Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chapter 5 - Boarding School

At nine years of age I was taken from my parents at Sona Lala and sent to boarding school in the capital, Leopoldville. What a change that was! Never mind my protests about being sent away. I was ignored when I explained how I thought the jungle was a better teacher than a formal classroom. To me the jungle was alive -- a rich changeable field of life. I had spent hours with my slingshot prying into the jungle’s secrets, interrupting many an animals’ quiet routine with a well placed shot. I pelted everything that moved with pebbles. Here I was directly involved with the life of the jungle. My brother and I had learned an enormous amount about life. But that wasn't the education my parents were concerned about. They wanted me civilized. So they packed me of to boarding school.

I was dragged kicking and screaming across my front yard to the jeep waiting to take me away. I fought with every ounce of my strength, trying desperately to convince my parents that I didn't want to go. But it didn't help. I watched out the back window at my brother and sister who stood waving as the jeep drove away. I was the only one old enough to have to go away. I didn't wave back. I never did get used to goodbyes.

My eyes flowed so hard I could hardly see as the house and my family faded behind me. I didn't turn around in my seat for more than an hour. I just starred out the back window. I didn't want to talk to this stranger taking me back to the capital. He was no friend of mine. Could he see the tear in my heart that would only be healed through years of therapy?

The hostel to which I was delivered was a dreary two story cement building. It stood at one end of the mission compound in Leopoldville. The compound had about half a dozen houses. The whole compound was surrounded by a fence on three sides, and the Stanley Pool on the fourth. The pool was formed by a big bend in the Congo river, one of the largest rivers in the world. The name was taken from the great explorer, Stanley Livingston. The compound was a world unto itself. Like other missionary outposts, this was a white enclave in a giant city of natives, black people, many so black they looked purple.

On one side of the compound, just on the other side of the fence, was "Chanic." It was a barge and small boat manufacturing and repair facility. It was well placed to launch its product into the river. We kids would often spend hours, looking through the fence, listening to the great banging and clanging noises as large pieces of metal were formed and welded. How often I looked at those boats and wanted to escape on one of them.

Our mission board ran a tight little operation out of this compound. This was the headquarters of their African outposts in the Belgian Congo. Its major purpose was to see that their belief system was taken to heart by the natives. Missionaries came and went from this place. They started here on the compound, and they journeyed back through when going on furlough, or passed back through as bodies when their time ended, having died of illness or ripened into old age and sent home. As a child, I didn't know the word ego, but I felt in my heart that their efforts in the Belgian Congo paid great dividends to their egos. I must admit however, that some of them in time came to love the natives.

We children were not allowed outside the compound. We were fenced in, literally and psychologically, or so or keepers hoped. Prisoners, body and soul. Some of us were thought to have too much soul. We were the ones that didn't take what we were told, hook, line, and sinker. We were the ones that didn't make it in our parents’ eyes. Oh, but some of us knew that our souls were in danger. We fought back, even if just internally. We saw the discrepancy of what was espoused, versus what was done. We held fast to our own souls, and didn't give them up. This of course causes pain. And we hid our pain from our keepers, and stuffed it down, and hung on for dear life, not just physical life, but spiritual life. Of the fourteen of us that started with me at that boarding school, two died young, several became alcoholics, and a few others fell to mental illness.

The Secretary General, the treasurer, and the other dignitaries of the mission board, operated from the compound in Leopoldville. They would send out directives and communiqu├ęs by ham radio. Small packages and parcels would be sent out with the occasional jeep or carryall that was sent to the mission outposts. Often they would carry the letters we were forced to write to our parents, so they would know we loved them, even after all they had done to us. They never sent anything by the official, government mail system, as it went by riverboat, and would often take months, if in fact, it ever got to its destination at all.

Boarding school was a time of great loneliness and pain. At the start of each year most of us would spend the first few nights crying ourselves to sleep. It would always take a few days to adjust to being away from our parents. Most of us were not happy that our parents had become missionaries in the first place. And then to be sent off to boarding school, in a strange country, was even worse. Worse again, because our education was in a foreign language.

After a couple of weeks though, most of us would be adjusted to our fate and make the best of it. However, there were always one or two kids that just couldn’t hack it. They would cry every night for months, or even the whole term. One poor fellow wet his bed every night. He was punished every morning for it, but it never changed his behavior. They even put him in diapers and tried to ridicule him out of it. But that didn't work either.

Uncle Clay and Aunt Vel ran the hostel with an iron touch. We were not treated special unless we broke an arm or leg or vomited indefinitely. They had fifteen children they had to watch over, so they couldn't be bothered with any little aches or pains. We weren’t an easy lot to control, believe me. We were not volunteers. We hadn't joined this army, just belonged to parents that did. We were a rebellious lot. Strict discipline was necessary.

Since this was a hostel for missionary kids, one can imagine that there were some special problems. Some were created by the religious attitude itself. For one thing, we were all considered sinners. Condemned by original sin. We were tried, found guilty, and condemned before we were even born. This guilt was the primary fact of our existence. Everyone knows the guilty need to be punished. And we were punished a lot. Original sin was the root of the problem. It didn't take long for us to figure out that since we were guilty already for whatever they felt we had done, or thought, there was no reason to try and be good.

Since almost everything was a sin, especially if it was fun, we could never be good. We became amoral as a result of this. As far as we could tell, there was no difference between a bad thought and a bad action. So restraint didn't help. As far as we could tell there was no difference between saying a bad word and killing someone. With no gradation to the system, we were simply bad. So we were bad with as much fun as we could muster. Funny how our parents and hostel parents could never tell what made their children act out so much, and so badly. Yet it never occurred to them that they might be wrong. That their approach was a soul killer. A passion stifler. But we knew. We could feel it down to our bones. If we didn't rebel there was no hope but to die inside.

Every missionary sect had their own hostel so they could keep their kids in their own particular fold. Mind washing is more the word for it. One hostel for the Baptists, one for the Methodists etc. ad infinitum. There was every sect you could imagine here in the heart of Africa. The natives didn't have a chance. It was a simple case of divide and conquer. The missionaries did that well. And we kids, we were just so much baggage that had been brought along. And we knew, felt it, and carried it into our adulthood.

Monday through Friday we were bused to a French speaking school at the top of the city. The bus was always crowded, and the little Belgian boys and girls always outnumbered the rest of us. We were the odd men out and they treated us as such. They made no effort to accommodate us. There is a hatred that only belongs to children. The Belgian children wasted no effort in showing us theirs. They hated us with a passion. Just being different was the only justification needed. They did everything they could to embarrass or ridicule us. Their favorite means of provocation was to spit on us. They really seemed to enjoy doing it.

