Tag Archive | St. Edward’s School

1963/1964 GRADUATE FROM THE 9th GRADE

 

I graduate from the 9th grade at St. Edwards’ Junior High School at the age of 15 in 1964. St. Edward was established in 1904 and is located at 58 Hancock St., Pawtucket, R.I. This is where I was stable for 4 years: attend the same school, living in the same neighborhood, maintaining the same friendships and exploring the same city which has created a sense of continuity in my life. Now things around me seem to be falling apart and going downhill: the church, my country and the world; it is starting to no longer be a safe place for me and I experience it through my body, mind and spirit.

 

I am on the Junior Variety basketball team, we finish 2nd in the state losing to the giant black girls from Providence, one girl just bear hugged me to stop me from moving even though she knew she would foul out. One time we took a short cut across the railroad tracks, all of a sudden I felt a vibration on the metal quickly followed by the roar of the train, I could not see it, I froze as the whistle blew, luckily one of my team members pulled me off, we are plastered up against the brick wall, just as I feel the force of the wind from the locomotive press me like mortar into the brick, holding my breath, heart pounding, vision blurring, it finally passes.

 

My friend Anna and I were reading very risque paperbacks, I just got to read the first page of Lolita before it disappeared from my desk, we found many missing after lunch always thinking the boys were stealing them from us. On the last day of school the nun took us aside into the cloakroom and said “I had confiscated all those unfit books you two have been reading”. Anna responded with “It was you that was stealing our books! Can we have them back, please?” Sister resounded with a firm “NO”. We spend many hours locked in Anna‘s bedroom, which has 2 doors that had flimsy hook and eye latches held on by screws, her brother would pound on the door demanding “Let me in! I am going to tell dad! What are you doing in there?” Her family is very strict and controlling Italians causing her to rebel. We wear white lipstick, black eyeliner, using an eyelash curler, teasing our hair, lots of black clothes, we are called mondos. My friends in school asked me why I hang around such a wild girl; no one can understand because they have healthier, supportive families while we have abuse issues in common that connected us like nothing else can.

 

I am the last of my female friends to get my menses; I am envious at first except when the day finally arrives. I run home and go into the bathroom; mother is on the other side of the door asking, “Are you OK?” I answer “yes”. I was in there for some time and when I come out she hands me a pamphlet about “What every Girl Should Know”. She asks me, “Do you know what a cherry is?” “Yes” surprised by that question. “Do you have any questions?”, “No” is my response because I have spent a great deal of time at the library reading medical books about girls and boys bodies maturing. I was anxious and scared seeing the blood but my friends have shared their experiences which were somewhat comforting and preparatory. On Sunday, on my way to church I faint on the street, I feel my body swoon to the ground, I can’t speak, and darkness descended down on me. I come around to my sister calling my name. She begs me to go to church anyway because it is her way of getting out, not going to church and doing what she wants, I complied with her wishes. At church I pray hard for help.

 

I spend a lot of time in the beautiful Old Pawtucket Library going up and down the aisles reading whatever calls out to me. On the first floor in a back room is an ornate book stand holding the largest dictionary I have ever set eyes on, I spend lots of time in this spot as I lovingly turn its pages with great care and respect looking up whatever word is on my mind. I love to climb up the circular winding staircase holding tightly to the iron banister to the top floor, I pause half way up and look out the fancy dome windows to the wondrous sky outside, before proceeding to the second floor. This area is like an open loft overlooking the lower floor, the iron banister goes the whole length and the one time I stood against it the librarian yelled “Please do not hang out along the banister or run in the library”. There are rows upon rows of highly polished, floor to ceiling, wood bookcases protecting the millions of books on the shelves, I usually grab a book and sit on the floor reading, this is my sanctuary.

 

My sister and I continue our Saturdays at the movies, the ticket guy has put a stop to me getting in for 25 cents saying “You can’t still be 12 years old for all these years, and putting your hair in braids does not work anymore.” It is at the Leroy Theater that I start meeting boys and get my first kiss. We continued to walk all around Pawtucket, having fun shopping in the Downtown area, going to the factories to buy trinkets, fabric, thread and sewing supplies. In the summers we spent our days at the swimming pool where everyone hung out trying to stay cool and watching the smoke stacks billowing out all the garbage being burned, you can even smell it’s stench .

