Some days it sweeps over me like a surge after the hurricane... the loss. Not because I cried myself to death but the loss of self that occurred before I finally pulled the plug on a life sadly lived.
But it didn't have to be that way, I think...
There is a portrait of me in one of my mother's disorganized shoe boxes: A blonde puppy sitting atypically quiet, droopingly contemplating a spot to curl up in, a chubby hand resting on his back having been posed by the nearby photographer. The tiny teeth of the toddler gleam whitely, sandy blonde hair combed and curled in an unusually ruly manner (there were probably some tears over this fuss), a crinkled nose and ornery twinkle in the eye that held the unspoken threat "I'm only here for a minute, you better take the picture quick."
Having caught the glimmer, it cannot escape the viewer's eye that the little girl has been still-lifed in her natural state. This is the pre-me... the me that knows what she likes and doesn't like (and believe me I KNEW I didn't like many things) and who will reject anything that doesn't meet her standards. Later, hours of solitude and quiet nurture the imagination and reading stirs the vivid mind. There is promise here-- life that has not yet been stymied-- squelched.
Alas, food and clothing were the only battles that were won for the tottler unfortunately. I floundered before I found wing. At what point I began losing that small bud of self, I cannot tell you and the only real evidence that it was tangible and not just a fluke of the shutter are the flashes of the mind and imagination that appear like lightning in a storm then lay dormant over the course of the next few years. But if a moment must be pointed by the pin, then the battering of the soul most likely began with the knowledge of good and evil-- not the day I awoke to find that I'd had my own pandorean moment, but rather the bright Sunday morning I was instructed on Eve's fatal decision and my own culpability in her ancient crime against God.
My Sunday schooling or bible literacy, began before I knew I was a self. My parents and grandparents were regular attendees of the Collinsville Mennonite Brethren Church, the German Church as it was locally known, and our family's arrival at services found us among the bodies to warm the tiny steepled building. I was cradled in the life of the church, nursed by the stories of the Bible and inculcated Christian dogma by women whose familiarity with the ancient text extended little further than Mother Goose… the Bible, of course, having been verbally transmitted, then translated, edited, retranslated, homogenized, and, like Millie, thoroughly modernized in the interim. How anyone can expect a child to hear the story of Adam and Eve in the garden with anything approaching the necessary mental acuity befuddles me even more as an adult than as a rather too gullible youngster. My Sunday school teacher, I recall, seemed never to flinch and possessed even a suspicious note of satisfaction as she recounted the tale of mankind’s fall and the wrath of God poured out on two protohumans. And of course why the teachers, who in most cultures are the personality types who ask questions, accepted the account of creation as literal is another matter altogether.
And how I was included in this momentary lapse on Eve's part is a piece of the story that is as opaque as a fog laden midnight. The Sunday school teacher's cross-examination by the inquiring minds who wanted to know was unsatisfactorily brought to a close leaving the explanation in the vast neverland of "because I said so". So why did God decided to curse all of humanity because of this one woman's failure? Who knows? The burden is there just the same. I, by default of being a human child and even worse, a daughter of Eve, had mightily sinned against God and I was fated to try and correct that wrong for the rest of my days.
This "original sin"- this ontological view of human sin coupled with the unfortunate coupling of my parents was deposited on my shoulders, a checkrein that would have a similar effect as that on the equus in Victorian England. And no less damaging.