Catholicism

30 Sep 2017

2/24/17

Catholicism

I entered college grossly ill prepared and so naïve. Today it is hard to imagine the segregation of the 1960’s. Whites knew little about Blacks. Baptists knew nothing about Catholics. Southerners distrusted anyone from the North.
My roommate my first year at college was a Catholic. My Southern Baptist upbringing taught me that anyone not a Baptist was a suspect Christian, and there was no place for them in Heaven. Methodists were begrudgingly accepted as sort of Baptists, but one certainly didn’t go to their churches. Catholics, on the other hand, were the same as pagans. After all, they worshiped the Pope and their leaders dressed funny and their services were in a foreign language. One did not befriend a Catholic!
So here I was roommates with a Catholic. I was sure she would try to convert me. I expected some Voodoo-like services to be performed in our room. I didn’t even know if she honored the same God as me!
None of that happened. Somehow my devotion to the Baptist faith must have been flawed, because when she invited me to go to church with her, I went. Mere curiosity perhaps. And her church was so alien to me. From the small stand with water at the entrance to the pews, to the genuflection as you entered. The dipping of fingers into the holy water and crossing oneself. The darkened church and the incense and the Latin words and the robed priests. It was like some romantic mystery come to life. I was enchanted and frightened.
It sounds so silly to adult me to remember how nervous I was and how fearful I felt about entering a house of God from another faith. Since then I have prayed in dozens of churches all over the world: Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist, Jainism, and some where I never knew the name of the official religion. I know God is in any place from which man calls to him. But at eighteen I wasn’t as sure.

BAMorris

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Straddling a Fence

30 Sep 2017

2/24/17
Straddling a Fence
I’ve long straddled the gulf between the family I grew up with and the world I entered as a white collar college graduate. It has kept me uncomfortable in either place. When confronted by comments about ignorant, backwoods people, I want to defend ‘my people’, but I usually bite my tongue and keep quiet. Likewise when family or childhood friends grouse about city folk with their book leaning and lack of common sense, I keep quiet. I’m tugged at by both worlds, but belong totally to neither.
Recently I joined a group of college educated professional women to be part of a book club reading non-fiction to better understand the political and economic situation in our country. I was hoping to find a comfortable place to be myself. Our first session reviewed a book written by someone like me: rural raised but college educated. Someone who as an adult now straddles both worlds. I felt at home with the book. Not so other people. There were judgments of his upbringing, of his discomfort in the college environment, of his family dynamics. It quickly drifted into a US and THEM discussion. Look at how THEY live. THEY don’t want help. THEY were dismissed as beyond saving.
It didn’t come to my conscious mind until later, how uncomfortable I felt with that discussion. I tried to explain, with the help of one other woman (God bless her!), that this is all THEY have known. If you tell someone they can do better, it is an accusation that they are less than you. It’s a judging and finding THEM lacking. It’s challenging them, their parents, their grandparents, and so on back. And if hill and country people are anything, it’s loyal to family.
So I am back where I started: wanting the stimulation of college educated minds but defensive of who I am and where I came from.

BAMorris

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Morning Comfort

13 Jun 2017

12/5/15

Morning Comfort

When I walked this morning, day was just a gauzy, gray hint of light. Suddenly I heard the crack of a gunshot. Then another. Some early morning hunter had sighted his deer. Then two more shots quickly.
From her investigations somewhere in the field or woods, Foxxi appeared at my side. For the rest of the walk she synchronized her steps exactly to mine. I guess she somehow felt that I, as her Human, could protect her from the threatening sounds that had echoed into our walk. I was glad for her company as well.

