It was a wild and busy weekend with activities every day. Friday was a performance of “The Underpants” at the Main Street Theatre in Sulphur Springs, TX. At the Winnsboro Center for the Arts I enjoyed the Starry Starry Night fundraiser, with a wonderful dinner, lots of good cheer, and a great art auction. Sunday was the final performance of our show in Sulphur Springs, and then we had the cast party. The end of a run is always a bit bittersweet. We have spent so much time with the cast for so many weeks, and then, poof, it ends. However, we have the memories to make us smile.
Needless to say, I did not have time to do my regular Monday blog, so I thought I’d just share another excerpt from my work in progress, Evelyn Evolving.
Evelyn pulled her sweater tighter against the frigid air in the long hallway. The sweater was little protection against the cold that chilled her to the bone and turned her fingers blue. This winter was harder than last year, and even the year before that. Sister Honora said it wasn’t any colder outside. It was just that there wasn’t enough coal to heat the whole building. The sleeping ward was so frigid all the children went to bed in their clothes, huddled under thick quilts.
The only warm spot was the dining room and that’s where Evelyn was headed now. Viola should already be there. Viola had been chosen to clean the altar in the chapel, a privilege granted to only a few of the brightest and best, and Evelyn was still scrubbing floors. All this week, Viola had finished her morning chores early and was first in line for lunch. Viola was still allowed to attend classes in the afternoons, too.
Evelyn was not.
Two years ago the good sisters had decided that there was something wrong with her brain. She was slow. She was stupid. She was never going to be able to learn, so she might as well just be put to work cleaning.
Evelyn tried to pretend she didn’t care that Viola had the lighter load, but sometimes resentment reared its ugly head. Evelyn was sure that she could be as smart and as good as Viola if the sisters would just give her a chance. They were always impatient with her. Wanting her to give the answer right now. Right this very second. Not letting her take time to come up with the correct answer to a problem in arithmetic. And she read too slow.
At least that is what the Sister said. Of course she read slowly and stumbled over the words when told to read aloud. Everyone in the class stared at her. Including the Sister, impatience furrowing the brow under the white wimple. Evelyn was intimidated by all the eyes focused on her. She was sure that everyone was poised to laugh the minute she made her first mistake in pronunciation.
Stepping into the relative warmth of the large dining hall, Evelyn saw several kids in line to pick up a tray and be served by Sister Magdalene who stood behind the large metal pans of food, and of course, Viola was first. Evelyn went to the back of the line and waited. Everyone waited until the last child came in. Then Sister Honora would lead the prayer before serving could begin.
Lately, Evelyn had noticed that along with the dwindling coal supply, the food supply was not as good as it used to be. They were eating a lot of porridge. It used to be just for breakfast, but sometimes now they had it for lunch or for dinner. Sister Magdalene, who was in charge of cooking, said that come spring and summer the offering in the food line would improve when they could plant a garden. It’s just that there wasn’t enough money right now to buy all that the orphanage needed.
After supper, there was the required hour of prayer in the chapel, then the kids were allowed to go to their sleeping ward. There was one for the girls and another for the boys. The room for the boys was larger, and the first time Evelyn saw it, she wondered why so many more boys than girls were not wanted by their mothers. But Viola told her that some of the children had no mother at all. Evelyn didn’t understand. How could you be born without a mother? From the catechism classes and learning about Jesus, she knew that it was possible to be born without a father, but a mother was essential to the process.
That’s when Viola explained that some mothers and fathers died and the children had no place to go. So they came here to St. Amilian’s. Evelyn didn’t know if it made it easier to be here knowing that your parents had no choice. The knowledge that her mother chose to leave her still cut a deep fissure of pain.
I do hope you will come back Wednesday to meet my guest, John Rachel, and things will be normal here for a couple of weeks. Then I will take a vacation. Happy Monday!