Authority-God, Dad, men, work
I spoke to the Superintendent of the school where I have worked for 9 years, explained to him why I felt betrayed and violated by the way the school treated me. I barely cried which is an amazing fact since I cry when I am angry and I was very, very angry. I also managed to remain calm and relatively collected. I reminded him the school owes me money and I left. Oh, I also dropped about 300 files onto a disc, all the things I have written for my students over the years.
Now, this made me start to think about my relationship with authority. I have been described as "uncontrollable" and also have been told that I don't care what other people think of me. That's not true. No one gets through this life without caring about the opinion of others. I've always felt closer to outsiders then insiders, to the people that others don't always defend. In elementary school I tried to be really nice to the kids in special ed to the point where several boys in the class who had Downs syndrome were my ardent admirers. I also fought bullies. The year we lived in London when I was eleven there was a girl named Avril Leboff (yes) who was the enforcer of the entire school. I refused to bend to her will and I got punched in the face by a tiny thug, a thug paid by her, and then sent to Coventry for months. It was worth it because she was very, very mean.
We may have to talk about God here because I think he's supposed to be the big Kahuna. In my family he was not anything. We were taught to not believe in God or anything that related to spiritualism. It was all literature and great design, two Harvard educated parents, lapsed Catholics, one with a PHD in English from Harvard, the other studied Architecture with Walter Gropius at Harvard and graduated one of three women from Harvard Architectural School. We believed in great design, literature, poetry, foreign movies and foreign cars. We believed in good taste and liberal politics. We believed in civil rights, feminism, briefly in the IRA but then always in Native Americans, fighting injustice, despising the greedy and the narrow minded.
Of course, we were very narrow minded. I looked down on non readers, people who didn't know corn was a starch, owners of big American cars, people who liked the Monkees more than the Beatles, people who owned laz-y-boys, women who deferred to men, women who shopped, women who dyed their hair, women who didn't know how to bake bread, build houses, be beautiful, cook gourmet dinners, and wear no makeup like my mom. Oh, and people who believed in God.
We were dumped in a Christian Science camp while my parents toured Europe blissfully unaware as we were being prayed over by these lunatics. At bedtime I told my camp counselor what was what.
"Molly, do you want to say your prayers out loud or to me."
"I don't pray."
"How do you talk to God?"
"Our family doesn't believe in God."
It wasn't like this individual thing, it was an issue of family loyalty, tradition and belief. Our belief was non belief, Beckett, Kafka, but then that crazed catholic, T.S. Eliot. And my mother warned me off Protestants and I was christened Mary Ellen because after all you don't want to be a corridor baby. What is that? An unchristened baby stays in the hallway.
The Christian Science chick called me: "The poor little girl who doesn't believe in God."
What did we believe in? Perfectly cooked vegetables, opera, books, great films and plays, good taste but not opulence, academic success, defying authority, being funny, Ireland, drinking wine, exercise and swimming. We didn't talk about sex but I watched "La Dolce Vita" age eleven on board an ocean liner on its way to New York and read WOMEN IN LOVE in the back seat of the car while we travelled across France to Spain. I was an idiot savant as far as sex was concerned, all theory and no practice.
Here's who I thought was God: Walter Cronkite who just died. A weird picture of George Washington (big head rising out of clouds) that was on the wall of my second grade classroom, and the lady who held the torch at the end of the movies. I was impressed that God allowed herself to appear in such a public place.
I went to Catechism with Cackie Arthur a very warped girl whose mother lived in a house behind ours. Mrs. Arthur talked like the Queen of England, had no visible means of support and was always being blamed for strange disappearances, booze, chocolate sauce, pets. Anyway, Cackie went to catechism which I agreed to attend because she said she got unlimited candy afterwards. I don't remember the catechism but I remember the candy and then Cackie's attempt to drown me in the pool we visited after that.
An amusing family story was told about my oldest sister Catherine's desire to be confirmed and how she took herself off to whatever you do to get confirmed with, according to my mother, "a bible stuck in her belt." Apparently she wanted to continue to wear her veil after confirmation and when she was told to take it off, she gave up the church.
And then there was my namesake, my mother's mother, Molly. Raised in an Irish convent, a nurse in WWI, bombed in the Dardanelles (which did not mean drunk in France), avid worshipper of all things Catholic. Grandma Molly introduced me to hell (we were all going there), prayer (sort of), contrition, guilt, how to wear a napkin on your head (mass), guilt, suffering. She told me the best thing one could aspire to was martyrdom. She told me my parents were doomed, she told me Protestants were evil, she told me if I didn't pray with my bare knees on the uncarpeted floor, it didn't count eliminating months and months of avid prayers for my poor, doomed parents.