My school clothes were shed as the nun directed. I stood in nothing but panties, socks and shoes in the basement of the convent. All the other girls wore slips or undershirts. Alone, I stood bare-chested in the chill of the concrete room waiting to be fit with a satin frock for May Crowning.
Stares and stolen side way glances of curiosity robbed me of a bit of confidence. Drawing arms across my chest, I tried to appear defiant and proud but felt exposed with a sense of shame and unspoken ridicule. My spine straightened despite discomfort and loss of privacy. It was a tiny loss of innocence, the knowing you are less than, not good enough, poorer, less rich-just less. These are my first memories of May Crowning.
I was not only a victim but a perpetrator too, stealing flowers from others’ yards to take to Mary’s altar. How misguided is that, stealing for a religious celebration? I remember the surprise and heart-pounding fear when an old woman came out of her back door yelling as I plucked those spring blooms from their beds. I ran as fast as my second grade legs could go clutching the coveted flowers in my sweaty hands.
It doesn’t take long in a classroom, lavatory or playground to get the lay of the land, to identify leaders, followers and trouble makers. Why did Barbara Nicodemus find it imperative to stomp on my new white KEDS to erase their newness, or to mar or sully me? Now I think she was just trying to flirt or engage my attention.
I was lucky my childhood hurts were mild. Those fears of being less than were ill conceived but lingered. This was an early lesson about living in my skin, being me, the same and different, learning to listen to my inner knowing and believing I am enough.