My life there and afterwards

Vacations were unheard of for the first 3 decades. When people did start taking them, it was a shock to me. How could they get to do that when I never could? We had no leisure time. You were considered lazy if you read too much, or sat around. No hanging out in the backyard, even on weekends. You always needed to be “accomplishing” something. No watching movies for the fun of it. We even went through one year where TV at all was forbidden. Even when our kids were young, it was rare that we ever took them out for a fun time anywhere.

It was when the richer people started becoming members that vacations were slipped in. The rich were catered to, and I suppose they weren’t about to give up their vacations. When word finally got out that they were going on vacations, some of the rest of us started to ask also. Of course you had to have money to do that, and for a long time Jeff and I did not save enough to pay for a vacation.

In the ’70’s we went through a full year where we were not allowed to leave the property. There were designated shoppers for groceries and necessary items like clothing. All of my stamps, envelopes, underwear, anything I needed was bought for me. We were not allowed to go to movies or miniature golfing or even to the public beach. We were not allowed to watch TV except for the news, and then only on specific days that the leaders told us we could. We were not allowed to read books unless they were the spiritual ones the leaders gave us, no recreational reading. By the time that year was over, we were all well indoctrinated into believing that the outside world did not have anything to offer that was godly.

In the sisterhood, we worked just as hard on Sundays as on any other day. There was no day off. It wasn’t like clergy in some churches that take Monday off because they work on Sunday. We were expected to serve God 24/7. When we did have leisure or fun times, it was as a group. The leaders would decide that we would all go to Nickerson Park for a day of picnic and swimming. Of course we were thrilled and felt this was a generous and loving gift. It felt so good to have some fun that we didn’t dare complain or even think that we should have it more often. In the last year I was there, the leader instituted a weekly recreational hour for the sisters and brothers where we all had to gather in the refectory (dining hall) and play games or talk or knit together. Then we had to take a walk together, and it had to be on a public road. She wanted the town to see that we were “normal”. Believe me, we looked anything but normal. A group of 60 women in beige habit like dresses straggling along the road. I had enough sense to be embarrassed. On one of these walks, I told the senior sister that I couldn’t go because I had sprained my knee and foot and could hardly walk. She said I did not have a choice. Even if I lagged behind I was to come on the walk. They stood next to me to make sure I went. I consider that to be cruel and unusual punishment. I really was in pain. They finally gave up watching me and I took a shortcut home and collapsed on my bed.

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