We would hold up our arms or our briefcases trying to protect ourselves, but usually someone would get a big wad on their face or hair and a fight would start. Sometimes the whole bus would be involved. Mass fists everywhere. Since I was the oldest American boy on the bus I would usually end up in the worst of it. I guess I felt responsible since I was the oldest. I couldn't very well let one of my hostel brothers get the crap beat out of him without helping. Often fights that started on the bus on the way to school would be continued at recess and on through the day and again on the bus on the way home. Many days I would get off the bus in the evening bruised and beaten. Aunt Vel and Uncle Clay never took any of this very seriously. They sort of dismissed it as child's play. Funny that I didn't take it that way.

At school we were the most ignorant of all. Since we had difficulty learning in French we were ridiculed by the teachers as well. We hostel children were spread out in the school so there were usually just one or two of us to classroom. This made us vulnerable. My first year there I was put in the third grade again because that was the level I could perform at in French. Made me feel real stupid, believe me! Repeating a grade was real depressing for me. I would pay for this my whole life. Sure didn't help my attitude any. I began to hate French and everything related to it. I hated the Belgians. I was immersed in a psychological war with the school system and I was bound to loose. I became a daydreamer which left me further and further behind. I never had my place right when the teachers would call on me. I would be somewhere else in some private day dream.

After a day's torture at school it was actually a relief to come home to the hostel. We children's first task of the evening was to get our showers taken. It was a communal affair, boys and girls together. They were really fun. Since the weather is always warm on the equator, we got to take our showers outside. There was an alcove formed by the stairway that wound up to the second floor and the side of the house. A couple of shower heads had been installed there in the corner. All fifteen of us would gather outside in our underwear to shower.

What was really funny was that we were supposed to keep our underwear on so we wouldn't see each other. But you know what underwear looks like on someone when it's wet. It clings just like skin and becomes clear. So it was really close to being naked. Well we all had a lot of fun with that. It was a very sexy shower escapade every night. Of course when there were no adults watching, we boys would pull the front of our underpants down and expose our penises. The girls always pretended to be frightened, but I don't think they really minded. It gave them something to get excited about. The girls were a little tamer than we boys. They were much less willing to expose themselves. They didn't have something they could whip out so readily.

When we boys really wanted to get the girls moving we would take the lid off the cesspool that soured nearby. It wasn't just the smell they didn't like, it was the giant cockroaches that would emerge in frightened crowds. If we would threaten to take the lid off, we could get them to take their panties down too. Oh what power we felt then! But the wet underwear pretty much showed everything anyway. When Cindy, the oldest girl began to bud in the chest - little tits, we had a lot of fun with her. Aunt Vel made her start wearing a T-shirt to the shower, but it didn't hide anything.

After our showers and an early supper, we were not allowed outside to play until our homework was done. You could never tell a lie about having done your homework. Some studious girl, it was always the girls, would tell on you. That was just the way it was. It was the girls who studied hard and took their schoolwork seriously. They always made sure the hostel parents knew what the lesson was, so they would make sure we all got them done. I don't think I liked that aspect of the opposite sex. I had a hard time hating them for their studiousness, but being sexually attracted to them at the same time. I don't think I was ever too young to appreciate women. I always did.

Because of my disregard for homework, Aunt Vel would hang over me like a witch’s shadow. She made it very difficult for me to daydream. But she did manage to make my life miserable. I managed somehow to get through the school year, but I sure wondered about my life, and why these people were in the life I had been dealt. I certainly wouldn't have chosen my parents, or these hostel parents. I got the overriding feeling that something was wrong. Something was very wrong with my life. The whole thing just felt wrong to me. This feeling stayed with me and grew, and as a result I always had the feeling of being an outsider.


end chapter 5

Formerly - M.K. Chapter 7 - from original draft

Chapter four - Arfrica

The air was thick as bread dough as we disembarked mid morning in Leopoldville. It was an immersion into a thick humid blanket warm on the skin. Black men in khaki uniforms bustled about looking very official. This wasn't one of the busier airports in the world but it had one of the longest runways. The biggest and fastest jets could land here. This was a city with lots of room to expand. 
 
We managed to get through customs rather easily. Actually coming into the Belgian Congo wasn't too difficult. Customs never gave arriving passengers much trouble. But if you were leaving, they gave you a thorough going over. Besides South Africa, they had more diamonds here than anywhere else in the world. They were always being smuggled out. Almost any plane leaving had people with smuggled diamonds on or in their bodies somewhere. Sometimes they were caught, but diamonds were easily hidden. 
 
Soon we were in a GMC carryall on our way to the local mission compound. The scenery was very different. Lush, and dark green everywhere. The smell of flowers, plants, and strange foods filled the air. I was still very aware of the heavy atmosphere. The air had weight. 
 
We stayed in the capital a couple of days, resting up and getting used to the heat and humidity. We were given many informal lectures and directions about how to live in Africa. We were given the run down on how to treat the natives and what to expect from them. But our stay with the amenities of civilization was very short. Before a week was up we were off to the bush, to a place called Sona Lala. Here we were to learn more of the African ways, more French, which was the official language of the Belgian Congo. We also came into contact with one of the local dialects, Kikongo. 
 
The house we moved into was red baked brick with a corrugated tin roof. It stood on a red clay hill surrounded by palm trees. The red clay earth and the green of the grass and trees created a warm earthy feeling. The white missionaries had the brick houses with the tin roofs. The natives did with less. Their huts were also red, but not made of brick. They were made with the red clay pressed into a simple frame of palm branches tied together. Sort of like a mud bird's nest. The thatched roofs of the native huts would be a layer or two of long grasses. These huts were simple, but they were cool, and often lasted twenty years. They were easily repaired and a new one only took a week or so to build. 
 
The rains came hard and long in the wet season. There was nothing I loved more than listening to those hard rains pound on the tin roof. It was like earth music. The tin roof was just a natural amplifier that made the rain seem like a loud drum swell. Even if the rain started in the middle of the night I would wake up just to listen. Listening to the rain in the night gave me a mystical, spiritual feeling, a calm sense of awesomeness. In the morning the red clay roads would be turned to mud and were very difficult to use. 
 