BAMorris

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Mother Lessons

06 Jun 2017

1/10/17

Mother Lessons

My mother might have been called nosey. She seemed to be involved, when I was a child, in many people’s lives. We always seemed to be carrying somebody’s child to church, or taking someone else to the doctor or the store. She knew whose husband had lost his job, or which mother had no money to buy new shoes for her kids. In today’s world, she would be deemed a busy-body.
But in the 1950s, she was just being a good neighbor. I dare say everyone knew everyone’s business in our small community. So it really was no secret when a man lost his job or a mother had no money because her husband drank it up instead of bringing it home to her.
We were not wealthy. Mom had been one of those in need herself after my father left us. She had gone looking for work, any kind of work, from more well-to-do members of our community: any job to put food on our table and keep us in our home. She made it through that trying time, so afterwards she extended a helping hand to those less fortunate. Giving back, I’d call it.
She worked in the homes of the more financially secure for our livelihood. She was still “the hired woman.” But she shared her blessings, passed on our little extra, to those who didn’t have any extra, or even enough. I think in her mind she was just being a good Christian.

BAMorris

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My Fur Baby

10 Aug 2016

3/27/16

My Fur Baby

Winkie likes to lay on my chest. He’ll crawl up on me, his rear end nestled in my lap, and lay his head on my heart. Sometimes he puts his paws on my shoulder, almost like he is hugging me.
I think this reminds him of when he was a kitten. At barely two weeks old, I’d cradle him in my left hand, and feed him a bottle, holding him against my heart so he could feel its beating. Now he settles in that same position, and falls asleep, his purr a motor of pleasure and contentment.

BAMorris

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Widows

26 Oct 2015

7/4/15

Widows

I celebrated the 4th yesterday with a friend’s family. We had the usual food: hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, salads, and birthday cake to honor two members of the family. I have known the hostess and her family for over ten years, and feel like a part of the family: a distant cousin, if you will.
There were three widowed women at the celebration. All had been married lengthy years to their mates before their death. Listening to them talk, I was struck by a common theme they all expressed. All of them said they had trouble sleeping now that they were alone. The bed felt empty without the body of their husband that they had grown accustomed to having there beside them. There was something about the absence of the security (physically, emotionally, soulfully) of their mate there beside them that held sleep at bay. One said during the day it was easy to fill the hours with people, noise, and activity: all things that occupy the senses and the mind. But in the stillness of the night, when it is time to lay down the burdens of the day, check the windows and doors, and make sure all is right in your world, all is not right. Something is very wrong, and there is nothing you can do to right it. How to sleep with the sense of wrongness that is the loss of your mate?
I listened to the ways each woman had tried to adjust and compensate. Pillows piled up on the empty side of the bed. A huge sleep pillow to hug. Cooking in the middle of the night. Some of their methods worked for that night. But the next night brought on the renewed battle to lure sleep’s soothing presence into their bed.
I would never have thought that lying down alone to sleep would have felt so alien, so wrong to a woman who is now a widow. But I have spent a good part of my life alone, so it isn’t new to me.

BAMorris

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Smitty

26 Oct 2015

10/25/15

Smitty

I am going to reunite with someone I knew in eight grade; someone who has become a legend to me.
I can feel his reluctance to see me, but curiosity, too. I guess we both wonder what fifty years have done to the other. So much different in the world since then! The battle he fought to attend what had been an all White school was part of the larger war against “Separate but equal.” I taught many years in what was then a predominately Black school, watching White students find their way in that strange environment.
We both have questions. Him: Why now do you find me and reach out? Me: How did you come to be in my math class in 1963? I hope we can find some common ground upon which to build a here-and-now friendship. I hope that one common math class can open the door to laughter and caring between two seniors who once were “sort of friends” in the brave new adventure of integration.