 

I go to the Hamlet bowling alley with my girlfriends to meet boys, we always make sure we are in a lane close to some cute boys, so that we can flirt and be noticed. I am really bad at bowling and my balls always seem to gravitate into the gutter, I am lucky if I get a score of 90, usually in the 70s. This is where I and 3 of my friends try cigarettes in the girls’ bathroom. We smoke the whole pack in a short period of time; I feel dizzy, queasy, coughing and chocking, which is a blessing for I never want to smoke again.

 

For many years I am very involved with the Catholic Church. It had its positive influence; for it gives me strength through difficult times and spiritual tools for coping. I am involved with the Catholic Junior Council at St. Mary’s Church where I go to learn square dancing and join others my age in group activities. I accidentally came upon the brothers involved in sexual activity in the basement of the church. The brothers push an unwilling girl into a small closet with another brother, while they are laughing at the situation. I was lucky it never happens to me, it affects me in many ways, I am fearful because they have threatened me if I tell. I am experiencing great confusion around sexual issues due to this and the sexual abuse. No place is safe not even the church.

 

It seems that in the United States many are still divided on issues of equality. In Alabama Governor Wallace’s “Segregation Forever” speech is given at his inauguration. President Kennedy proposes the Civil Rights Bill. The March for Jobs and Freedom, or more commonly known as the March on Washington, attracts over 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. With the people concentrated around the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. gives his I Have a Dream speech. I am fascinated by this cultural issue which I watch on TV, listen on the radio and even find a written copy to read, it’s so inspiring. I am saddened when Four Black girls are murdered attending Sunday school in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A target because it was where there was regular civil rights meetings. As a result Riots erupt in Birmingham, and two more black youths are killed in the violence. I identify with those who are being suppressed, somehow it’s comforting knowing I am not the only, and feeling guilty because my situation is not as bad as theirs.

 

In the world around me it seems the major powers are jockeying for top positions. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. sign a treaty banning any atmospheric nuclear tests and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty takes effect. The worst thing that happens is that President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald and we are sent home from school early. I am in a state of shock and disbelief that such a great man is no longer with us that his family has to endure such brutality, I am glued to the television, and my grief is overwhelming. All hope is lost for peace. Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as President on Air Force One then he escalates American’s military involvement in the Vietnam War. Hatred seems to be the going theme.

 

I find refuge in music and the words found in the songs, I memories. In Rhode Island the Newport Folk Festival is going strong with popular folk singers Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger singing about what is going on, sharing thoughts and feelings about the way the world can be. The Beatles release “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which becomes a huge hit and a success in America. In a widely anticipated and publicized event, The Beatles arrive in America in February 1964, spearheading the British Invasion. Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and other Harvard alumni LSD researchers move to the Hitchcock’s estate in Millbrook, New York to continue their research into psychedelics. I search for understanding and a way out of the conflict.

 

I feel unsafe; in my home, surroundings, environment, church, my country and my world. My fears and anxieties are compounded and everywhere I go I am on the defense looking for the danger always lurking in the shadows putting me in a hyper-vigilant state; anxious and fearful, heart racing, poor concentration, fuzzy vision, weakness and shakiness. There is no place or no one to turn to, I am on my own. What am I to do? What do you do? What do you suggest?

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1960 THE SHADOW

We move again creating a lot of anxiety from within, those butterflies in the stomach, a jittery vibration throughout my body, my mind get fussy making it hard to read, constantly having to reread paragraphs over and over again before it makes any sense to me, interfering with my optimum functioning. I have to get use to another neighborhood, school, church and making new friends.

We now live on Lawn Avenue still in Pawtucket, R.I., on the other side of the railroad tracts, parallel to Mineral Spring Avenue. Right on the other side of our back yard is the pizza place where the kids hang out, dancing to the blasting jukebox music. I save many Dentin wrappers to go the Chuck Berry’s concert. Our neighbors who live down stairs are the McCarthy’s and the Mathews’. A few blocks west and south live my mother’s friend Monic, who is my Aunt Sis’s sister (who is married to my Uncle Bert). Next door are the Chin’s who own a Chinese restaurant downtown; my sister teases Frankie calling him Frankie Avalon, I become close friends with his cousin Ginny, and many years later I run into Frankie and we laugh about a Chinese boy being connected to a famous white boy singer.