Like all the mission stations, the dominant structure was the church. It's steeple pierced the sky from atop the hill. Most of the towns had started as mission stations of one denomination or another, so the church was always in the center of town, and usually the biggest building. Commerce would then develop around the mission station. Religion was usually the dominant cohesive force. One could never escape that power. Religion turned out to be the quickest and surest way to convert the Africans to Western culture. Since the missionaries had such power over the money and structure of the towns, most of the natives converted quickly. With the white man's religion came the white man's goods and education for the children. The only schools in the bush were mission schools. The natives valued education. For them it was magical. They were easy to teach, and they learned quickly.

The church in Sona Lala was painted white on the outside. It was still close enough to civilization to be able to get paint. The roof was tin like our house and all the other official buildings. The ceiling was high to keep the heat off the floor. The windows were large and unpaned so the breezes could flow through on Sunday mornings. The breeze was really needed because the air was heavy and usually very hot. 
 
Sunday mornings I would be packed in shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of unwashed bodies. Mothers with their babies and the strong smell of urine. If it was a still day without a breeze I would almost pass out from the smell. On more than one occasion I watched as a baby peed on the floor, and I watched the urine run towards the altar. It was especially crowded and smelly on Communion Sundays. That's when natives from the surrounding villages would come in to join the main congregation. Luckily the unbaptized got to leave. Since I was unbaptized, I got to leave too. I loved that!  But that is not why I was never baptized. It was more to do with my rebellion - my drive for independence. 
 
Except for all the church activities, Africa was a boy's paradise. Mystery and secrecy were everywhere. The contrast of the white and native cultures was exhilarating. The natives knew all sorts of dark scary things that they would share with us children. Sometimes scaring the crap out of us. The jungle was thick and full of life and lots of places to hide. Every kind of insect was there, and every kind of lizard, toad and snake. Every turn on a path through the jungle yielded new things to look at and play with. My brother and I would follow any path we saw till we were too scared to go any farther. We crossed swamps, and dallied in clear water springs. Enough never entered our minds - paradise unending. 
 
On our little journeys we encountered man, woman and child. We watched the natives at their swimming and bathing holes, stepped in quicksand, fell in swamps, and generally had a great time. The women especially were more private than the men. While the men would bath in the river, the women would go into the jungle and bath in the swamps. 

We boys soon knew where they would bathe, and we would climb into the trees and wait. If we were quiet, we could watch them in their nakedness, taking in the mystery of something we did not understand. Sometimes, the women would spot a pair of sneakers on the ground and look up and spot us. Oh, the fun of their laughter, their joy at being exposed. We never came to harm from being spotted. 

We would come home, after hours in the jungle, and tell our mom all the things we had done. Well, most of the things we had done. We did keep a few secrets. Especially if we thought she would tell Dad. We got bit by insects and once or twice had to pull leaches off our scabby knees. Leaches loved to find fresh wounds, and we boys had them in abundance. 
 
One day when we were in the swamp catching tadpoles I saw this black and yellow stripped thing hanging from my knee. Scared to death that I was being bitten by a snake, I ran all the way home with this thing hanging from my knee. Just as I arrived home, it fell off along the path. My Dad took me to the old missionary Doc who had lived in the bush for many years. He didn't get excited, or scared, he just looked up something in his dictionary and asked me if it "looked like this?" When I said yes he told me that it was only a leach and that I wasn't permanently damaged. My brother got whipped when he got home because he had stayed behind to bring in the tadpoles. 
 
A day seemed like an eternity to me. A child's experience of time. So the joy was prolonged and life seemed eternal. I was much more interested in the native culture than the white culture of my parents. My parent's picture of life was rigid, and they had all the answers. The natives were different. They didn't know everything. At least they didn't pretend to. I liked the openness of the natives' natural way of seeing things. My parents and the other missionaries were mostly preoccupied with saving the natives - bringing them to Jesus, so I really had time to play and do my own thing. Jesus, Hell and damnation, were things that just didn't seem to be important to me. They scared me, but I took a child's view, that my work was to play. 
 
So Karl and I played, and when we were hurt we would come running home and mom would patch us up. A small scratch in the fetid atmosphere of the tropics would erupt overnight into a foul smelling, oozing green mess. She became real familiar with the sulfa drugs and alcohol that would stave off the infections. She bandaged our cuts, cored our boils with a knife, and patched our holes with salve and gauze. I still have many scars that started out as just little scratches or cuts. The jungle left its marks on me. And the clash of cultures certainly left its mark on my psyche.

               end chapter four

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chapter three - Belgium

All over Brussels, spray painted on bridges, walls and overpasses were slogans proclaiming, "U S = Nazis" or "Yankee go home." They were all written in English to be sure Americans could read them. Being a child in a foreign country and seeing this was very devastating. It just added to the acuteness of my feeling rejected.

I am not sure that my parents were aware of how much I was taking in. How aware I was of the unwantedness of Americans in Belgium. We drove around the city day after day and my parents never mentioned the graffiti slogans. I was afraid to point them out for fear of being criticized or being negative. But we all saw them. They were big and crude and painted where anyone traveling in the city would have to notice them. It was so different from the security and protection I needed and wanted. The kind I got from my Grandpa and Uncle John and Aunt Elaine.

The presence of NATO did have it's negative effects. There were always of foreigners in Brussels. Now I was one of them and I picked up the negative feelings. I took it personally. Seeing all this hatred displayed do openly made me very afraid. I wanted support from my parents, but they were the ones that brought me here. They were the ones that wrenched me from my home. Anywhere in the U.S. would have still been O.K. I would still have been an American in my own Country. Here I was an intruder, unwelcome and unwanted. It seemed to me wherever I looked, and by what I felt, that my parents couldn't see how sensitive and aware I was. I had few defenses, I was still open, not hardened to experience as they were.

There was one lucky break in my schooling. The school I went to, unlike most of them in Belgium, was co-educational. Also, in most of the Belgian schools, the children had to wear school uniforms. White shirt and blue shorts for boys, white blouse and blue skirt for girls. I was pleased that my father had not sent me to one of those schools. It made life a lot more fun.

I did the best I could to fit in. But that was not always easy. Black or brown leather briefcases with two buckles on the front were de rigeur with the students. I had to have one! But no, what did I get, a cloth one in a bright red and black checkered pattern.

I was always horrified by these seemingly minor things. They brought attention to me, made be noticed. And usually being noticed meant that I would be teased. At minimum I was always confronted by questions as to why I was different. But I didn't want to be different. I wanted to blend into the crowd.

At lunch it was the same. I always took mine in a brown paper bad. All the other little kids brought theirs in little plastic containers. When they saw me standing there with my paper bag they would say, "look at this dumb American. He doesn't even know how to keep his food fresh.

