This gypsy lifestyle of roaming the woods and the neighborhood was a daily ritual from the time I was barely four years old. From sun-up until well past dark, I was on my own in my wanderings. Sometimes I would seek shelter in the hot afternoons by sneaking into an abandoned barrack. Many had not yet been converted to homes, and it was easy to break into broken doors or holes punched in the walls by vandals. But most of my comfort came from the exhilaration I felt when supported in the loving arms of my trees. No one, except my brother, ever questioned my whereabouts or went looking for me. Usually he didn’t come, either, because we both knew the farther I stayed away from the house with no paint, the safer I would be.
Even hunger didn’t make me feel like going home. Much safer to check out the latest contents of the dumpsters where foodstuff was abundant. Dumpster “storage” also provided the remains of broken dolls, dolls waiting for some loving hands to rescue them. I’d take them to my grandma. While sitting on her bed beneath the altar where her Jesus, Mary, and Joseph statues stood, she’d clean the dolls, mend them as best she could, and baptize them with a sprinkle of the holy water that the priest brought to bless her with every Friday when he came to the house to give her Holy Communion.
That holy water and those statues, as well as her Bible, gave continual comfort to Grandma, just as the arms of the eucalyptus trees gave continual security to me. To her, they meant God loved her. All things were bearable to my grandmother if she could just see the eyes of Mother Mary—just like I knew that as long as there were soft curls of eucalyptus bark and sweet peas to nestle into, I’d be okay.
This willingness to believe had skipped my mother, though. She could not seem to see past all the things that had infused her life with worry and bitterness. But my grandmother had only one approach to life—to accept God’s will in all things, the result of the teaching and influence of Sister Veronica, the head nun at the orphanage where Grandma was raised from age four. I’d someday come to see this quality in her as both her greatest strength and her greatest weakness. But as a child, sharing the same bedroom with her, I found her faithful nightly prayers and scripture reading as comforting as my beloved outdoors.
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Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe at www.Amazon.com