Sunday, June 21, 2009

Some Folks Who Shaped My Life:

Two young sisters gave special attention to me, 2 years old, and also to my sister, 3 1/2 when my family moved to New York City. They lived in the home next door. We have a picture of our home in Minneola, from the family album, of the 4 of us sitting on the curb out front. 

 I was a sleepwalker for quite a few years. [I believe I passed on this gene to Timothy Stewart, grandson]. During my night walk I would find my parents, they'd give me a hug, and return me to my bed. My mother would often tell a story of the days when she would leave us with a black woman when she and dad went out for the evening. Those nights I would take my usual walk, climb up in this woman's lap, hug and kiss her, after which she would return me to my bed. All who heard the tale would exclaim and giggle or be shocked because in 1929 there was no mixing of the races, or so it was among us Irish. We were not equal. They were our servants. We often had black women come into our home to help my mother, probably up until the time we moved from Chicago to Hebron, IL. Often we were told to wash our hands well after holding coins as they might have been in a dirty nigger's hands. 

The BVM nuns at Gesu GRade School, in Milwaukee impressed me immensely for better and for worse. Sister Jean Allen was a young, beautiful woman who taught first grade. I believe each of us, Elayne, Bill and I, had her for our teacher. But, she is also the nun who put the tape on my mouth and that was a sad, sad tale for me. Then in 3rd grade I had a witch of a nun who also affected me negatively.  We had these beautiful passout sheets with number problems. I loved these. More than one day she pulled my hair, my braids, as discipline. I hated math after that. 

Yet, in the 4th Grade, after brother Jim was born and we moved to Greenview Avenue in Chicago's North side I attended Our Lady of Lourdes 4600 North Ashland Avenue. This was Sister Mary Edgar's class. She was truly an influential teacher for me. We sang songs, put on shows within the classroom. I only have the best of memories of her. And I feel she inspired me. I met her a time on the playground and my chin was down to my chest.I was quite shy by then. She stopped me, spoke to me, and said, " I must walk with my head held high". I can imagine now she would have followed this instruction with something akin to, "Remember you are a child of God, Who loves you completely". And I would have believed her because she represented God to me. 

In 6th Grade I took my teacher, Sr. Mary Barbara's, name for my Confirmation name.

Probably 1941 dad moved us temporarily from the Tullybrackey farm in Hebron to Chicago to attend school. He wanted us to be enrolled in parochial schools for the school year. Had we remained in Hebron for the winter we would have spent the year in the one room Burgett country school. This year I was in 8th grade at Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the very near North side. This was a wealthy neighborhood.I was impressed when several times the Monsignor Casey had his driver pick up us 8th graders in his limo. My best friend that year was Moira who lived a block from us in a house of mirrors. This is what I called it. Her father was a famous architect.We lived that winter in a coach house behind the big house. In this kitchen I spilled the sugar on the pantry floor when making a chocolate cake. My mother was so distressed because sugar was rationed and we had few stamps for replacement.  

Winter of 1942 I would be a Freshman and attend attend Senn High School, which was about a mile walk daily one way. Dad had difficulty renting an apartment because of us 4 kids. He told the landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Hummel that he had 2 children. Then we were told we had better behave ourselves. Our family satisfied their expectations and they treated us warmly. The final weeks each of these 2 years we returned to Hebron and did attend the one room country school. This was a treasured experience for me, 8 grades in one room, with Mrs. Reynolds coping with all through the day, now with 1st grade, and again with 8th graders, pump in the yard for getting our drinks, trees and green grass and chirping birds for recess and lunch hour. Perhaps a Moo or 2.