My mother was a very bright (top of her Salem MA public high-school class) 1st-generation American Polish-speaking girl who, 2 years after graduation, was told by her Polish-speaking convent in Enfield CT to go back home instead of 'professing' final-vows.
Why? Because she had exposed another postulant (=would-be, aka novice) for her leaving dust on a shelf by writing the word DUST on it with her finger, cinematically, as tho from a script drawn from a novel written by Francois Mauriac.
She was suddenly out: a hopeful, lifetime-career as a Roman Catholic nun terminated (perfectly cinematically) in that one dusty word: DUST. She came back to pre-WW2 Salem a young Polish-convent wash-out, a would-be prestigious (to Poles) career failure.
But..it made my own life possible & my own life (as you will read in these brief installments) has often turned on trivial, but definitive deeds (actes gratuits), often causing what prove to be irreversible changes...
2. BEATEN IN R.C. SCHOOLS
My (bilingual) Polish-speaking mother decided to send me to a Polish-language kindergarten run by nuns of the local Polish parish school, St. Michael’s in West Lynn MA.
At first, everything appeared to be going well: I already spoke some Polish at home with my mother, answering to Billy as well as to Bolesh, so why not enroll in a Polish-language school? The nuns liked me. The other children liked me – but one, Dorothy Zuk (=sugar) soon liked me altogether too much. Once, while we were bending over to play with a wooden chest full of toys, Dorothy took out a gold-painted cast-lead eagle (that had once been the pole-cap of an American flag) & rapturously began to beat me over the head with it. I fell into the chest head-first, not quite unconscious, but rendered hors de combat d’amour enuf to have to have my mother called to come over (we only lived 2 short streets away) to take me out of that kinder-class for my own safety. I never returned to that Polish-language nun’s school again.
My mother quickly & unsentimentally decided that instead, I would just have to go to the nearby Lynn public school first-grade class (there was no kindergarten class as such, yet) where I was again received well by my teacher (Mrs. Reynolds) & the other children in the class. I happily recall our planting little seeds in potting-soil filled wooden cheese boxes and placing them high up on the windowsill nearest our seats to collect the sun. Mine was filled with seeds that soon sprouted (unsurprisingly) ‘Sweet William’ flowers.
So I was saved from the legendarily brutal horrors of Roman Catholic nun’s grammar-school by an erotically-deranged fellow kindergarten student. My subsequent grammar-school education would be both secular & public. But then, my prep-school was Xaverian (C.F.X.) where we were irrationally beaten with cut-off pool-cues. My undergraduate college was Jesuit (S.J.) where we were subtly intellectually (& otherwise) seduced. Roman Catholocism’s allegedly 'superior' education came with parentally-accepted perils; we were its often rights-waived victims.
3, @ 8 HOOD STREET
Getting chillier as I sat in the bathtub awaiting my mother’s return from shopping nearby, I got up, put on my bathrobe, picked up my Classic comic-books, and went downstairs to sat on the sidewalk outside the funeral home across the street & read them.
Soon, semi-retarded Carol Patten appeared in front of the funeral home & asked me what I was doing outside in a bathrobe, so I told her. Along came the long, straight, black-haired black-Irish daughter of the undertaker who asked, too. Soon they were performing a writhing sister-act before me, pulling each other’s panties down & off so that I could see their hairless pubes. Eventually, my mother came home from her shopping, & shockedly put an end to our erotic children’s sidewalk theater directly across from where we lived.
Jack Casey, whose aged parents rented the 2nd floor of their inner-city cottage to my parents, must have felt something because of (if not for) me. He invited me downstairs one afternoon & sitting on his living-room couch, asked me to kneel before him with my mouth open, with my eyes closed; I did, but after a while, wondered what happened next. Opening my eyes, I saw he was holding his erect penis & slowly beginning to enter it into my mouth, so I jerked back & stood up. He grunted; I ran back upstairs & told my parents what had just happened Result: we soon moved out ASAP.
Years later, I’d be assigned to his clean-up crew as a City of Lynn summer job (because I was politically connected thru my aunt who ran the local state rep’s office; Jack was the son of the Public Works superintendent.) On my 1st-day, Jack’s threatening black-Irish eyes said: Never tell anyone what happened back then! I understood & didn’t. Also on the crew was Fred Shepler, the gay son of a Methodist minister from the other (wealthier) east side of Lynn, a student at Tufts University. We became friends; after we graduated college, while living on Beacon Hill, Boston, I visited his apt on Charles St. that he shared with his lover.
Years later I told this Jack Casey story to George, a gay, black ex-priest who was a Harvard Community Health Plan (HMO) couples group psychotherapist, at his private practice in Harvard Square, Cambridge.