Thirty days after I left the convent, I began to work at Pflaum Publishing. The day before, I’d flown from Kansas City to Dayton. Looking back I realize that the normal reaction to the possibility of a new job might be both anxiety and eagerness. But all I can remember is feeling passive and emotionless. I remember also that my parents had mixed feelings about my taking the job. On one hand, I’d have work and could then support myself and evolve a life. On the other, I was emotionally stunted.
Both Dad and Mom worried about my well-being. After all, I would be living nearly six hundred miles away where they couldn’t watch over me. Yet they’d always wanted their children to be independent. As I was growing up, they both often said to me, “Dolores, you can do anything you set your mind to.” They always believed in me.
But they’d never seen me in the state I was in when I left the convent. During the following thirty days, I had, however, improved somewhat, and as I started to climb out of a deep abyss of unease, I was able to relate again. The “acting normal” became almost second nature and by mid-January, I could engage in conversation with my relatives and talk with salesclerks when Mom and I went to a store together. But always it was an effort to do so and I relapsed into silence when I was with only my Mom or Dad.
Growing up, I’d found that talking with others was both interesting and enlightening. Yet, not only was I mute when I left the convent, I also lacked any spark of interest in others. I was encased in ice.
Fortunately, during those thirty days between leaving and starting my first post-convent job, I decided, subconsciously I suspect, to reenter the human race. I relearned the ebb and flow of conversation. The give and take of it.
I mention this because on Sunday, January 25, 1967, my future boss—Bob—and his three children, who ranged in age from four to eight, met me at the Dayton Airport. It surprises me still that those children, in their fifties now and living in Spain, Texas, and Kansas, still remember picking me up and what we talked about on the drive from the airport to the Loretto Guild where I was to live for the next five months.
And what did we talk about?
I inherited my love of baseball from Dad. Every summer evening while I was growing up, he, my brother, and I would sit on the front stoop and listen to the radio broadcast of the Kansas City Blues, which was a Triple A minor-league Yankee farm team. I’d followed baseball until I was twenty-two and entered the convent. I’d known all the names, positions and teams of the American League, and the changing stats for the Blues and the Yankees. I was a true fan.
Joe Kuhel was the Blues' manager in the early fifties.
Of course, in the convent we didn’t listen to the radio or read the newspaper, so I was nine years out of date, but Bob’s adult children have told me more than once how fascinated they were that a “nun” knew so much about how to play the game and about the players from the forties and fifties.
And that, truly, is the first conversation I had after leaving the convent in which I was, for a space of time, myself at my best. Not acting or playing a role, but simply enjoying the exchange of facts and childhood dreams and ideas with other human beings.
Children have always had the gift of calling forth from me the essence of who I am.
Photographs from Wikipedia.