In Wellesley, Massachusetts, our house was built on a hilly lot. The original owner carefully landscaped to create an upper front yard and a lower front yard. Into both sections, Daddy had sunk empty orange juice cans into the dirt to create our own miniature golf course around which we happily played. The back yard was a largely ignored hill of weeds with a narrow stretch of green at the top of the hill next to the back of the house. I remember Daddy standing almost at the top of a very tall ladder, painting our house a brick red color, just prior to selling the house.
But this day was long before that. It was before the sad day I stood on the platform crying, watching my brother board the train that would take him off to college in Virginia and, unbeknownst to me, out of my life pretty much forever, except for occasional family reunions and rare, strained telephone conversations populated by rapid fire questions on my end and monosyllabic responses on his.
It was long before my oldest sister went off to college in North Carolina, leaving me to take over her tiny bedroom with the built-in furniture. Her departure didn't leave me feeling sad because she made it clear that my mere presence made her want to scream, an opinion that lasted throughout our adult lives until very recently, when she seems to have had a change of heart.
And it was long before Dad and Mom divorced, changing the lives of my other sister and me, leaving us bereft and vulnerable. For without Dad's presence, Mom's narcissism blossomed and we were left mostly to fend for ourselves. My sister descended into depression which still plagues her to this day. And I exploded into a million pieces, flying out into the world without a compass or the experience necessary to tell the difference between a friend or a predator. I would pay the price for all of us.
But that was all in the future. On this day, I was an innocent, unaware at 7 years old, of anything awful that might lie in the future. I was finally speaking English fluently, which meant that cruel taunts from other children were a thing of the past. After answering "I forget" a thousand times, they had stopped asking me to "speak some Japan". In fact, I don't think anyone really remembered that I had ever talked funny.
My best friend Joanne and her younger brother Michael were visiting at our house, We were playing together, laughing and enjoying ourselves. Suddenly, Michael proposed a new game. He said he would show me his if I would show him mine. I didn't know what that meant. He explained that we were different. Well, I certainly DID want to see!!! So we gave each other a glimpse. There was no touching or anything sexual. It was just a show and tell. But afterwards, Joanne spoke to Michael. "Now you know we have to tell Father Donovan what we did." Michael answered, "I know."
What? Who was Father Donovan and why did they have to tell him what we did? Joanne explained to me that they went to something called Confession every week and told Father Donovan anything bad that they did during the week. I was mortified. If they were telling an adult what we did, it was only a matter of time before that adult would tell my parents. I was going to be in BIG trouble. I lived in fear for several weeks after that day, just waiting for the day when one or both of my parents would seek me out to have a conversation about what I had done. But it never happened. It was years before I understood why.
I would like to propose a change in the way Catholic children are trained. I believe they should be taught to provide FULL DISCLOSURE prior to participating in sinful behavior with non-Catholic children. In fact, I would suggest documentation, complete with signatures. The non-Catholic child would thus be protected from many weeks of terror and the process might just prevent all of the children from doing anything.
Joanne might have said, "Wait a minute, Michael. We have to go over the disclosure statement with Cathy before we go any further."
I/we JOANNE and MICHAEL do hearby disclose to CATHY that we are Catholic children. Each week, we meet with our priest and tell him all of the naughty things that we did during the week. He listens and metes out certain punishments, usually repetitive prayers. He keeps all information to himself and does not share our information with any other living human being. So there is no way that CATHY'S parents will find out what we did here today.
Maybe I might have still done it. But I don't think so. I think the whole disclosure process would have dampened my enthusiasm for what we had previously discussed. I would probably have suggested a nice game of miniature golf instead.