"Boy his family must be poor. They have to use paper bags."

"Too bad his parents aren't Belgian, then he'd be better taken care of."

It was almost more than I could stand.

The worst problem I had though, centered on the fact that I was circumcised and little Belgian boys are not. So every time I went to the little boys room, I drew a crowd. The little Belgian boys could not figure out why my parents would have allowed me to be mutilated like this.

"What did your parents do to you?"

"Did they do this to you, or are you deformed?"

"Give us a closer look."

They all had to get a good look to see. Once again I was the center of attention.

As soon as I would walk in the restroom, they would gather round and jostle for position. No one wanted to miss the sight of this mutilated American boy. They even had fights about who would be in the front line while I went.

They pointed, they giggled, they laughed at the boy with no foreskin.

"Look at this kid with no foreskin, isn't he strange?"

"Look at what they did to him!"

"Why did they do it?"

"Looks half naked to me!"

"Where did the end go."

I was so devastated by all this that I wished I were invisible, and if not able to do that. Just disappear all together. But I didn't become suicidal till later.

Eventually I couldn't even go without locking myself in a stall. Later I could not go at all if there was anyone else in the restroom.

I walked home from school many evenings, crying all the way. Sobbing as I walked, head down, along the gray cobblestone streets. At home my parents just didn't seem to get the picture. They just thought that whatever was going on could be handled by strength of character and a little prayer. They were busy with their French lessons. How do you talk to God about your penis? Could you get your foreskin back by praying?

I gave up on the idea of learning. I just daydreamed and watched the antics of the other persona non grata in my class, a gypsie girl. She was a discipline problem and had been kept back a grade or two, so she was older. What did she do for me? She exposed herself.

When the teacher would be busy explaining something on the blackboard and the other kids were duly attentive, she would lay down on the floor, in the middle of the isle, lift up her skirt and pull down her panties. I loved it. It was real, it was fun, and it was rebellious. Once I returned the favor by showing her the erection she caused. But she was embarrassed and didn't want to look. She was the only person in the world I didn't mind showing my penis to.

When maria would get caught doing something bad, since we were friends, I would be in trouble, too! The teacher thought I was leading her on, that I was encouraging her bad character. So she would be put in one corner of the room and I in the other. I could never defend myself since I didn't always understand what was going on. And I couldn't talk real well in French.

So I was the bad apple. The one to point the finger at. The one kid that was different. Without common sense, manners, or morals. I was guilty of a lot of things I didn't know about. Couldn't understand or talk about. I was just guilty as charged. Tried and punished by the one man jury, the teacher.

My teachers gave up on me. Believe me, they thought they were justified. But I was the one really being hurt. Not them. I was lonely, frightened and scarred. I felt terrible, standing in front of the class, taking verbal abuse by the hour. Sometimes the teacher drew three circles on the board, one for my nose and one for each of my hands. I had to press my nose against one circle and keep my hands in the other two. I felt like Christ crucified with his back to the crowd. I took it dutifully because I didn't know any better. Like someone resigned to it. Used to it. I took it dispassionately like an imbecile. Like they wanted me too.

The whole class had fun at my expense. The teacher could get away with it because I was an outsider. I was the intruder, the one they had as captive. Even the principal came into the room and gave little lectures to the class on what good children the little Belgians were compared to me. I had to take it all. I was the one American they could get their hands on. They took it all out on me.

Every day I would walk the cobblestone streets to and from school with my checkered briefcase and sometimes a couple francs with which to buy some candy. Candy was one of my few consolations that year. It was the one thing that was consistently good, when I could get some.

When I had a few francs I would deliberate as to which candy store I would stop at. And then I would spend long moments looking through the glass at the counter deciding. This was the only power I had. The only decision I could really control. Oh, those sweet moments of decision. And then the tasting and enjoyment.

As I walked and sucked my candy I would watch the old men that walked the street. They, too, looked dejected and downtrodden. I identified with them. And it was really hard for me to watch as they would rummage through the garbage for old rinds of fruit, meat fat, and moldy bread. I thought that someday I would be one of them.

There was usually a drizzle, either going or coming home from school. I didn't mind walking in it, since it correspond with my mood. In the morning if it didn't rain the merchants would be out scrubbing the dog poop from the sidewalks. In the evening they would often be sitting under the canopies of their respective little shops, soaking up the last warm rays of the afternoon. Every day I would pass them on my way home, a little wiser, a little sadder.

Just as my life was hard at school, it was also hard and home. My Dad was a real slave driver. He was also a perfectionist, and I haven't seen a perfect kid yet. But I was supposed to be one. He usually kept me in all evening trying to force me to do enough homework so I would catch up with the rest of the class. I was punihsed if I didn't keep up, and I seldom did. So I would be grounded in this little, musty Belgian apartment, with my notebooks and my failures. And almost nothing I did was good enough for my father, even if the teacher thought it was. He punished me and told me to work harder.

My dad would always compare me to my little brother who was doing so well. I tried to explain to him that David was in the first grade, learning the same new stuff as the little Belgians. He had a better chance, he was behind a could of grades like I was. So my younger brother just made me look worse because he was doing just fine, even exemplary. If he could, I could, that's what my dad thought.

Maybe be was right, but I didn't know what to do.

In desperation, as I was failing, he hired a tutor. He hired a tall blond, gorgeous young woman. I guess he didn't know what a distraction she would be for me. He wasn't real aware of my nature I guess. I can still remeber her fondly to this day. She really was a beautiful creature, and she really did want to help me! She was kind and sensitive to my misfortune. But while she tried to get me to concentrate on my studies I was concentrating on her. She was everything I wanted.

I thought about how nice it would be to have someone like her around all the time to be with me. To help me, to make me feel important. During the hour she was with me I was number one on the agenda, this didn't happen anywhere else in my life. She had a soft sweet French accent and as I listened to her voice I would drift off to dreamland. I would be alone with her on some far away enchanted isle. Just her and me. Alone. But dreaming got me nowhere. I still failed! I was hauled off to special conferences with my teacher. Taken for little chats with the school principal. I did not hesitate to show my profound indifference and was rewarded accordingly. Even whippings at home did not deter my deepening indifference. My deepening despair was created by the lack of understanding all around me. Adults that should have known better. Maybe they had their own little neurotic agendas and couldn't see me through them. The only freedoms I had were to rebel, and show indifference. I learned them well.

