Saturday, March 30, 2013
I was nine, probably ten. In my thin green Girl Scout uniform, badge filled sash, heavy white oxfords, little white socks. I knew that there was some mix-up somehow, some weird thing but no proof or even evidence. Gut feelings from a ten year old didn’t count for much. So my grandmother dropped me off at the Parish Hall, where our Girl Scout meetings were held, and drove off. I knew something was wrong when I noticed ... nothing. No other cars, people, little Brownies or my sisters in green. The heavy dark brown doors of the hall were shut, locked. So there I was. Alone in the quiet Saturday schoolyard. Everything shut up; school, hall, even the church. So I waited, trying not to be scared, knowing that eventually my grandmother would return to pick me up. In the meantime, I waited.
I pretty much stayed in the same place; sitting on the rough low stone wall in front of the Parish Hall next to the school, facing the street. The church and church parking lot was to my right, further down.
I sort of wandered around the asphalt covered school yard. Those were the days when the playground equipment set-up was a stark affair. There was a merry go round, right smack on top of the asphalt. No sand, no wood chip coverings, no rubberized surfaces, just the uneven black asphalt. One day I managed to get myself going pretty well on the merry go round and flew off, landing several yards away on my knees. The green and yellow plaid jumpers that were the school uniform offered nothing in way of protection. In my late fifties, I still have the scar that highlights a little hollow in my left knee.
So the large, hot asphalt playground offered nothing of interest. I went back to the low stone wall. It was cooler there anyway, in the shade of the buildings. A small white haired lady walked by me. She was wearing her lace head scarf, carrying her missal, rosary dangling from her hand. I smiled at her; she didn’t smile back. She asked me what was I doing there; she seemed innately suspicious. She wanted to argue with me: “There’s no Girl Scout meeting here!” she said. I felt a little bit like I was leaving my body; this old lady on her way to do her Altar Society business inside the church, was repeating back to me what I just told her. I’m feeling disconnected; why is she doing that? Repeating back to me what I told her: I was waiting for my grandmother; we thought there was a meeting but turned out we got mixed up. In my mind I thought “Lady, do you really think I’d be sitting here in my jerky Girl Scout uniform just for fun?” But I rarely spoke to adults that way so I just sat there, staring at her. She shook her finger at me and walked on.
It was getting cooler. With that, a little dimmer. It seemed an awfully long time; shouldn’ my grandmother be here by now? I see the white haired woman come striding back in the opposite direction, from the church. She’s finished with her official altar arranging business and on her way home. She looks upset, angry; her face is splotched wtih red patches on her thin white skin. She comes right up to me and hisses, spitting a little on me. “How dare you!? WHAT GRADE ARE YOU IN??!! Is it Sister Patrick?! She’ll know, she’ll know!!!” She paused for breath. I have no idea what she’s doing. Before I can answer she goes on.
“The beautiful Mother! Covered, covered in mud! Just filthy! FILTHY! YOU did it! You’re the only one who’s been here; you did it!”
I told her, simply, I didn’t do anything. Didn’t know what she was talking about.
“You’re a lying little thing! She was beautiful when I went in; when I came out, she was covered in dirt, her head, covered! Who else could have done this?”
I just looked at her. She was crazy, but I knew that wouldn’t mean anything. One complaint to the nuns would be enough. Logic had nothing to do with anything. She went on her way, mumbling to herself.
I sat there, scared, expecting one of the sisters to come scuttling out from the convent behind the school any minute. My grandmother came, and we went home. I didn’t say anything; not that I wouldn't have been believed, but no point to it. It wouldn’t occur to anyone that this was anything of any importance. So I spent that night, and the next week, paranoid. A nervous wreck, that at any time I’d get pulled into the principal’s office, the old lady with her lace head scarf and rosary trembling with outrage waiting for me.
Nothing happened, and I never heard anything about the statue of the Virgin Mary in the church parking lot being vandalized.
regan lee, march 2013