Diary Of A Lunared Child
(Note: This story depicts a time in the 1960s when our society was, shall we say, less sensitive to fellow humans beings outside the norm. Please excuse, in advance, language or references that today would be disrespectful. If you read the narrative through, perhaps you will find compassion here. Further, while the setting in which the story occurs is a real place, everything else, including every character, is entirely fictional, with absolutely no intention to represent actual persons.)
I have learned to write.
And I have learned to read, even though there are crazy people around.
Nurse Rose is helping me.
She said to have a diary, something to write what I think in.
She said she would bring me books to read.
So I can learn and grow up.
I have brown hair and green eyes.
Nurse Rose says that I have cat’s eyes. And I am what she says is curious.
She calls me the cat.
I live here, even though I shouldn’t be here she says.
Yes, I live here, where she calls it the Home for the Feeble Minded.
I have to go to the bathroom.
Bye bye for a while, Nurse Rose.
She said for me to write her whenever I wanted to write, which I do a lot now, since I know how to, and lots of people here don’t know how. I feel special. She said to keep it a secret, that only with her can I show my diary. Someday she will show them I shouldn’t be here by showing them my diary and get me out of here, but only when she says I am ready.
Bye again, Nurse Rose.
Nurse Rose, I don’t understand why bye has an e on the end of it. I only do it because my little dictionary says to.
See. I look up words.
Nurse Rose says she is trying to make me self-conscious. That means I am supposed to know who I am and what I am. She says I’m bright and even though I am living here with a bunch of lunies, I am going to be smart.
She brought me a Bible Story book and told me about God and Jesus and Heaven and Hell and Moses and Noah and Lazarus and the Flaming Bush and lots of other things. She said that I was living in a Hell on Earth. Earth is where we live now. Everyone. And she was working in Hell now for the Administrator. That is the man who is in charge of this crazy home, she calls it, and he is the devil. That is an angle who fell from Heaven to Hell. She has words for everything, even for things I never thought of, and sometimes she has many words for one thing, like lunies and crazy people, and the devil and satan, and other things. She says she only works here to try to make Hell on Earth a little easier on some of the poor people here. And someday she will get me out of here someday.
I guess I like it here though. I don’t know if I want to go outside of here and see the people who do things like in books, like knights, and like Jill and whatever a real dog is, like Spot. I think it is okay here in Hell on Earth. It is funny sometimes to see what other kids do, and what I used to do, until Nurse Rose made me stop. Some of these kids here are what she calls cuckoo, and there are old people here who are cuckoo too. Some of the kids here have big heads with water in them. Aunt Tizzy says water is very important. And some of the kids don’t have everything. Like Billy has one real short arm without fingers, and little Victoria has six toes and no hair. Neither of them can talk. The just make bubbles come out of their mouths and go to the bathroom where they shouldn’t. Nurse Rose said that we all have Brains, but some people’s brains are hurt and they don’t work right. She says she is going to make sure my Brain works okay. She taught me how to go to the bathroom the good way a long time ago, and how to play with toys and stuff. She’s pretty good to me, and she’s pretty good to Billy and Victoria too, but they don’t know it she says.
I can feed myself too.
Nurse Rose said that people have Mommies and Daddies. I don’t really understand what they are. Nurse Rose told me that my Mommy and Daddy made me, and then I was born, but I don’t understand.
She said that my Mommy and Daddy were in the Home. She knows who my Mommy is, but not who my Daddy was. She says that happens sometimes and she was lucky to get me and see that I was okay and not feeble-minded like the Home is supposed to be for people who are. She says I was not deformed like other people here and I had all my toes and hair and arms and my Brain was okay. And because my Brain was okay I got to go to a class. She said to do good in class, since I got to go, and to read my books and study my dictionary. She said that Webster was the Father of my Mind and God was the Father of my Soul and she would be my Mother of Everything Else. I don’t really know what she means by all of that, but she said I would understand someday. It would just take a long time.
I asked her what time was and she said it was a long invisible line that everybody walked on, no matter where you went, and that you couldn’t get off of it until you died.
