Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Social Graces

One of the experiences of growing up in a home with two parents is learning from parents how to interact socially. I believe the social patterns are learned by watching and interacting with parents. This learning occurs from birth through young adulthood. When a situation arises a child will observe a parent's response and often ask WHY or wait to see what happens. Through observation of behavior patterns humans learn normal acceptable phrases, responses and parameters of socially acceptable behavior. Children learn how to make friends, negotiate, trust, risk taking and self confidence. Being a child of an alcoholic mother and living in the orphanage I spent a lot of years being self conscious, made odd comments and generally lacked the ability to interact with a group of peers. When I found myself in a group of people I often felt awkward, invisible and would try to melt into my surroundings. Being recognized as a child that lived at the children's home automatically made me feel like others viewed me as someone who did not have a home with parents that loved and cared about me and therefore was pitied. I remember my fourth grade teacher and her husband coming to the orphanage one evening to pick me up so that I could participate in a square dance recital and then later took me out for ice cream. I remember it being a very enjoyable evening however, I remember defensively saying to her "You do not have to do this for me!" She smiled and looked at me and said "I know we don't, we want to". I don't remember what my response was, however I hope I told her thank you. I know I gave her fits my whole fourth grade year. She never made me feel like I was bad when I failed to do homework. I can remember one day she asked for all the students homework and I told her I had forgot it at the orphanage. She said go home and get it. I remember walking back to the orphanage and getting the homework. She instilled in me the sense of responsibility for myself and that lame excuses will not go very far. I will always remember her kindness.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Importance of believing

Attending mass everyday was excellent training and gave me a sense of peace. I loved listening to the mass in Latin and enjoyed even more singing the Latin hymns. I believe learning prayers were elemental in developing coping mechanisms and hope that tomorrow would be better. I can remember sitting in church with everyone being quiet and having a sense that God was listening to this 8 year old's troubled heart and that he would answer my prayers.

I remember especially the times my mother would visit. Although I was glad to see her I knew she would be drinking and the smell of alcohol on her breath caused me a great deal of anxiety. I did not realize that the visit was also difficult for her. Many times she said she never wanted us to be in the orphanage. I can only remember two visits during the five years my brother and I were there. The first year at Christmas when we were in the Christmas pageant in which the children in the orphanage participated and then again when I was in the 5th grade.

During the time my brother and I were in the orphanage our dad would take us to Denver to spend a couple of weeks in the summer with our grandparents (Mom's dad and stepmother). Mother would come out to their place a couple of times to see us. She was a waitress and didn't drive. Getting off work was not always easy for her. She did not believe in attending or belonging to a church. So we didn't have many conversations about God. Dad on the other hand attended mass every week and had a rosary he carried with him.

Believing in something greater than myself, learning to pray and sustaining a hope for tomorrow helped me through some pretty troubled times.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The routine of life in the orphanage was orderly and predictable. We we were up at 5:30 am, attended mass, proceeded to the dining room for breakfast, completed the morning chores then boarded the bus for school. When school let out for lunch we boarded the bus again and returned to the orphanage for the noon meal. Remembering back I am amazed at how organized everything was; that a hundred children could be transported back to the orphanage, gather up dishes of food from the serving pass through counter and deliver the food to the appropriate dining room, eat, wash the dishes reset the tables for the next meal, return containers back to the pass through area, board the bus again and return to school within the allotted time. After school we returned to the orphanage on the bus, changed from our school clothes into clothes for which we could complete our after school chores. Supper was served around 5 pm, after the meal was completed we washed the dishes, reset the tables, swept the floor and returned the serving dishes to the kitchen. After supper, time was spent doing homework, reading, or playing games. Television was only watched on specific days or on special occasions. We were not allowed to watch TV everyday, we were expected to find other activities to entertain ourselves. Reading to this day is one of my favorite pastimes.