With cool disregard I flunked the third grade. As far as I was concerned it was not my fault. Forces of destruction were all around me. There was too much going against me. How was one little boy supposed to win and achieve against these odds. I don't know if it was to get rid of me, punish me, or what. But my father decided that I was going off to summer camp. This was absolutely against my wishes. But again, my wishes were not the determining factor.

My brother and I were put aboard a train in Brussels and sent away! We didn't know where we were being sent to, we couldn't even pronounce the name. But off we were. Away from home, away from our parents. Away from everything that was familiar to us. And even though what was familiar wasn't too great. The unknown was worse. What were these Belgians going to do to a couple of unwanted American kids? Left entirely in their hands, at their mercy. We soon found out. And my fears were soon justified.

The miles clicked away beneath us and our security went with them. I really missed being in my little apartment. It was the most secure thing I knew. I wanted to be back in it, sitting in the window counting trolley cars. I wanted my mom to be there. At least she could give me milk and cookies. But we weren't there. Where we were going, no one would care. No one would have a special interest in us. I knew we would need special care. I knew we were being sent to the wolves. It was a boys' camp by the ocean. A place to be taught, not a place to cry and wish you were home. Here we were victims of the Belgian culture, which was applied to us very harshly.

The first night in camp we embarrassed ourselves greatly. We were housed in a centuries old stone building several stories high. By some indiscretion we were not shown where the bathroom was. We had no idea. We were far away from home and scared. We were too afraid to ask, but we couldn't sleep because we both needed to go. We got up and slowly opened the door and peered down the hall. It was hard and scary. We didn't see any signs or directions so we retreated back into our room. We decided that our only option was to pee in the sink. I instructed my brother to pull a chair up to the sink so we could stand on it and be able to go in the sink.

My brother went first. Long and hard as it had been a long time since either of us had gone. Then it was my turn. I took my place on the chair, leaned over the sink and let go. It felt good to relax and empty my bladder. But just as it was began to froth in the sink the door opened and one of the caretakers walked in. Without even giving me a chance to finish, I was yanked down from my chair, thrown against the wall and given a harsh lecture. We were lectured on the incivility and lack of culture in our breed. Americans truly were uncultured. We were proving it. At the end of our lecture we were prodded down the hall and shown where the restroom was. But it was a little late. We were already branded. They would be looking for us. We knew it.

The very next morning troubles started for us again. This time it was from the communal showers. Word soon got around that our penises lacked foreskins. This was big news in a boys camp, where everyone else was uncircumcised. We were teased worse here than at school back home. There was no escape. We were at their mercy. But they had none.

David and I were chased, caught and our pants pulled down. We were held to the ground with our pants around our knees and made fun of. Our little difference was the talk of the camp. It was the major unsupervised game of the camp. Catch the two American boys and pull their pants down. We spent most of our time there being chased and teased. We were never left alone. We were forced to say and spell the names of our genitals in English so they could make fun of us that way too. These were cruel games played by older children on younger children. Based on being different.

It was very difficult for my parents to understand the depth of the pain we went through at the camp. The one thing they could see that was definitely wrong was that we were forced to drink beer at meals. In Belgium, alcohol is not something kept away from children. It is standard fair with meals. And David and I had caused some real scenes when we refused to drink it. But we made our parents promise not to send us to any more summer camps, they were just to terrible. Dad listened, but he had this idea that all problems were solvable and that if David and I just applied ourselves we could solve these little problems of ours.

Shortly after we returned from camp it was time to go on to Africa. Camp was now passed, summer was gone and we were soon packed and ready for our trip to the Belgian Congo. The heart of Africa. The dark continent. But I was ready. It couldn't be worse than this awful place. I was ready to go. We piled into a Sabina Airlines DC-8 for the long flight to Leopoldville. I was glad to leave Belgium. It had been a one year lesson in hell. I would pay the rest of my life for the experiences I had there.


end chapter  three


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chapter two - Brussels

Chapter two - Brussels

Is it wise to say I never felt a lot of love from my parents. Isn't this just the standard narcissistic dribble for many of us? Is this not an excuse for victim-hood? A line for many? What got in the way of love was religion - a right way, a perfect way, a proscribed way to be with a child. My parents were religious, to say the least, and rather than spontaneous loving, there was prescription for loving. All the bureaucracy of the right way to be got in the way.

I learned early that I was bad and sinful and needed to make amends. I was imbued me with a sense of guilt. It came with their religion, like sand with a beach. I also learned a fear, for I was constantly reminded that God was looking over my shoulder. God knew what I was thinking, knew what I was doing, even if I didn't tell. Even if they didn't know. Every hair on my head was counted. To them it meant, every sin was counted.

Guilt made all my thoughts fearful. I always felt controlled, even when alone. I was being watched, and could never get away. Fear left an ugly, permanent residue. Sitting on my father's knee through seminary classes, I got deeper sense of the importance of religion than most children. The classes were full of adults, and they were serious. These were the men that would someday save the world. It wasn't just idle chatter for them. They were going to do it. I might add that no child was going to stand in their way. I sat in the seminary classes and heard and felt the gravity.

Even as a small child, I doubted their ability to change the world. I didn't believe they could do it. I already knew what my Dad wanted to do, but he couldn't even save me. My terrors were real. His loving was more terrifying than redemptive. Their discussions were sidetracked by literalism, like how many angels could sit on the head of a pin. They got the letter of the law down pat, but they missed the spirit of it. I knew this because I lived with him. All that Bible study just made them more right, less fallible.

During the course of these studies my mother gave birth to my brother Carl and sister Janis. Now I had others to be responsible for. Any time one of them got in trouble it was my fault. I was told that If I had set a better example, what happened wouldn't have happened. They wouldn't have done it. It was burdensome to feel this. I was not only responsible for being bad myself, but somehow for them as well. I didn't want this responsibility, but it was thrust upon me anyway.

We children were just a another crop of people carrying on in original sin. This sin needed to be acknowledged at least, beaten into us through guilt and then penance. Being the eldest child was too much responsibility. I had enough trouble dealing with my own guilt.

While in seminary my Dad got the conviction that we were to be missionaries to the natives of Africa. A scary thought to me. But I knew that whatever Dad decided became law. That's the way it was in those days, and our family was no exception. I can't tell how my mother felt about it. She stayed in the background. I tried in my childish way, in vain, to make Dad see differently. I begged. But I had no clout. Family objections thrown aside, missionaries we would be.

