What follows is the piece I wrote and presented at the audition for the Chicago showing of "Listen To Your Mother". It's called ...
When I was a little boy, my Mom and I were pals. My biggest problem was that my Mom worked nights at the Telephone Company and many days went by that I didn't actually get to see my Mom. So, I used to look forward to her days off. On those days, she would be up when I came home from school and we would be able to spend a little time together. I used to LIVE for those days.
I went to a Catholic School. Epiphany, at 25th & Keeler.
In 1950's Chicago Catholic Schools, left-handedness was seen as a sign of the Devil himself, and the Nuns were bound and determined to remove, from me, any notion of being left-handed. The only problem was, I was VERY left-handed. I couldn't write with my right hand to save my soul. And that's what the Nuns thought they were doing – saving my soul.
One day, exasperated in their attempts at changing my hand, the Nuns sent me home from school, early, with an exercise to write with my right hand. My Grandmother supervised as I sat and tried to complete my task – but the more I tried and the more I failed, the more frustrated I became. I broke into tears, sobbing.
My Mom, who was asleep because she had to work that night, was woke up by my crying. She came downstairs to see what was the matter. She asked me why I was home so early. I told her. She gave me a hug, reassured me everything was going to be alright, then she told me to get my school stuff together while she went back upstairs and got dressed.
We left the house and walked the mile or so to Epiphany. During the long walk down Keeler Avenue I fell behind a bit, once or twice, and I could tell my Mom was PISSED. When Mom was angry, she had a way of swinging her arm – stiff, with her hand flat out, palm down, ready to spank – that one could see from a distance, and seeing that hand, you knew it was time to hide somewhere.
We got to the corner at school and, instead of turning west on 25th street to go to the school, we stayed on Keeler, and walked past the Church. Each step we took carried us closer and closer to … THE RECTORY.
Monsignor Cummings was a tall, slender man with bushy black eyebrows that gave him a dark countenance and scared the dickens out of every kid in school. Mom rang the doorbell at the Rectory, and when the housekeeper asked, Mom told her she wanted to see Monsignor. Mom refused to enter the rectory, saying she wanted Monsignor to come to the door. By then, I was ready to wet myself.
Monsignor came to the door, glowering, I thought. But he listened patiently as my Mom told him what had happened that day, and on other days, and then she said (and I clearly remember this), “I don't work my fingers to the bone to pay the tuition to send him to school here, to have those Holier Than Thou bitches send him home because he's left-handed.”
I had never heard my Mom talk like that before. I didn’t think anyone, anywhere, could or would talk to Monsignor like that. I didn't know what that term meant, but I knew instinctively, it wasn't nice. I crossed my legs – I had to go pee.
Monsignor said, quietly (much to my surprise), he'd see to it immediately.
Mom walked away from the Rectory, arm stiff, hand out, leaving a “You be good, Louis” over her shoulder. “I love you.”
Monsignor took me by the hand, walked me over to the school, and sat me down in a chair outside Sister Rosamonda's office. The School Principal. I sat there kicking my feet like crazy. I REALLY had to go pee.
Monsignor entered Sister's office. I remember distinctly the sound of the rosary beads as the Nuns in the office jumped to attention upon Monsignor's entrance.
A few minutes later, I was escorted back to class, with a stop at the boy's lavatory.
Nothing was ever said, again, about the hand I used to write. I learned from my Mom, that if you speak up in defense of what you know to be right, people will listen, even Monsignor Cummings. Which, as a child, was a valuable lesson to learn.
cropped in Picnik, contrast enhanced in Picnik.
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