She said that to die was to stop living on Earth. And that living was breathing and eating and thinking and growing. She said that most people here were almost dead, because they didn’t think much, or grow. The just breathed and ate. She said I was alive, and that was good, and God would take care of me, and Jesus would save me from this Hell on Earth, so I wouldn’t have to die, and that I could step off the line of time someday without dying. I could stay on living forever without time. Jesus would make sure. She said someday Jesus would come to me and I would know him and he would take me away. It sounded real nice, like in a fairy tale. Everyday I look for Jesus.
Nurse Rose asked me how my diary was doing. It hadn’t been doing much, I said. I haven’t written for a long time. She asked if I had a history in it. I asked her what a history was, and she said it was events that happened, what people did and what happened to people as they walked on the long invisible line of time. She said everyone had a history, everyone had a Past. That was what was behind them on the line of time. She told me to think of my history.
So I thought about it. I decided I didn’t have much history. But I guess I’m not all that old. Nurse Rose says she is lots older than me and she has more Past than me, but that I have more Future than her. Future is what is in front of me on the invisible line of time. It gets shorter as you get older and the Past gets longer as you get older. So, even though I don’t have much Past now, I will get one. She said to remember my Past and that I could learn from my Past.
I remember most when I was six. I got to go to school. It was a class we had at the Home for kids who were here and didn’t have brains that were hurt real bad and for kids who came from somewhere else. There was a Teacher. I’m just remembering, so there is still a Teacher, named Miss Snyder, and she taught us how to read and write. Well, she taught some of us. Nurse Rose said some of them were not able to learn. She said that they couldn’t think right because they didn’t have complete minds, like she said that some people’s brains weren’t all right. Complete means that everything that is supposed to be there is there.
Some of the kids in the class come from outside. That is they come from somewhere on the other side of the Home, over the fence. People bring them to class then they take them away. I only see them when they are in class. I am the only one who is in the class from here on the inside. Nurse Rose always takes me and brings me back. She said that someday I will go outside and that I will go to a school for complete people out there. I am waiting to go outside, just like I am waiting for Jesus.
Anyhow, I’ve been going to class for a long time now. It is in my Past and there is more class in my Future. I like it. Nurse Rose says to be glad to get to go to class and to go and do real good so I can keep going and someday I will get out of here completely.
I’m supposed to keep working on my history. Other than my class it is difficult to remember my history. I do remember people. Like Aunt Tizzy. She is an old lady who lives here. She used to have people come see her from the outside, but they said they would quit coming if she didn’t stop having tizzies when they came. But she didn’t stop having tizzies and they quit coming from the outside, so I call her Aunt Tizzy. Nurse Rose said to call her Aunt, because she is kind to me. And there is Uncle Rumpleskin. I got his name from a fairy tale. Fairy tales are real fun. They make you make pictures in my Brain. That is what Nurse Rose says imagining is. I should use my imagination to help me in my Future. She said that imagination helps you make new things out of the old things.
I don’t remember where Nurse Rose came from. She has just always been here. I like her.
There is a Doctor here too and I cal him Doctor Gothel after the wicked witch in the fairy tale too. He is mean to me. Nurse Rose says that most Doctors are good. But I say that Doctor Gothel is bad. Good is things that don’t hurt and Bad is things that hurt. Doctor Gothel doesn’t like me I don’t think. Maybe he doesn’t like anybody. He always yells and has what Nurse Rose calls a scowl and a dirty mug. That is when he doesn’t shave. Men get hairs on their chins that have to be cut off but it doesn’t hurt and his lips are funny and his eyes are red.
I have a drawer of my own now. I keep pencils and paper and books in it. But I keep the things that I write under a marble board beneath the window. Because once Doctor Gothel tried to take my things and throw them away. But I bit him bad and it hurt him and Nurse Rose made him give it back.
We had a fire once. The fire is in my history and it is in the history of everyone who was in the fire.
All of a sudden there was a whole bunch of smoke rolling along the floor like a ball and some of the babies in the room were coughing, because they were usually sitting in cribs and couldn’t move. All the aids in their white clothes grabbed us and put us down the chute. I saw it from the outside of the building once. It was a big silver thing that hangs off the building. I got down it. It was fun, but everyone was going real fast and yelling a lot. They sprayed water on the fire from outside from a big red truck. After a couple of hours we got to go back. We had been waiting in the gymnasium and eating cookies and milk. When we got back it stunk and one of the rooms was burned and wet and smelly. It was bad. My stuff was okay. I decided then that if there was ever another fire I would get my stuff so it wouldn’t get burnt and I wouldn’t lose it. Nurse Rose said that was good, because it was my personal property.
