Monday, October 5, 2009

Spiritual Autobiography: In the beginning....

I did it! I made it through my Spiritual Autobiography without crying, without wanting to run from the room, without my voice cracking and shaking. I suppose that's a sign of trust in my classmates as much as it is the steady hand of God helping to guide me along as I unfold pieces of myself for people. I don't share easily(Yes, believe it or not!). I used to not share at all... which, of course, was just one of the ways of guaranteeing my spot in Hell. Keep people at arm's length, remain apart from a faith community, and try to do this life alone: yeah, that was like punching a ticket for eternal death!

This is a photo of the courtyard at Christ Church in Exeter, the Episcopal Church that I belonged to for the first 39 years of my life until I changed my membership to St. John's in 2008. The altar, the crucifix, and the baptismal font are all from the church from the days when I used to serve as an acolyte and sang in the Junior choir.
I didn't go into great detail about my early church life in my autobiography since I had done so much of that last year. Instead, the theme of my Spiritual autobiography was being a person who always stands with one foot in one world, and another foot in another world... and never feeling that I am totally in one space at a time. I discussed how my parents were older, my brothers were older... and while my classmates were listening to Shaun Cassidy, I was listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Benny Goodman! (My dad believed that music died with Glenn Miller).

So, here's an excerpt of my autobiography:
When I was in kindergarten, the teachers determined that I was “emotionally not ready” for First Grade. That was code for I am an introvert, and because I was born in February, I was apparently not going to be the right age for First grade, so I was placed in a program called “Transition”… which later was called “Readiness”. So I was starting First Grade with the class of 1987.
Until I got to Third Grade.
Something happened. I was grasping concepts faster than anyone else, and now the school officials told my parents that I needed to skip a grade, and rejoin the class of 1986. Besides doing the assignments in my third grade class, I had to do extra work which included occasional forays to Mrs. Brown’s fourth grade class for the state requirement on New Hampshire geography. I also had to write a "book", an historical fiction, about co-education in my hometown. I interviewed graduates of Robinson Female Seminary and Exeter High School to write my story. And once all that was completed, I was granted the privilege of skipping Fourth grade.

After I skipped a grade, I was really messed up emotionally. It’s one thing to move to a new town and start over; I was in the same school, and everybody knew that I was that kid who skipped Fourth grade. The kids who’d been my friends in Third Grade didn’t want to be around me any more, and looked at me like I was a freak. And this new group of kids in the Fifth grade were at a point in their development where boys and girls didn’t play together, but were starting to see each other as “boys” and “girls”. That’s not where I was at, and I didn’t understand the new socialization at all. I wanted to hang with the boys, but they shunned me. So, I fell in with a clique of girls who were mean, and it didn’t take long before they turned on me… and suddenly I was very, very alone. I was a stranger, even though this was the same school that I had been in already.
Back to being “between two worlds”. I had friends whose parents worked at Phillips Exeter Academy… the local prep school…. and I had friends who were working class kids. I quickly became aware of the classism that existed among my teachers. Depending on which set of friends I was with, the teachers would treat me differently. For instance, my sixth grade English teacher was always mean, and condescending to the kids from lower-income homes… but she’d be gentle and kind toward the Academy kids. And it bothered me that depending on who I was with, I would either be accepted or rejected by a teacher.

My best friends growing up were my neighbors, Gwen and Earl. They were also “in-between” people in my town because their parents were a mixed race marriage. Whites viewed them as black; blacks viewed them as whites. I learned to view them, and their parents, as friends. Knowing their father did much to teach me not to fear blacks. As a small child, blacks scared me because I didn't understand how a person could be that dark. Then, this family moved in next door, and my friends' dad was the coolest person I had ever met, and very friendly. And it was through that relationship that I learned to see the person beyond the exterior features.
This takes you up through about the eighth grade. I'll post a segment about "the next phase: high school, college and Tallahassee tomorrow. Stay tuned!


Phoebe said...

A very special gal, that daughter of your dad's. Will be watching for the next segments.

SCG said...

Thanks, Phoebe!

Anonymous said...

This was wonderful for me to read. I can't wait to read the rest of your Spiritual Autobiography. You are my "sweet little Toodie"