I think of the doors in my first home. The front door was glass and wood and was the one that contains, as in keeps them contained, memories in my growing up place - of terror, anxiety, joy, and sorrow. The door to my bedroom that folded closed and clicked, but couldn't be locked. The fragile door into the back porch and the two doors - one to the back yard and the other to the driveway. The door to the basement that led down steep stairs to an earthen floor, around the corner to the furnace and coal chute. Blackie, our white (just kidding) dog that Granny gave us, caught a rat down there once. (Granny was never quite forgiven for dropping a little hyperactive dog off on us.) The door at the top of the stairs when we entered the house - lit from below, but dark just before the entrance at the turn into Gram's apartment. The door from her living room onto her back verandah - though it was through her windows that the rushing throbbing chaotic living horrors entered the house and our lives when the phone call came July 8, 1950 that our Lorne had drowned at Camp Kanawana. I was three and a big girl who answered the phone. Mum took it from me because Daddy was at work. I wonder, when the house was cut in half circa 1968 (so said neighbour Hughie) and moved somewhere the other side of the Taschereau overpass at Lafayette - I wonder if the swirling dark chaos was released into the atmosphere - sort of exploding like the trail of a missile being launched in reverse. Or a massive balloon full of poisonous gas that bursts. More to the point, of course, is that some of it still swirls within me behind the door that I slammed and crazy-glued shut to go into survival mode - and which I've creeped open a little at a time over the years.
Blogs have their limits. I am not going to explore the depths of the doors in my life on the internet. However, as I've begun to chat with a few people about the image of doors, it's an image that strikes chords for others. Human stuff.
The door at 17 Louisburg Square - St. Margaret's Convent. I arrived, November 4, 1967, four days after my 21st birthday as Mum and Dad wouldn't give me permission to go before that. I took a night bus and arrived early in the morning, walked from the station across the gardens with my suitcase (no wheels in those days, but then I didn't have many worldly goods to carry) to Charles and up Mount Vernon, along the square. I rang the bell and could hear it echo inside. A very heavy oak door with a wrought iron window grille and a huge black wrought iron handle. Sister Emily Louise was portress and welcomed me into the reception room ... and thus began a journey in prayer, love, self-giving, joy, sorrow, confusion, anger that I didn't know how to express... Did it close me in? Well, no one dragged me through. I found life - and then death - and then leaving through the door eventually found life again. And the community life I shared in throbs still within me - I could write a book on the meaning of the convent doors alone - and life within and without. But I won't.
|1850's Louisburg Square, Boston|
Life is good. I was talking with someone recently about remembering St. Joseph's Day - my profession anniversary 1971 and 1974. He thought it rather odd, at first, that I would remember this day with love. I explained that I felt I had the choice of integrating it into my life or of denying it. I choose life. He replied, yes - it's like life after divorce. One doesn't go back to the person one was before being married. One is never single again. And no - even if I wanted to - I cannot go back to the person I was before the convent. It's a door I chose. My motives were confused in ways I didn't know then. I loved God. I still do - though God has grown a lot since then - ummm... who has grown?? :-) I was searching for safety - family - a place to belong - perfection (good grief, eh!?) - and I found those things in a measure - but I had no idea I was dying inside... that I had been dying long before I went - and that I had to face myself to become whole.
I regret not that door. It gave me life, discipline, prayer, love, skills, Haiti!, and enough distance from Montreal to crash into the Pit and rise again. Speaking of Holy Week and Easter.
To be continued...