We live in another triple decker on the 3rd floor, which is covered with fake looking dark colored bricks possible tar paper. I climb the back staircase to enter the flat. As I walk in there is a large dining room with windows facing west, letting in the setting sun in the evenings. This is the central area from which all others rooms are connected, the bedrooms are on the east side so the rising sun beams us awake; Barbara and I shared a room at the south end while mother’s is at the north end and in the middle room is Tina and Joanne. The kitchen is very small, connected by a door to the bathroom which is in the northeast corner of the structure, with another door leading to my mother’s room. The living room takes up the south end with windows on 3 sides, there is a door leading to the patio and the front staircase which we rarely used, mostly it is for storage. The banisters are worn carved wood where many hands had already hung on while going up and down.

I am in the 6th grade and attending Saint Edwards School. I walk east on Lawn then turned left going north on Lonsdale Avenue, then turned left going west on Baldwin Street then right going north to Hancock Street. At first I struggle with making friends because everyone has been here since the first grade and are a tight nit group of kids, besides I wear these popular cat’s eye style glasses which I get teased about so I stop wearing them. The nuns are very strict and mean without compassion or caring for our welfare, they are more concerned with rules and orderly conduct. They have a tendency to pick on the boys grabbing them by their ears and pulling them down the aisles when they are the least bit disruptive. I excel in most of my studies, especially math, while my weakest subject is English. My mother’s original language is French Canadian and she did not finish high school, so our sentence structure is a little off kilter.

I turn 12 years old and am developing new friendships. Barbara and I go to the Leroy Theater on Saturdays; mom drops us off, paying 25 cents to get in, seeing all of Elvis’ movies. Barbara is 10 and has made friends with the kids down stairs who are her age. Tina will turn 6 after Christmas, and is always on her tricycle wanting to follow me around so I pay her a quarter to leave me alone and not tell on me. Joanne is a cute little baby with curly dark hair spending many hours in her playpen.

This is when the horror begins; my mother’s boyfriend is starting to pay attention to me, I am uncomfortable and freaked out. I wake in the middle of the night from the sound of heavy breathing, the stench of alcohol invading the air and there is a dark shadow in the corner of the room. I become very still and quiet, frozen in panic. I decide to tell my mom about the night visits. She is at the stove preparing dinner, I approach her and tell her what is going on- her response is “well, he hasn’t touched you, so nothing is happening”. I can’t believe that she is not coming to my rescue, I am speechless and angry. I am also afraid of her so I usually do the right thing so I do not get into trouble. I decide that I have to look after myself and I will never bring it up with her again. She does intervene after that, some nights she calls out to him, while he stands over us, and he leaves. I no longer feel safe or secure and I am suppressing my feelings deep inside of me. Mother feels safe and secure with this man around the house. He had come into our life taking her away from us leaving me vulnerable and frightened.

American culture is changing all around me: at Harvard University, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert begin experimenting with psychedelic drugs while the Food and Drug Administration approves the first birth control pill for sale. More permissive attitude is developing in our country.

The American government is turning to the left. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act. John F. Kennedy: a staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms such as civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and poor, narrowly wins the Presidential election over Vice-President Richard Nixon, he is the first Catholic  President, pledging to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. Lyndon Baines Johnson is elected Vice-President.

In music Elvis Presley gets out of the army and resumes his musical career by recording “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”
Motown Records is created: with it’s first top 10 hit “Shop Around” by the miracles and peaks at number2 on the Billboard Hot 100 which is their first million-selling record. Folk Singer and activist Joan Baez releases her debut album on Vanguard records in December.