BAMorris

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Senior Prom

17 Aug 2015

8/8/15
Senior Prom

John and I were “going out” at the time of our senior prom. Going out was that nebulous term that meant a boy and girl were mutually interested in each other, walked to class together (and maybe he carried her books), talked on the phone, and acknowledged to everyone else that they were a couple. It did not in any way mean they went anywhere outside of school.
He was a shy boy, very uncomfortable with girls and being a boyfriend, and in some ways, with himself. He was sweet in his innocence.
As prom approached I hoped he would ask me to go with him. A prom at that time was a girl’s coming out party, so to speak. It was the one time she got to dress up in all her glory and show the world who she might be when she became woman. We all dreamed of going to the prom with the perfect date.
But John didn’t ask me. He, instead, took a girl his parents chose for him: a nice Greek girl to meet their standards and their culture. He tried to explain to me but he didn’t have the words yet. On some level I understood because my mother was still controlling my life to a large extent as well. You didn’t and couldn’t refuse your parents. Just the same, I was disappointed and sad. Part of me wanted him to stand up to his parents and say, “I have a girlfriend and I want to take her.” Part of me wanted so badly to go to that magical dance that I’d have gone with anyone who asked! No one did. So, come prom night, I sat at home.
I attended many proms later as a high school teacher. I loved to see my students acting like the adults they would grow to be, in their tuxes and evening gowns, and on their best behavior. But for me, that senior prom in 1968 always felt like something I had been denied, a lost opportunity.

BAMorris

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Summer Suitor

17 Aug 2015

8/7/15
Summer Suitor

He would come midmorning, and plant himself at the table for the day. I would resume my work as if he wasn’t there. Often I would forget he was. But he was the rock in the shoe that made life uncomfortable, a rock that caused me to limp. With his brown eyes glued to me as if I were the puppet master and they my puppet, he’d sit unspeaking and watch me. Under those eyes I could not sing to my favorite songs on the radio as if I were the performer at a rock concert. I could not dance wildly, seductively, to the music. I could not lay down for a nap in the hot, sticky afternoon if I finished my chores. I could not be me with him there.
Once, peeved by the heat and humidity of the weather, and the steam of water-sprinkled shirts rising from under the hot iron, I asked him, “Why don’t you say something? It’s creepy you sitting there all day watching me and not talking!”
“What do you want me to say?” he had replied.
In truth, there was nothing I did want him to say. I knew he had a crush on me and I certainly didn’t want to hear him say anything about his feeling for me!
I should have known from my own experiences how it felt to be drawn to an unattainable lover, like a moth to a light. But unlike my silent suitor, I had never wanted to be sucked into the orbit of my fixation. I had been content to gaze from a far, and dream of could-have-been, might-have-been meetings. Doug wanted to be the moon to my earth. So silently that summer, he sat in my kitchen and drank in my actions, while I tried to ignore he even existed.

BAMorris

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Predators

08 Aug 2015

8/6/15

Predators

Predators look like ordinary people: your neighbor, your doctor, your uncle. They start their predation with acts that can be explained away as being misunderstood. They draw their victims in and use their normalcy to often turn their victims into partners in their crimes.
I’ve known a few pedophiles. To the world they present themselves as nice men. No one would ever have guessed the dark demonic desires that bloomed in their souls. They were like a rich ruby red apple, beautiful until you bite into it to find a nasty worm at the core.
Mostly I have known their victims. One was an 11 years old who was in a foster care girl’s home for acting out behaviors. No one knew the why of her behaviors. It was only when she was given a new night gown to take home with her on a home visit, that after two years of unproductive counseling, her truth came out. At age six her mother had given her a new night gown and then presented her as a gift to her father. This child assumed every girl had that experience, therefore it was normal. When her foster mother gave her the new night gown, the child thought her foster mother, someone she had come to trust, was preparing to give her to the foster father. The tantrum she threw and the words she used about the new night gown allowed her therapist, and then the authorities, to unlock the hell that her life had been for each visit home.
Other victims had been teens by the time I came to know them. But their stories were similar in that abuse started early with someone they trusted (father, step-father, mother’s boyfriend, uncle, neighbor) and continued with new predators throughout their growing up years. It was almost like childhood victims ingested some unseen radioactive shame that could be read by predators as an invisible tattoo or in pheromones from their skin. They all thought it was somehow their fault they were abused over and over, and they all were clueless how to prevent it from happening again.
One adult woman I met in a therapeutic seminar was still luring in men who wielded their power over her and used her as their tool. She wanted it to end; recognized the patterns in her life; but did not know how to stop being a victim. I can only hope that her recognition of the patterns and the acknowledgement that she was no way at fault, was the beginning of her taking back her power and her body.

BAMorris

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