This will not be my usual offering for Monday’s, as this weekend was not nearly as exciting as last weekend. No fun with music or hanging with my writing pals, just a bad case of the flu.
So this will be short.
WHAT I’M READING: MIDMEN: The Modern Man’s Guide to Surviving Midlife Crisis by Steve Ochs. No, I am not having a midlife crisis. He sent me the book to review, which I will do soon.
CELEBRATING STRONG WOMEN Since my weekend was spent lolling on the couch, keeping Kleenex in prosperity, and watching wretched TV, I was not able to research for a special woman to celebrate. Therefore, I thought I would share a bit of the book I’m working on, Evelyn Evolving, that celebrates my mother, one of the strongest women I have ever known. This is from a chapter that relates one of her experiences in an orphanage.
Sister Honora always made Evelyn tremble. Sometimes, when looking into the stern face ensconced in the wimple, Evelyn was afraid her bladder would let go and she would be punished twice. Once for not scrubbing the floor fast enough and again for soiling herself. That’s what the sisters said about pee and poop. “Soiling oneself.” As if she’d rolled in the dirt outside. Evelyn would find that funny if she was not locked in such terror of the nuns.
She didn’t know why she had to be here. It was an orphanage, but Evelyn and her sister were not orphans. They had a mother, and Evelyn had finally come to accept the fact that Miss Beatrice was not their mother. That pretty woman who had brought them here was their mother, and Evelyn knew they had a father, too. Somewhere. According to what she remembered her mother saying, he was gone. Gone for good this time. Not like the many times he had left for weeks and weeks, returning home as if there was nothing unusual in the long absences.
Mother had told them about their father the last time they were all together at Miss Beatrice’s house. Evelyn couldn’t remember all that she had said. Only that their father had disappeared once before when Evelyn was a baby. Just left the house one night after dinner, such as it was, and didn’t come back for two months.
Viola cried when Mother said that this time he was gone for good, but Evelyn couldn’t bring a tear. Truth be told, even now she didn’t know how she felt. The memories she had of her father were vague images of him being there some evenings. Not that he would ever say much to her or Viola. And he would yell at them to be quiet if they made too much noise or asked him for something. But he did see to their supper when Mother went out. That happened most nights. Then he would sit in a chair by the phone on the wall in the kitchen, and it was then that she had to be very quiet. The phone would ring and he would answer, then write things in a notebook. It was a small notebook that he would then close and put in the inside pocket of his suit coat.
Some of those evenings, Viola would play cards with Evelyn, and, even though she had been so young, she’d quickly caught on to rummy. She wished they could play cards in the orphanage. Unfortunately, they couldn’t. Days were filled with cleaning, and cooking, and school work. Evenings were for prayer and religious lessons. Then it was bed time. No minutes in between for games or reading or anything else.
Sometimes at night, with the lights out, Evelyn tried to imagine where her mother was now, and what she was doing. Had she found some other little girls to live with? Or did she “go out” as she had often told them she was doing before leaving the house for some unknown destination. When she would come back home and sometimes stumble up the stairs, Evelyn knew she would be on her own come morning. Mother would not wake up to fix breakfast, and when Evelyn would sneak into her mother’s room, she caught a sour smell that made her stomach tighten. The smell seemed to ride the wave of her mother’s breath as it came out between partially opened lips, and Evelyn would back out.
As bad as that was, Evelyn would give anything to return to that dirty little apartment and be there with her mother with the sour breath. Or at that nice house with Miss Beatrice. Anything except standing here in front of an angry Sister Honora. “Why have you not finished this floor?” The nun gestured down the hall with her walking stick. “You are as slow as molasses in winter. What good are you?”
“I don’t know, Sister.”
That was met with a sharp crack along Evelyn’s backside. “Don’t talk out of turn.”
Another smack. “I said no talking.”
This time when the walking stick landed, Evelyn’s bladder did let go.
“Now look what you have done. You dirty, nasty little child. Take those panties off. Right now.”
Evelyn did as she was told, holding the wet garment gingerly between thumb and forefinger. Sister Honora took the panties on the end of her walking stick, then draped them over the child’s head. “You will wear these to supper.”
It was the most humiliating experience of Evelyn’s young life. Standing in the middle of the dining room the rotten stench of old urine swirling around her and children laughing and pointing. Evelyn bit back the bile that rose in her throat. She couldn’t vomit. She wouldn’t vomit. If she didn’t want more humiliation she didn’t dare vomit.