It was 1957 and we were going to the Belgian Congo. I imagined being eaten by savages. I was young enough that I wasn't convinced that fairy tales were just that. Perhaps as children we are more in touch with our primeval fears. At the age of seven, I had certainly not learned to repress them. To go to the Congo, we first had to spend a year in Belgium. Since the Congo was a Belgian colony, we first had to qualify. Entry was not just a formality. Visas were only granted if you proved yourself serious enough to spend time in the "Mother County," and learn the language, the culture. This was discouraging to many, but not to missionaries.

Belgium preferred that Protestants not travel there. The Catholic priesthood preferred that Protestants not go there. The Congo was still a Belgian colony and Belgium was a Catholic country. They were very opposed to having protestants in the Congo, competing with the Catholic nuns and priests. But Dad was determined and so we went to a special language school in Connecticut to learn the French language. Before we left the U.S. for Belgium, we spent at least six months studying French. During this period my second sister Lancy was born.

We left from the docks of New York City, a black and white city, with tall black buildings covered with soot standing against white cloudy skies. Even the harbor water was dark, like a black and white picture. Many relatives came to see us off. They stood below us, from our view from the deck of the ship, lined up below on the pier, at the waters edge, like little statues, waving. We waved back from the deck. At least I felt important up on deck, looking down at them. I was going, I was traveling, I was adventuring. They were such small static figures.

We sailed across the Atlantic for two slow weeks. It was a frightening trip for me. I spent much of my time worrying about a brother or sister falling overboard. I was especially concerned for my little brother, Carl He was wild, and had no sense at all. He thought the railings on the side of the ship were jungle-gym bars. He did flips and stunts on them, hundreds of feet above the ocean. He hung upside down and dared me to pull him off. "I'll let go," he would yell. From my point of view, I was more concerned about my responsibility after he fell overboard. I was traumatized by the thought that I would be expected to jump in after him, to save him. I didn't think I could save him even if I did jump in after him. But if I didn't jump in after him, what would my Dad do? Kill me? It was a no win situation.

It was with great relief that I greeted the port of Rotterdam in Holland. I had made it without having to jump into the sea to rescue my little brother. Rotterdam didn't seem primitive or old, as I expected. To my childish view, the rest of the world outside the United States, was all primitive and savage. I don't know if that was due to American schooling, or if I had got Europe mixed up with Africa, but there was no way I could call this port primitive. There were all types of barges, ferries and sight seeing boats. The hustle and shear mass of activity on the water was incredible. I had to admit that America wasn't the only developed country in the world. Compared to New York, Rotterdam was a bright cheery port. But then again, the Dutch are noted for their cleanliness. Even the water seemed cleaner.

My father hired a limousine to drive us from Rotterdam to Brussels. It was a grand old car, sleek, black and shiny. It had a stately little trailer hitched behind it, just big enough for our luggage. I couldn't wait to ride in grand style through the Dutch and Belgian countryside. The chauffeur was dressed in a black uniform, and a tidy dapper chauffeur's cap. He made me feel protected, like I was in good hands. He was a big stocky Dutchman. He packed our bags, and held the door as we all piled in. We were soon on our way, zooming along countryside that was altogether foreign.

Holland was beautiful, green and flat, and the dikes we rode along gave a clear veiw of the pastures on either side. The thatched roof houses seemed warm and rustic. There were windmills with arms raised high, turning in wind. They seemed to welcome us with these big silent arms. At some point I began to count them, but there were so many I eventually gave up. We had to stop at the Belgian border to get our passports checked. I liked seeing all the official looking solders and border guards. They looked like they had things well under control. They smiled at me and I felt important. After waving us on, we crossed into Belgium, where the countryside changed almost immediately. Belgium is not as clean and cheerful like Holland, but dirty and dreary. One mile across the border the change was evident.

Belgium, unlike Holland was not bombed during the Second World War. The Belgians were run over in three days. Giving up that quickly saved their buildings. It left all the old things standing. The buildings are old and grey and unpainted. Everywhere there were old cement and stone walls, gray with age. Belgium is a country covered in mist. When it is not misty it is raining. It rains three hundred days a year. Coal smoke and mist gather together and make the cities gray. The towns smell of sulfur from the burning coal. The smoke clings to the houses. Old factories look the same as they did a century ago. Most days it rains at least some and today was no exception. We drove in the mist and then into rain.

We came upon an accident on the highway. Our chauffeur did not want to stop. He had a job to do, getting us to Brussels. He argued that stopping would interfere with his getting us to Brussels in decent time. Consider also, that his being Dutch and us being in Belgium, didn't propel him to get involved. However, my father insisted, so he stopped. The Volvo was wrapped around a tree. My father investigated and did what he could to help, but there wasn't much he could do. The driver was dead and his wife was dying. An ambulance was called and after it arrived we all proceeded. The rest of the ride to Brussels was somber and quiet.

We arrived in Brussels late in the night and we ate at a place close to the Pension where we were staying. We soon learned that kids don't drink a lot of milk in Belgium. They don't stock it pasteurized and cold. They keep it warm, boiled and bottled, so they don't have to keep it refrigerated. It tasted terrible, hardly like milk at all. I knew this augured bad times. But what else could I do? I was too learn incredible patience, soon enough. Finding an apartment in Brussels was difficult. We spent most of our search driving around in a small Volkswagen bug. We didn't look in the paper because we could hardly read it. There weren't any other missionaries there at the time to help us. We were really on our own, and it was a humbling experience. We kids were frightened seeing our Dad nervous and scared. I don't know how Dad kept going, but he did. With the five of us crunched in that little VW bug, he drove around for hours, looking for "For Rent" signs.

Most of the time I sat wedged on the hard plastic seat next to my sister Janis. She was such a baby, crying every time we stopped and were refused a lease. Lancy was the youngest and smallest so she got to sit up front on my mother's lap. Dad was not to be questioned during this ordeal, as he was getting far too irritable. He was approaching the end of his rope and it showed. I felt sorry for him, as I often did. He was always so responsible, so burdened, and so persistent. We felt like a spectacle, driving around in this foreign city, not knowing the language, looking for "Rent" signs. The people on the street would stop and stare at us, literally. Crowded into our little car, we were dirty and covered with sweat. Janis's face was tear streaked and red. She looked like an abused child. They didn't know that she almost always looked that way. She had a penchant for crying and carrying on.

Every time Dad stopped we would all be screaming to be let out. We wanted to stretch and breathe some fresh air, but he always made us stay in the car. It was very hard for us to sit still for so long. When one of us would spot a "For Rent" sign we'd yell and Dad would would go in and inquire. Mostly we were sent away because there were too many of us. Belgians typically had families with two children at the most. Many of them had dogs and no children.

