Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 137: Step Back Dirty Lousy Kid

I don't know yet how this memory is connected to the 'Good Master' memory, yet after I wrote the blog the other day it kept popping up, from wayyyy back, an episode that I could hardly remember, amazingly so since it must have taken me extensive effort to suppress it for life and put it away somewhere well hidden within my filing system.

The memory is of when I went to summer camp and I got lice. I did not like to go to summer camps as I missed my mum and I did not like to interact with kids I did not know, which were all of them as I got to summer camp without knowing anybody at all.

Private Summer camps were a novelty in Italy, the Government ones were started by Mussolini, to allow parents without means to send their kids to the seaside on Government expense and lasted all the way throughout the seventies, until one lousy government after another kept taking money out of the till until there was nothing left for social policies.

My mum worked for General Electric, she was a happy slave there since GE provided an absolutely unheard of lifestyle, she had moved there from another avant-garde company called Olivetti, those Companies that were born in the 70es believed that the well being of their employees was crucial for the good functioning of the system, these were the golden years of employment, employers offered benefits to keep their good and loyal employees, until they understood that they did not have to do that, making them FEAR to not be able to support themselves and starve to death could replace all benefits and make them save plenty money, and yes, fuck the well being too.

So, I went to one of General Electric summer camps for a few years in a row, I staid 2 turns, everywhere my mum could send me for summer as long as possible she would do so, to keep me off the streets. I particularly hated staying for 2 terms as that meant I would see the first turn of kids leave after 2 weeks to return home, got to wave them bye bye as they boarded the bus all neat and cleaned up to be returned to their parents, and would stay behind with just a few 'lucky ones' waiting for the second turn load to arrive.

I seem to remember this was my first year at summer camp, my time at summer camp was spent shuffling around and crying myself to sleep in the big rooms we shared with lots of kids as those rooms reeked of orphanages pictures I had seen and imagined, I used to write home, in every letter I would write 'don't forget to come and pick me up', as the fear of never returning home was something I lived with during the whole stay, every year, everywhere I went, this was due to twice having been forgotten due to a misunderstanding between my mum and somebody else supposed to come and pick me up, a stain that tainted the trust in my mother to effectively remember about me when I was out of sight, I used to write as well 'wait to have fun until I come back', for the rest I was forbidden to write 'I miss you like hell 'and why the fuck did you put me here with these kids I don't even know where I am lined up and asked to do 'social activities' like learning songs and basically be puppetered around against my will and my desire to just be left alone". The Minders told me that this would upset my mum too much and make her sad.

My mum wrote to me every day, she would put a candy for me in every letter and I felt luckier than the other kids because everyday when they called for the mail I had a letter, while other kids did not and that was just about the only upper hand I managed to have during my whole stay. A meagre satisfaction

For the rest I was not particularly graceful as I was always taller than the other girls, did not have feminine or fashionable clothes or anything that made me stand out, which gave me a sense of being inferior to other girls and all the kids in general.

When I went to summer camps with the nuns, they played for us Albinoni's Adagio' which in my memory is the saddest, most tragic music I have ever heard and always moved me to tears before sleeping even when I was much older. The careful Merciful Choice of the frustrated Nuns, I always saw that music played to make us sleep as a point of Child Abuse as many of us sniffed our way through all the tune until we fell asleep.

SO back to first year in summer camp, not fitting in, scared of all the other kids, and during my first year, first turn, I got lice.

This event was a shocker, while we were waiting to go through the combs of the nurse, someone said that only dirty kids had lice and I remember sitting there hoping and praying that I was not one of them. But I was. I do not have specific memories of how they organized to separate us, just of the courtyard in which they took us and cut our hair very short, my hair was a point I hang on to since I was a kid, I was always rolling a curl between my fingers with my hair and I remember the feeling of the hairs between my fingers, silky like a texture I really liked, like velvet, a tactile pleasure, it was not a point of vanity, as my mum was never remarking on my appearance and was always running, so she did not have the time to shampoo my hair and put the balm on it like grandma did, appearance was of no concern to me as a kid, it was just that when they cut my hair in the courtyard I felt marked, like now everyone could see and would know I was one of the kids who had lice.

They made a pile of hair in the courtyard and set them on fire, I remember the burnt chicken smell and the shame, a shame so big that I wanted to dig a hole and disappear, plus a sense of powerlessness, that it was all over, nobody of my family was around to tell everyone that I was not a dirty kid, I thought that I had shamed my family as well, no one explained to us about lice and how it happens so I used that comment as my only source of information and built myself a story of shame and guilt. And then blame, I blamed my mum for putting me there with the lousy dirty kids that infected me, for not putting balm on my hair that maybe would have kept the lice away as some kids did not get them, were they the ones better looked after than me? There was for sure something wrong with me, and with her, she was my mother, where the fuck was she in such a tragic moment of my life?

When we were checked again and I cried the nurse told me that actually lice only pick clean heads, I don't know if it was true or not, but I remember the relief as I turned myself from one of the dirty kids into one of the clean ones and felt better about myself. For days the picture of the hair burning in the courtyard haunted me, my own little holocaust, something I did not have a context to understand, I never liked short hair after that and I never wanted to remember.

My mum was informed and came to visit the first weekend after this 'hair cut', I was still dragging myself as if I had been violated, silently angry at her, she told me I was cute and I cried, I vented some of my anger but not the shame, I could not wait for the turn to change and bring in new kids, fresh flesh that had not seen what they had done to me and to my hair and that would never know that I lived through such a shameful moment and survived, diminished and smaller but with some well adjusted suppression everything would be fine and forgotten.

Throughout my Life, every time someone told me after that that I did not wash something properly or that I had a stain on my clothes I would react in shame, I was obviously not good at taking care of me, I should get someone to do it on my behalf, maybe this is the link to the Good Master as I never stepped out of that Shame and the desire to never again feel like the little lousy dirty shameful kid and if that meant getting myself a caretaker to do what I was unable to do, then so be it. Stick a Mental Note on my To DO List.

Self forgiveness to follow tomorrow with self corrective statements

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