The Other I

July 6, 2007

The dream of the nun’s father

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 4:48 pm

To describe the world I grew up in, I think I have to start with my father, Claude.  He was the one who had the dream, and in 1941 convinced my mother, Jean, to move with me and my brother Tom onto seventy wild acres in a town called Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.  Dad was a lawyer and went into the city everyday except Sunday, leaving Mom, who was at heart a city girl, to worry about the developing farm and my father’s dream.

I think Mom was often lonely on the farm, and moved because Dad had a vision influenced by Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker.  I think he believed that growing food and raising livestock was untainted and that his ten children would be less influenced by the alluring seductions of materialism if we grew up surrounded by nature.  So he built a house that gradually got bigger as his family needed more bedrooms.   And although he never became a farmer – indeed had absolutely no talent at it – he and Mom worked hard at creating an idyllic life style for us. 

The swamp was dammed and the resulting lake stocked with fish.  He built a beach and a tennis court, and planted fields of hay that my brothers and neighboring farmers cut and bound into bales each summer.  Cows grazed in the fields and pigs grew fat in the pens.  After the war, he got some left-over quanset huts, and I was about three when the first chicks arrived.  Eventually  hens laid eggs for our breakfasts until they were killed for the evening table.  We picked apples and pears from our trees, strawberries and asparagus from the garden, and ate fish from the pond.  In winter we skated on it, in the summer we competed in swimming across the five acres, before collapsing on the dock made of boards strapped across six empty oil barrels that kept it afloat.

The dream had a good number of unscripted events.  My brother and I got caught in the mud where I thought I was going to sink into China which I’d been told lay beneath my feet.  The fields caught on fire, ruining the crops but giving the local fire department a lot of practice.  My brothers had the misfortune of turning the tractor over in the fields several times and twice drove it into the pond.  The cows sometimes bloated and died, lightning hit the farm buildings, and my mother lived in constant fear that one of her children would drown in the lake.  We were taught how to swim at a young age, and then life-saving skills. 

The farm was part of the dream.  I adored my father but I didn’t like living on a farm.  By the time I was six, I was plotting how to escape to New York City.   In the next posts I will try to explain how I ended up a nun instead. 

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