I love reading about nurses. Sue Barton is the central character in a series of seven novels for adolescent girls written between 1936 and 1952. The series follows Sue Barton through her nurse’s training and her work life. In Sue Barton: Student Nurse, Sue begins training as a student nurse. She meets her friends Kit and Connie in this book and also her husband-to-be, Dr Bill Barry. Sue manages to have a number of adventures as she trains, including falling down a laundry shaft and saving a feverish patient from jumping out of a window while recovering from appendix surgery. In Sue Barton: Senior Nurse, Sue finishes her training, which includes psychiatric nursing and obstetrics. She also becomes engaged to Bill at the end of this book. Sue Barton: Visiting Nurse follows Sue and her friend Kit as they venture to New York City to join the Settlement Nurses. Connie gets married in this book and Bill pressures Sue to marry him. Sue refuses, wanting a chance to repay the training she received from the Settlement Houses. At one point, Sue helps an elderly patient fulfill her dream of travel by using the money for her wedding clothes. Sue Barton: Rural Nurse follows Sue as she ultimately leaves the Visiting Nurses and returns home, only to find that a tragic accident has left Bill with the care of a disabled brother. He cannot marry Sue until things are settled. Sue sets herself up as a visiting rural nurse in the town of Springfield, New Hampshire and winds up in the middle of a typhoid outbreak. Sue finally marries Bill at the start of Sue Barton: Superintendent Nurse and then works as the head of the nursing school at the new hospital in Springfield. However, her marriage to Bill is not plain sailing and Sue questions her ability to provide a proper nursing training for her students. In Sue Barton: Neighborhood Nurse Sue suffers regrets about leaving her nursing career while she cares for her three children, each of whom has particular needs. She also helps a young teenager, Cal, to be more sociable and Cal’s mother, the artist Mona Stuart, to be kinder. Sue realizes that her role in her family and the wider neighborhood is also important. In Sue Barton: Staff Nurse (the final installment in the series), Sue returns to work to support her four children while her husband is in a sanatorium suffering from TB. He eventually recovers and the family is reunited once more, with the implication that Sue will return to her position as wife and mother.

I also read the Cherry Ames series stars a job-hopping, mystery-solving nurse. Cherry (short for Charity) hails from Hilton, Illinois was steered into nursing by Dr. Joseph Fortune, an old family friend. Cherry’s training at the Spencer Hospital School of Nursing is chronicled in the first two books. There, she meets the classmates who become lifelong friends. With the third book in the series Army Nurse, Cherry joins the Army Nurse Corps, and, after the war, she moves to Greenwich Village. Whenever Cherry isn’t working with the Visiting Nurse Service, Dr. Joe sends her on assignments in various parts of the country. Unlike Sue Barton, Cherry remains single throughout her career with an occasional boyfriend here and there. Cherry’s early adventures are set during World War II. In these early adventures, Cherry solves problems and captures criminals when men in authority have failed to do so, “demonstrating that women can succeed in the public, working world.”

As you can see there are many things in my environment such as current events on television, music, and books that influence me; creating visions and dreams for my future, while giving me a peek of a larger world view. What has contributed to your development?

These postings are being written in the present time. I have never written about this time period before so it doesn’t appear as polished to me as previous ones that is my perfectionist part of me speaking. I have verbally shared these painful memories; I have spent lots of time in these past experiences, feeling like I was in a deep dark bottomless pit that I could not get out of. I was stuck in this time, constantly wallowing in my grief, disbelief and anger about the loss followed by the abuse I had experienced.

I find myself procrastinating about posting it due to concern how I am coming across, how it will be interpreted resulting how others will see me. Since starting to write about it in context with what others things were happening helps me see myself differently, putting things in perspective.

I am anxious about sharing this for I know it will bring a lot of memories back that I have blocked causing pain and suffering and at the same time knowing I need to push through and share it in story form in order to move on.  I am fearful of the consequences of putting this down in written form for I will never be able to remove it from my history; it becomes a permanent record of my abuse. I pray that it does not contribute to future losses of family, like so many others have experienced when they have shared their stories of abuse. Spirit is pushing me to record it in order to see it in a new light, to not be attached to it, to no longer be concerned about how others see me, to let go and move on, to be an example of healing. As I write this emotions flood my being in all its aspects and I listen to the inner voice encouraging me on saying “It’s Time”, “It’s Now or Never”.