all of twenty years old when I met and married my wonderful husband .  If the truth were known then, I would have married the first decent guy that came along.  I was longing to love and be loved. Some one or thing was watching over me when John came into my life.  He has been my true soul mate, friend and love for over 50 years. We have 8 wonderful children and 18 marvelous grandchildren. Clearly I would not have made a proper nun!

My twilight years are now ones of reflection.  I continue to try to resurrect childhood memories that are tucked away deep in the darkest corner of my soul.  It has been said that if we live long enough our lives come full circle and by looking back we’re able to better understand who we really are.   I suspect we can live a lifetime and never discover the whole truth.

It remains my hope and dream for this last chapter of my life.