“Lorna, for such a smart girl…”
Little Lorna was an observant and obedient girl. Let’s see what she observed during her stay in Connecticut…
Although it felt to me like we lived in Connecticut for years, we really only lived there for years–four to be exact. I did a lot of living in those years. And a lot of learning. I learned mostly by listening to adults and by living without the benefit of the common sense that most people are born with.
Since Mémé and Pépé were out the picture except for a few weeks in the summer and a rare long weekend, the only adults I had to listen to were Mom and the nuns at St. Francis School for the Eternally Miserable, or something like that.
God tried to simplify things and make only ten very powerful rules. He called them Commandments to highlight their value. He presented them in very difficult terminology and illogical sequence. But the nuns loved them and thought they made perfect sense, and I wasn’t about to argue with the author or the knuckle-whacking messengers.
The Golden Rule was pretty simple: treat others as I would like to be treated. I wanted to be treated to ice cream cone every day. I didn’t see how that would help secure me a place in Heaven or make Mom happy, but I was a child and I wasn’t supposed to understand anything.
Then there were Generally Known Rules, including but nowhere limited to: never question what grown-ups say; be polite; act like a “proper” child in public; don’t get into anything resembling mischief; don’t say bad words; don’t make any body-function noises; and suffer in silence so as not to disturb or distress any grown-ups who might be nearby.
I made my fair share of blunders in those four years, teaching me why the most obedient dog isn’t always the brightest one. You never learn to think for yourself. Maybe that’s not fair. I could think for myself, just not when I needed it most. If my mother had to pick one phase she repeated to me most often in my childhood it would be, “Lorna, you’re such a smart girl. What were you thinking?” A few examples might help you understand what I mean.
Finding my way to the corner market but routinely getting lost on my way back home should’ve been a clue for her to stop sending me on errands. But off I’d go each week with firm faith that I could find my way back home. After I’d been gone too long, the Reconnaissance Team of Little Lisa and Mom would find me teary-eyed and the paper grocery sack crushed to my chest as if it were my security blanket. One time I made it home with the help of an old stubble-faced man who smelled of cigarettes and something flammable. He held my hand, winked at me profusely, and called me “Blondie” even though I told him my full name. He kissed me on the cheek when we got to my house. Mom sternly lectured me about trusting strange drunk men and bringing them home.
Lisa and I took baths together. When I was about seven years old, Mom asked me to take charge of getting us both naked and into the tub. It was a small but important job. I was a jumble of emotions: honored, anxious, and giddy. Stepping into the tub, I noticed my underpants were still on. Panic set it. I felt that I had stepped into quick-drying cement and was stuck there, the pink cotton evidence of my incompetence covering my butt. I never even noticed that had Lisa jumped into the tub with her socks on. She could have drowned because I was so fixated on my stupid underpants.
I’ve already mentioned the infamous Monkey Bar dare in a much early post series.
My girth worked against me as I grew. It increased my momentum. I left a Lorna-sized hole I left in the hedges of the St. Francis School for the Permanently Troubled (or something like that) parking lot when I forgot where the brakes were on my bike. So exciting about pedaling forward without falling, I blanked out that pedaling backward stopped the bike. I had a lot of explaining to do when I came home, walking my bike, both of us looking like we spent hours desecrating bushes to camouflage ourselves for some war game, which obviously I lost.
My aunt and uncle were avid skiers. They offered to take me on one of their skiing trips. I didn’t have skis, but I had a sled. Mom sent me off with a warning: don’t get your socks wet. I was cruising down the Bunny Hill when my sled veered to the left, towards evergreens protecting the stream dividing the Bunny Hill from the regular ski slope. I yanked on the rope to steer away from disaster. Nothing. I landed upside down in the babbling brook with my little wooden sled on top of me; my legs and arms straight in the air. I blame gravity and a faulty steering mechanism. Others have their own theories. At least I didn’t wet my socks wet. Mom just looked at her soggy girl with that look; the look at that said, “Lorna, for such a smart girl, …”
And to think she had to leave her youngest daughter in my care while she tended to her oldest and very ill daughter. Talk about a “Sophie’s Choice.”
In our next installment we’ll find our what happens to Tina and her mystery illness.
~ by Lorna's Voice on January 22, 2012.