We haven’t had another fire. Nurse Rose said one of the babies died in the fire. It was terrible. Terrible means real bad. It hurts enough to kill you. That’s what knights do to dragons and fires do to people. It is a good thing that we have water to put out fires.
Aunt Tizzy is nice. She is funny too, but nice. Nurse Rose says she isn’t dumb or retarded, but that her brothers and sisters think she is crazy. They had her committed to this Home. She reads to me and tells me about the Bible. She is very religious. That means that you have Jesus and God. I’m still waiting for Jesus. I like the old stories about Moses and the Egyptians and the Red Sea and Elijah and the water out of the rock. There seems to be lots of stories about water in the Bible. Aunt Tizzy says that because they lived in deserts they know about how important water is. There is Noah too and the Flood.
I like water. Nurse Rose says we have to have it to live. Aunt Tizzy says water is sacred. It is full of power. That means that it has life and death in it. And that the people outside ruin water and spoil it and don’t understand how important it is. She says that someday when I get older and understand how powerful water is, she will share water with me. We will have a water ceremony. I had to look up ceremony. I had to look up a bunch of other words to get what a ceremony was and I guess it is the same thing as a ritual which is a ceremony. It makes a circle. I don’t see why Webster has to be so difficult sometimes, especially since he is the father of my Mind. Anyway, Aunt Tizzy said a ceremony could be a ritual and that they have them in religion and that they are things you do in a certain way in a certain time and in a certain place. So I guess I understand. It seems like I have to wait for everything. Nurse Rose says everything is connected and someday it would all fit together in my Brain like a puzzle.
Somebody brought a radio to school today. It was real good. Sounds came out of it. Miss Snyder said it was music. I like music. She said music was art and art was made by people. So we listened to the radio music and during class we also finger-painted, which is also art.
Miss Snyder told me to do good in class and someday Nurse Rose and her will get me out. If I do good, then I will learn what the outside world is like so that when I get out I will not be afraid. They said most people on the outside were more complete than the people here on the inside. They said no one is completely complete, except Jesus and God. But they don’t just live on the outside, they are everywhere and are invisible like the line of time. They said that God was Love.
I asked Aunt Tizzy what love was and she said that Jesus said to love everyone, even people who don’t like you, even Doctor Gothel. Love is when you are good to someone and they are good to you. But she said there wasn’t any love on the outside. And I didn’t understand that. And that only Jesus loved her on the outside and now here on the inside everyone loved her. She said she loved me and I told her that I thought I loved her too.
I haven’t written for a long time. I think I am beginning to understand things. Nurse Rose has taken me outside for trips. Sometimes I get to go home with her on Sundays. She said that if someday we can find a home for me on the outside that I will be able to go. She said that will be good but also sad.
It’s been sad at the Home for a while. Miss Snyder’s class has been closed down because there is no money anymore for that kind of experiment. Uncle Rumpleskin died and Doctor Gothel is going crazy himself they say. Nurse Rose has been bringing many books and I just read most of the time now, especially since there isn’t school anymore. It hasn’t been good.
Uncle Rumpleskin used to play catch with me in the courtyard, but he got to where he couldn’t walk anymore. Nurse Rose said it was rickets. That is a disease. I’m beginning to think that everything is diseased and am wondering if I am diseased too. I don’t know if I am really normal or what they say is normal is normal. How can anyone be normal? When I go to Nurse Rose’s she has some kids from next door come over and play, but I feel kind of funny about it. But at least there are other kids and we are getting to be better friends. There isn’t much to do here anymore. And I am growing up.
I am ready for Nurse Rose to take me from here.
I am throwing away my diary.
I decided not to throw away my diary. Aunt Tizzy said to keep it. But now she just sits there in her chair reading the Bible and never saying anything. She won’t even read out loud anymore. I’m beginning to think that she is crazy too.
Well, things are changing. I have a room by myself now, a small one with a desk and a chair and a bed. Nurse Rose got it for me.
