A free spirit;
I had my first encounter with religion when I was eight years old.
My parents did not like organized religion. My father was an atheist. I am not sure about my mother but I think she was not a believer. I never saw her at church, only once when I had my first communion and usually at Christmas, because I went there with my class to sing Christmas carols.
It was actually a protestant church as I went to a protestant school in a protestant village . It was all very confusing. Anyway I was baptized In the catholic faith, as both my parents were at a certain time, when they did not have a say in this matter.
As I was to receive my first communion I had to be instructed about it. For the religious instructions I had to travel by train to the next village. It was a prosperous, catholic village with two beautiful big Churches.
The instructions were held in a schoolroom of a newly build school. It was terribly boring, I did not understand what the priest was talking about and I never learned my lines from the catechism. I was more interested in the other children and my surroundings. I felt very grown up as I traveled alone to this village and had to find my way to the school.
I soon made friends with another girl who was beautifully dressed.
She was black haired with freckles, her name was Genevieve. When I first met her she wore a lime green coat beautifully tailored, she said her Mother was a dressmaker and made all her garments. I was only eight but I had this feeling for beautiful things, it did not matter what it was.
At the church, all the instructions about the big day and what we had to do went over my head as I was entranced and overwhelmed with the paintings and overall sanctity of the church. The singing, the smell of incense the ancient Greek words, the Kyrie Eleison, falling like pearls from my lips. I was now really looking forward to my spirituel entrance into this community.
My mother had bought white fabric to make my first communion frock, I think she was as excited about the project as I was. When I asked her if she liked to make this beautiful garment she said don’t be “meschugge”. She never said mad or silly always meschugge. I liked that word it was different, the other children didn’t know the word meschugge. I did not know where it came from and why she used it.
She said:” you can help making the frock but be careful this is silk.” I knew silk was made by grubs and in my imagination I saw all this tiny grubs patiently making the thread for this rippling, white fabric.
My mother cut out the pattern. The dress would be long, reaching down to my shoes.
The front on top would be embroidered with smocking stitches. It was very elaborate work and my fingers and hands got sticky and I soiled the material. My mother dismissed me quickly from helping.
Finally the first communion frock was finished and I slipped into it, whirled and danced around in the living room, like it was made for this frivolous purpose. I could barley wait until white Sunday arrived. I received new white sandals, first my mother wanted to colour my brown shoes white. I said I am not wearing them they are ugly. She said that I could be right and bought new, white sandals. I had to carry a tall candle embossed in gold with the sign of the holy spirit. The base of the candle was wrapped in one of my mothers lacy handkerchiefs. My short plaits were tied with white ribbons. I wanted to leave my hair falling in waves over my shoulders like Maria, the mother of god. My mother did not allow it.
My mother did not have a veil for me but she said that the nun who looked after us had one for me.
When I arrived at the schoolhouse where the children were assembled to go in a procession to the church, all I saw was a sea of veils popping up and down.
The girls all in white and the boys in blue suits. A nun took me aside and pushed a veil on my hair which she secured with a small, green wreath and a lot of bobby pins which made my scalp itch. I put my hand up and tried to loosen it, she slapped my hand and said:" leave it alone, now you made it all askew with your scratching.” I forgot about it when a friend of my mother was looking for me and gave me a pretty silver chain with a silver cross which she fastened around my neck. I thought this was so special because I was not expecting such a nice present. It was my first jewellery I received. I endured the long, alien ceremony and was glad when it was finished. After white Sunday I have never worn my white frock anymore. My mother gave it to another first communion girl to wear. However I wore my silver necklace for many years and I always thought with fondness of the lady who gave it to me.