After a day touring the town looking for a permanent residence, we would go back to our "pension". It was a small place in a row-house and we had two rooms. The continental breakfast was a life saver. Morning would come and before we could get down the stairs we could smell the aroma from the dinning room. What a wonderful variety of delicious French breakfast rolls they had, with jams and jellies and hot chocolate. Dad, being a true bread lover, was impressed. I imagined him living here permanently just to eat the breads and pastries. Mom and Dad would drink espresso coffee and sometimes tea.

Breakfast made me feel good even in this strange place. As soon as we were done, it was back on the road. But after the first few fruitless days of looking, we kids begged off and let dad go out on his own. We told him he might have more luck looking if we weren't along, there were so many of us. This way at least he could get a conversation going and make a good impression before he dropped the bad news of how many children he had. We stayed in our rooms and looked out the windows and played games, and counted cars.

Dad would come back for supper, tired, pale and grimy. His hands would be shaking. This always happened when he got tired and stressed. When I saw him this way I was very frightened. If my father couldn't handle the situation, what hope was there for me? But he didn't break down, and finally found a place. He was very happy and pleased with himself. I was glad to see him relaxed. He asked us if we wanted to see our new place. We could hardly wait. He took us right out, even though he hadn't eaten supper.

The landlord was an old gentlemen with snow white hair. His head shook constantly and the pipe in his mouth rattled against his teeth. His teeth were yellow but he had a great smile. I could never figure out why he rented to us. Maybe he was so wealthy that he wasn't bothered by the damage we might do. Maybe he just felt sorry for us. It was a typical Belgian row house on a cobblestone street. We had an upstairs apartment with a view of the street. Trolleys and buses and tiny European cars passed by day and night. Brussels was a busy town. Since there wasn't a yard to play in, we stayed in-doors most of the time. Carl and I spent many hours looking out the window at the street. I sat on one side and he on the other. We counted cars, buses and trolleys, to pass the time. It was soon after the war, and we saw many men savaging in the garbage cans. It made us fear being left or lost here in this town.

Across the street stood a large Cathedral. We were impressed. It was ominous, foreboding and domineering. It was particularly foreboding because it was a Catholic church. We hadn't seen any protestant churches anywhere. I felt lonely and isolated. What were we doing here? What was Dad doing here? Had he lost his mind? This was no backward, third would country where we were well received, like liberators. We watched the old ladies go in and out of the cathedral. I guess after their husbands died they needed to pray and light candles. That's what we saw when we were invited in one time. My dad accepted an invitation from a priest and we went over as a family. They knelt on their knees, lit candles and played with beads. I can remember how my scabby knees stuck to the wicker chair. We wore shorts in Belgium as that was the custom.

School in Belgium is taught in French and Flemish. I spent the whole first day walking around saying the only phrase I knew in French, "Moi Americain," which was "Me American." It took me what seemed hours just to find my class. When I got there I was starred at and talked about without understanding a single word. After a week or two I could find my way around, but that didn't help much, I still fell very quickly behind in my studies.

Especially hard was writing. In the U.S. I had started out printing the alphabet in pencil. I had just begun learning cursive penmanship before we left. But here they had started doing cursive in the first grade. And they wrote with ink pens, the old fashioned kind. The pens were dipped into inkwells at the top right hand corner of the desk. Each line had to be blotted properly. so it would not spread and smear. The black ink was permanent. I knew, because I got it all over my clothes. My ruined pants adn shirts made my parents furious. They did not have the money for new clothes, and there were no church groups here to give us any. My parents could hardly believe my tale of ink wells and dipping pens, so my dad actaully came to school and checked out the classroom. I showed him the inkwells imbeded in the desks, and I showed him the pen I had to use. Seeing that I told the truth, he still couldn't help me. I was on my own, ignorant and ashamed of being so far behind.

I was overwhelmed by the Belgian school system. I just couldn't catch on quick enough to feel competent. I felt like a failure because the Belgian students were so much better than I. They caught on so quickly. I tried, but I couldn't keep up the pace, they were just too fast. There was no way out. I couldn't run away at eight years of age in a foreign country. The system was very unforgiving and I was soon known as the American idiot. So I just doodled in class. I drew cars, planes, forests and daydreamed.

The situation got only worse because of how well my younger brother Carl was doing. Since he was just starting school he began at the same place the Belgian kids did. He started right in learning cursive and using those dip pens. He did well and learned the language very fast. This made me feel worse. My parents couldn't see the advantage he had and would compare my brother's success with my failure. They couldn't see how devastated I was. Carl just did his best. It wasn't his fault that he made me look bad.

end of Chapter two - Brussels
(rev. 6/20/2010)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chapter one - A Beginning

I have no presumption that this is a true story. I have studied far too much psychology to believe that my individual perspective holds the actual truth. So this is just a story.

In the late 1940's in the hills of Pennsylvania my father would hitchhike from Hossburg to Vellsboro to see my mother. During the winter, when it was quite cold, and they returned late, hitching a ride back to Hossburg could be tricky and freezing to death a real possibility. So father would be invited to spend the night. In a separate bedroom of course.

I can't attest to how 'laissez faire' my maternal grandparents were, but they seemed to think this appropriate. My father told me that young love doesn't know how to control itself, and he often snuck into my mother's room. I was conceived and marriage was in order.

However, my father had a problem. He didn't want to let it be known that my mother was pregnant. He simply asked his father if he could get married. The answer was, "No." My father had no other option than to elope. He and my mother made elaborate plans, and left fake documents to steer others off their path.

They left the same day, from different bus stations, and traveled separately to their destination in South Carolina. They did leave notes, but to the effect of implicating other destinations. They got married and I was born.

I was sixteen when I actually counted the months from their wedding anniversary to my birthday. It was only six months. I asked my mother, "Was I was born premature?" and she answered, "No." It then made sense to me why my father, when he was angry, would say, "If it wasn't for you, I never would have married your mother." In kinder moods he would say he married her for her straight teeth. His were crooked.

My parents both found work. They found a church and attended regularly. At some point in their stay, the minister of the church had enough information to find my father's parents. He wrote to my father's dad.

My paternal Grandfather was a minister - a Baptist minister. In fact, since the sixteenth century, the oldest of each generation had been a minister. My grandparents drove down and begged my Mother and Father to return home. They offered for them to live in their house, which would save them rent. My parents returned and lived with them in the same house.