Aunt Tizzy is dead. She quit reading her Bible and just started sitting there. She quit everything. And one day she just sort of gasped and fell off her chair and was dead. It was very sad.
Nurse Rose has found a home for me on the outside. She says it was very difficult, but she found a good one. I will meet them tomorrow.
I met the people. They are real nice. They want me to come with them. I said I would if Nurse Rose could come to see me. They agreed.
I go tomorrow.
I thought I would be excited. But I’m not really. It’s been nice here since I got my own room. But Nurse Rose hasn’t been able to take me home with her since her husband is sick and she is getting old. And I’m tired. Nurse Rose says I am unstimulated and that it would be the best thing for me to go. To live in the normal world will help me and she says I will do real well out there. I agree. But I have always lived here. And my whole Past, my whole history is here, and to put my whole Future out there is sort of frightening. But I’m not really afraid to go out there, it’s just that I’m not really afraid of staying here either.
I have come outside.
It is good.
It is good to be away from the yellow and the white and the crazy people and the dying.
My new parents are very nice to me. Perhaps someday I will love them.
I am going to school again. I like it. And I am making friends. I am doing okay in English but I am behind in Mathematics and History. There is history that I have never had in my life. It is bigger than I thought.
I am going to church too. They tell me all about Jesus there and I explain that I already know about him.
But still, Jesus hasn’t come yet.
Nurse Rose comes to see me once in a while. She always cries when she leaves. Sometimes I do too. She doesn’t work at the Home for the Feeble Minded anymore. My friends don’t believe that used to live there.
She says to be glad that I am out.
I tell her I am.
She always says to remember my Past and to write it all down. But I am tired of writing it all down. She still talks to me like I am a little kid and I seem to answer the same old way but I am changing all that.
I have discovered that I have many voices. Some are even old voices. I can be wise and strong or immature and timid. I can play the fool because I have lived with those who are called fools.
Voices are powerful things.
When I think of power, I think of Aunt Tizzy and how she used that word for the first time in my life with water. We never shared water. But I don’t think I have any problem understanding what rituals are now. I think I can imagine how she would have shared water with me. I think she died because she refused water. She traded the truth of water for another truth, an invisible truth, more clear than pure water. She had been slowly removing herself from our world, she was dried and squeezed. From what she told me of religion and God and Truth, I guess she must have been pushed through some small opening filled with light, something she would have called a religious experience and it rearranged her mentally and physically. She was no longer smooth and strong, no longer awake and loving. She was scraggly and weathered like a root, her fingers and hands dancing along with scattered breaths, moving to some inaudible music, maybe the music in the air before it passed through the radio. I saw in her the skeletons come alive in the movie of Jason and the Golden Fleece, the unearthly warriors springing from the ground. Was this a moment of terror or of wonder? Then she stopped. And was barely breathing.
She just sat there waiting, eyes open, mouth open, lips cracked, her hands fisted now about the arms of her slowly rocking chair, as if she were holding herself bravely against some sort of force. Perhaps her whole body focused on a Truth that spread before her, expanding beyond the range of her vision, as if it were some exploding star.
The rocking ceased.
Was it the face of God that burst forth? She had waited so long. It seemed as though that face had come and gone a uncounted times, approaching more slowly and leaving more swiftly each time, teasing her. Yet, she sat patiently, under the spell, waiting, waterless, asking to make the trade. The truth of life for the truth of death. To see the other side.
I had been sitting across the room watching. I can only now put that image into words. Then she gasped, collapsed, sliding to the floor.
Ever since, I haven’t feared death. She told me that death would be beautiful and that she would welcome its arrival. It must have been astonishing to take her attention like that.
It seems like to be crazy might be beautiful too. Even though those people I lived with who were crazy, which is supposed to be bad; they were sensitive, which is supposed to be good. Sensitive to things these outsiders ignore or maybe don’t even see and maybe if they did see, they would go crazy too? See the other side, be captivated by beauty. While the outsiders are hard-shelled and passionless, the insiders are soft and compassionate. And yet the outside is the good world and the inside is the bad world.
Some of the puzzle pieces are cut backward it seems, Nurse Rose. And I’m trying to make them fit. It’s like there are two puzzles, not one, fitting together in my mind. One the Mirror of the other. And I don’t know which one to work on.
And I’m not sure I can work on both.