Thursday, January 25, 2018

We Did Not Know Any Different

By now, we were starting year #4 as followers of francis schuckardt.  The school year was 1972-1973.

During the summer of 1972, my sister, Agnes, had attended a retreat for the religious followers of francis, the nuns & brothers.  I am sure this was highly encouraged so as to generate more vocations to these groups.  When my sister came back to Montana after the retreat, she did not give me any indication that she was going to become a nun.  I was relieved.

Agnes and I were about as different as night and day. While I enjoyed being outside all day, riding my bike, climbing trees, playing with the dog, she preferred to stay inside and read.   In the environment to which we had been subjected, she appeared more docile, much more compliant than I.  But, looks can be deceiving.  Maybe she was just wiser and chose to keep her cards close to her chest.  I don't remember ever having lengthy talks as sisters do about the insanity of it all.  We were both scared, scared to death of losing our immortal souls to the fires of hell if we rebelled in the slightest way. 

On a warm spring evening at the Villa Maria in early summer of 1972, the 22 boarders and staff ate outside on the sloped lawn.  It was an enjoyable time.  When my sister, Agnes, had finished her dinner, she tossed the remaining water from her glass onto the hillside.  Patty Klotz, who lost her temper very easily, scolded her for throwing her water at another boarder.  The house mother, our mom, told Patty, "You punish her as you see fit."  Patty told Agnes that she would do the dishes that evening all by herself.  THERE WERE 22 GIRLS PLUS the nuns, mom, and Patty.  I was furious.  I stood up, and I said, "No she won't.  I will help her."  Jaws dropped, and again, my mother spoke up.  "Miss Klotz, you punish Francie as you see fit."  And so, I was given the punishment of scrubbing the main floor bathroom from floor to ceiling.  I don't know what got into me, but I went and found the largest bath towel there was.  I put water in the tub, dipped the towel, squeezed the excess water out of it, and washed those stupid walls.  Within 10 minutes, I was done.  I was so angry.  Then, as I recall, I headed out to the kitchen to help my sister with the mountains of dishes, in silence.  We were not allowed to talk. 

We headed home for a brief summer break after that.  schuckardt liked to maintain as much control as possible over his flock, and so he scheduled summer school classes that were mandatory.  Maybe because of my mom's position in running the boarding school, he graciously gave us an exemption.  It was such a breath of fresh air to get out of there, and yet . . . .

I missed my friends at the Villa.  I had been gone from Montana for a few years by now, and am sure most of my friends from grade school had forgotten about me. Even if they hadn't, I sure did not want them to see me.  Even in Montana, away from the cult, we wore the required garb. We had formed friendships in Idaho that would withstand the test of time and insanity.  Some girls came and left the Villa shortly.  Their parents have obviously discovered what our little cult was all about, and chose the wiser.  Then they became the "enemy".  If we were ever to see them again, we were forbidden to speak to them.  Most had come from various parts of the country, so this wasn't an issue.  But, it was sad.

School began for the new year after the dreadful Espiritu Seminar.  Agnes, Mom, and I still shared a tiny little bedroom at the Villa Maria.  We did not have to sleep in the big bedroom with all the other boarders.  Sometimes, I wonder if they resented us for that.  It didn't offer any really special privileges, except that we weren't awakened by Patty beating on a fireplace shovel with a kitchen knife.  Mom woke us up a little more gently.  And, I looked forward to Tuesday evenings, because Mom would take just the 2 of us away from the Villa for a few hours of family time.  We often would go to Undy's drive in and get their tacos, and go sit by the lake and eat them.  Other times, she would go to the store and buy Kippered snacks and crackers, and various other simple foods we shared in our car looking out at the lake.  As I type this, I am becoming extremely saddened.  My mother, at that time, was younger than I am now.  It is not even conceivable to me to take my children to live in these conditions.  I don't remember what we talked about on those evenings away.  I was always in the backseat, mom and Agnes in the front.  I know that I really, really missed my Dad. 

In late November of that year, 1972, my sister told me that she was going to enter the Convent.  I remember that I was numb.  I cried and cried.  While we had fought like cats and dogs as youngsters there was a bond there now.  She was my sister, and she was going to leave me.  Christmas that year was difficult.  I knew that when we returned to Coeur d'Alene, her departure was going to be imminent.  And so, on January 7, 1973, Agnes entered the Convent.  And, then, it was me....and my mom.  It wasn't the same.  Tuesday evenings became fewer, and they weren't as enjoyable with just the 2 of us.  You might not understand what all this meant.  Usually, when a girl leaves her family and enters the convent, she goes away somewhere.  Agnes lived just a few blocks away from the Villa now.  But, she was forbidden to look at her family, much less speak to us.  It was as if she had died.  I was so sad.

Time wore on that year.  The school year wrapped up, and Mom & I headed back to Montana for a break with Dad.  A bright spot in my life over those months was that my sister, Pauline, lived nearby.  She had 4 kids whom I absolutely adored.  I enjoyed spending time with them.  There was no judgment.  They didn't question why I wore the strange clothes I wore.  But, best of all, they were expecting a little brother or sister at the end of the summer, and I was beside myself with excitement.  I couldn't wait.

You might wonder when you watch documentaries on various cults, why the people come across as being so happy.  I know why.  They have given their hearts and souls to the group.  They believe so firmly in the message that THEY have been chosen, out of all the world, to receive.  They are special.  They do not know any different.

1973.  I was fifteen years old.

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