At eleven months I pulled an electric percolator full of boiling coffee off the radiator onto myself. In the small cramped quarters, the radiators were used as shelves. The one in the kitchen had a board on top of it with a nice clean cloth draped over it. I managed to pull the cloth, and the percolator tumbled right on top of me. I turned my head, and the contents spilled onto my neck and shoulder.

I had burns over ninety percent of my body (according to the newspaper article I read years later). When they took off my sweater, most of the skin on my left shoulder came with it. I was taken to the local hospital to spend the next few months there.

I had skin grafts. Skin from my tummy was transferred to my neck and shoulder. For months my hands and arms were taped to my body so I wouldn't scratch the wounds. In essence, the tape and bandages were a sort of straight-jacket. There were also bandages wrapped tight around my neck.

I developed gangrene in my neck. When my grandfather confronted the doctor about my situation, the doctor said, "If the gangrene was in his finger or his leg we would cut it off! But we can't very well cut off his head!" The doctor did a lot of digging and scraping to to cut the gangrene out. Years later, in therapy I would find myself reliving the struggle against the bandages.

My father was offered a scholarship to M.I.T. because his tests from high school showed a considerable ability for math and physics. He did not accept. Late in his life he explained to me his reasoning.

"In high school I read in a textbook that if someone has hallucinations, or sees things that aren't there, they are crazy. I thought that I could look inside myself and see the energy there. It was visual. Due to this, I thought I was crazy, but no one could tell.

I actually thought that if I went to M.I.T. the people there would be so smart, that they would know. So, to stay on the safe side, I didn't accept the scholarship."

Instead, he went to a local teacher's college during the day, and worked nights in a glass-works plant. My father even explained where he believed the "Internal Light" came from.

"When I was young," he said, "I was very sickly. I had Scarlet Fever and pneumonia very bad. I was bedridden for months. In fact, my lungs were so full of fluid, that at one time, the doctors proposed that the only way for me to survive, would be to cut out all my ribs on one side. This would allow my lungs to expand like a balloon, leaving some possibility for air to enter my fluid filled lungs."

My grandfather when told of this procedure, asked, "What would his life be like without ribs on one side?"
The doctor told him that his son would never walk. My Grandfather told the doctor, "That would be no life he would want to live. Do your best, but it would be better for him to die than live like that."

My father was in a wing that housed ill children. Sick as he was, he became aware that whenever a child on the wing died, the lights in the room were turned out. This made such a visual impression on him, that for the rest of his life, turning out the lights meant death. He internalized this, and could see his own internal light. Because of this, he thought he was crazy. At least, if he told others, they would assume so. Only when he was dying did he reveal this secret.

My father always had a large hole in the side of his chest where the tubes were inserted to drain his lung. In the end, a vaccine of sorts was created from the microbes in his chest. He was inoculated with the vaccine, specific to the disease in his chest, and he recovered.

Here you have a father and a son, both severely injured as children, living with repressed pain. You can imagine that the secrets contributed to the pain, and made some truths hard to come by.

My father's secret led him to quietly go to college out of the limelight, out of sight of those who might discover his secret. My father decided to follow in his father's footsteps and become a minister as well. After all, it had been the family tradition since the sixteenth century. With me in tow he proceeded through college and then seminary. I still have memories of sitting on my father's lap in seminary, reading Pinocchio, while he and the others argued theology.

My pain and my Father's pain joined and became one. The pain went a long way back. My father carried a lot of it, and he passed it on to me. I added my own. I can remember my father yelling at me when I was a kid, "If it hadn't been for Jesus you wouldn't have had a father." What did he mean? I had pondered that for years, and my best interpretation is that he meant he would have abandoned me and my Mother, had he not been a Christian.

Years later, in my late twenties, the pain came out.
The first primal I ever had was while lying on the group room floor. It caught me entirely off guard. But there I lay, wailing, "Leave me alone! Leave me alone!" The fundamental psychological pain of my childhood came spilling out. My stomach heaved uncontrollable waves as the pain was felt.

My father's secret had required that we all hold secrets. I was told, directed and cajoled from day one: what to think, what to feel, what to do. Every facet of my life had been controlled, until almost every drop of personal self was squeezed from my mind.

So there I lay, grasped by involuntary wailing, feeling for the first time the deepest pain of my childhood. I had wanted to be left alone. That's all. Just a little freedom to be myself, with my own feelings and thoughts. This thwarted desire was at the core of all my pain. And here it came, in wave after wave. For forty-five minutes, I laid on the floor and let the pain out.

It didn't matter that a half dozen other people sat in the room. In fact, the support of this group is what gave me the strength to let go and feel. I wailed for what I had denied myself. I wailed for what I had wanted to be, naturally, without coercion, without restraint. And now I shared the pain.

Twenty minutes into the primal, the therapist softly said to the group, "This is the kind of pain the human race is afraid to feel." I knew it to be true. Certainly true for me.

The wailing came from my gut, involuntary, and genuine. I felt real for the first time in twenty-seven years.
Suddenly, after forty-five minutes, it stopped, just as quickly as it had started. My eyes were bone dry. The pain, as I experienced it, was beyond tears, more primeval, more profound. I opened my eyes and looked slowly around. People sat silently. No one had left the room. I was surprised. After several minutes I sat up and leaned against the couch. I was in a daze, a foggy stupor. But I felt good.

The therapist asked if I wanted anyone to share with me. I said, "No." What I had experienced was so real to me, that I had no need whatsoever of confirmation or support. I had all I needed at that moment, myself.

My journey of release had begun. I was feeling myself again for the first time in years. Though my inner self was filled with pain, the pain was real, and feeling it was good. I was ready to go home.

Over the next few days I had more primals, and I didn't need the support of the group to get into them. They were spontaneous. When they came, I just took to my bed. I let the pain flow as it willed. In fact, for the first couple of weeks, I screamed so much I lost my voice. Even my therapist said, "You don't need to go at it so hard." But the floodgates had opened, the lid was off, and the pain flowed out naturally to be felt. The release made me feel clear and unconfused for the first time in years. Feeling real was great! What need for security, for safety, had allowed me to repress so much?

I began to ponder my alienation. I realized that it was not mine alone. Pain is a common denominator for all of us. At least I was on my way out. I remembered how, in college, a few years earlier, that missionary children I had grown up with, would travel in groups, visiting other former missionary kids around the country. They couldn't move on. They couldn't relate to anyone who hadn't had the same childhood. They stopped by my apartment, but I wouldn't have anything to do with them. I was disgusted with their plight and mine. I wanted to move on, leave the past behind, not wallow in it. I would not even let them in my door. I sent them on their sad way, hoping they would get better.


           end chapter 1
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