I have a cluster of memories that are all connected to a chance meeting with a young man in the pine trees between 14 Village Drive and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and Elementary School. The Elementary School expansion had just been finished and I can still remember the smell of paint when I snuck into the new building, to poke around the summer before it opened. “I was just buying a coke” was the answer I had prepared, more like Jack Dalton than McIver, on the chance that I ran into someone while I was “lost”. I was into every room and closet of that entire facility. Never got caught.
There was however, nothing to say the day I was caught dropping out of the hayloft of Two Gaits Barn, so I just ran like hell. Chased by a mad-eyed red-haired young man with bad teeth who ran after me like a demon and as far as he could before running out of air. Thank god everyone smoked in those days, it gave a guy a chance to get away.
But not from the nuns, with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, it was random acts of violence from overweight women bound into tight black stretch materials and habits hiding everything but their faces in sweltering 100-degree heat and humidity which was an average temperature of a summer day in Indiana.
The wind must flow right through the same materials in the winter. Catholics! Cigarette butts in the barbecue outside the convent. Sister Philip, trying to teach me to spell in a dark room of the convent. She was the youngest one Nun I had ever seen. A music teacher literally hitting my hands with a steel rod, just like in the movies. I think that I may have confused the nuns, maybe it wasn’t all random.
The rectory kitchen table, waking up in a pool of drool and watching the pastor’s car, back out of the garage and leave for the day. I kept falling asleep around this guy. The kids at school, caught me rubbing my ass. I thought that I had worms or something. Learning about Bill Crosby, cleared up a lot of confusion. Learning about the Catholic Church practice of exporting pedophiles to remote locations, cleared up a lot more.
These experiences are life sentences without possibility of parole: shadow work looks at the prison bars.
I had stopped going to church by dressing up for mass and then hiding in the bushes until people started leaving the church. I was hiding out one Sunday when I was “caught” by a young man. At first, I thought I was busted, then I realized that he was just hiding out, smoking a cigarette in the bushes. Everyone smoked in those days, it gave a guy a chance to run away.
Then I recognized who he was: he was the older brother of one of my classmates. His younger brother had not started school until late in the Spring, and when he did, he arrived with a lunchbox, literally packed, a small treasure chest of fruits, vegetables, and deserts. Hot soups and spoons. I had never seen anything like it before. My classmate had juvenile diabetes and he did not survive until the next school year.
I remembered the young man, his older brother from the funeral because I had passed out while standing in the smoke of my censer, on an August afternoon. Some men carried me outside and laid me in the grass.
Somehow, I “got it”, I understood why being outside when he should have been in the church was OK; that it was OK not to want to go into the church anymore. GOD SUCKED~!
I have persistent memories that are somehow tied to this chance meeting, including out-of-body flights over the local fields and open gates. An open gate meant there wasn’t a bull in the field. An open gate meant there were not hogs in the bush, an open gate was an open invitation to go right in and take a look, and that’s how I found Fergies Pond. I followed a creek because of an open gate.
As the crow flies, Fergies Pond was about one mile from home, as the creek flows for a young boy, the trip never really ends; but this creek comes to an abrupt change as it passed under the rise of a railbed. Here the creek runs through that railbed in a culvert that demanded a small river. An undercut had been dug on the downstream side of the culvert to ensure that debris would not clog the end of the pipe. That was Fergies Pond, just big enough to float in and pretend. You can find the old railbed on google as a trail.
Susanne was that tomgirl from the movies, with glistening hair and deeply tanned skin.
A year older, I followed her other around getting into everything. I was besotted, with no idea as to what that meant. Whatever she was, I knew her and her at the end of road family; where my dad had disturbed a bee nest resulting in multiple stings (for me). Charlie had a angel, that kept him from personal harm, with absolutely no benefit to those around him.
Years later he would drive in city traffic, reading from some New Yorker, looking intently into your eyes and waving his finger to emphases some obscure technical moral point! I grew up this way, decades before earbuds so it's possible some of it sunk in.
Susanne's dad, a chemist, had built a baby cradle for one of my siblings. Her mother, prematurely gray, was, weirdly, attractive to me as a boy. Her sibling were as were mine, painful for us elders.
So it was like being fired on Friday with no warning when one day Jean told me that I wasn’t allowed to play with Susanne anymore. She wouldn’t tell me why. Susanne was the (?) of my life, my best/only friend so I did something unheard of in the 1950s! I demanded to know WHY? I broke a chair, Jean chased me through the house with a piece of that chair in her hand and she cornered me, in the large bedroom.
Note: This was not just any chair. Jean probably had 7 or 8 kids at the time, and so had taken up antiquing as an escape from talking to children all day. The chair was a child's rocking chair, painted black with gold trim features. There wasn't anything left, but the piece in her hand.
I stood up to her and told her if she came any closer, I would take away the stick hit her with it. She shook her head as we both came to our senses but in anger said the weirdest thing that I can ever remember hearing as an insult: Jean told me that my brother, was smarter than I was and that my IQ was only 145. How stupid can you get? Why, with my intelligence and $2, I can get a coffee at Timmies. That is, if I can keep my mouth shut. Something shut down that day, regardless of anyone's intentions.
The last days of my innocence were spent at Fergies Pond after being separated from my best childhood friend by her mother for reasons that I did not understand. In a kinder more human time and place, a few years later we would have been natural first lovers, but that never happened. One of those sad regrets made more potent because in her 20’s, Susanne died after having an illegal abortion. We were, after all living in Indiana, in a affluent Catholic enclave, where every Sunday Father McDonald preached a sermon demanding no birth control, separating children by gender and 10% of your income.
After finishing with the Sisters, I was promoted to the dumb class at the all-male Brebeuf College Preparatory School where Jesuits fine-tuned my appreciation of the absurd to the point where I completely plagiarized a final English term paper on Albert Camus. I did not think that my male English teacher, could/would read it. A+
What is the matter with all these people? -Icarus Flyby outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
My mothers' sister and mother would come over every Saturday. Sexual Repression Leads to Many Problems. I'll tell you one thing, I denied my children the solace of religion. But not of Spirit! Both our children are exceptional and of strong spirit and will. They face challenges as we all do. Hard ones. Without the solace of religion but with the confidence of practiced self responsibility.
Awakening can happen without any effort. spirit can find any of us any time she wants. Growing Up is all hard work. Growing up is something we do for ourselves. In the 1800s 60% of the population died before the age of five. That's why we grow up. We do it for our kids and generally at the same time as they do.