The Cards of Life
Life dealt me cards — I played my hand
With confidence — I had it planned …
When, later, life revealed the score
It shook me to my very core!
I wondered then — still wonder now:
Could I have changed my life somehow?
And — if life dealt this hand again —
Would I repeat my life of pain?
Or would my hand, ignoring me,
Repeat this life and destiny?
Hiding in a Cave of Trunks
By Ester Benjamin Shifren
“I learned that even when
life deals you a bad hand,
you can still have a happy life
if you are willing to take a chance
and put the past behind you.”
I was born some time ago,
Away out in the sticks,
In a valley of old Mexico,
In nineteen forty-six.
By the time I was eleven,
We were a family of twelve;
For everything I ever got,
I had to dig and delve.
by Beulah Stephany Spencer
1959, age 13
(*See my other four or five Blogs/ poems on this topic — to see/ read the rest of this Memoir poem. These poems usually begin with “Bio in Verse,” or some such rapacious title. I wrote a number of renditions — take-offs from the above two stanzas.)
Chapter 1 My House of Cards 12/6/2016
~ My troubles all started when I was born … Actually, while I was being born. It seems from the moment I entered the “tunnel/canal” that leads to this world, I began suffering pain. And gave my mother a lot of undue pain, tears, and stitches, too — leaving her with scars, both figuratively and physically:
For I was born a “breech” baby. That is, I came butt first, “bass-ackwards, and upside down.” One could only wonder what would come next, then, in the cards for me — what next “breach” of contract or unexpected event I would bring with me — or life had in store for me.
One didn’t have to wonder long — The cards continued to be dealt. When the midwife found I was coming breech, she worriedly and hurriedly sent for the town’s noted obstetrician, Dr. Hector Reyes Tirada. By the time he arrived, there wasn’t a minute left to wait, for Mother had begun to fully dilate. Therefore, expediency was of the essence:
Once any part of a baby’s body has been in touch with oxygen more than twenty-five minutes, it begins to breathe. It would strangle to death if not delivered in time. Therefore, after sterilizing his hands, and though twenty-five-year-old Mother screamed — out of her mind with excruciating pain as he tore her — Dr. Reyes rapidly and urgently forced his huge expert hand up into Mother’s small birth canal. (You see, he had to quickly turn me around in her womb so he could gather me up by my feet and pull me out safely without breaking my neck.)
The miracle is he succeeded. That was a good card! He didn’t have to pull me apart to get me out — which actually sometimes happens in such “breech” home deliveries. But Mother didn’t fare so well. I’m not sure you want me to go into the details, so I won’t. Other than to tell you that she was in bed with phlebitis/”milk leg” for the next six months, due to complications from this birth.
Needless to say, breech births create a very painful and dangerous delivery — especially for the mother! But to add to our pain, the doctor was holding me upside down by the feet, slapping my tiny bare bottom, and crying loudly, in his accented English, “Breathe!! Breathe!!!”
Having just been pulled through a too-tight tunnel into a world of hell, I didn’t want to breathe. But it wasn’t just that trauma. The minute it was announced I was a girl, suddenly I heard a boomeranging, ill-tempered male voice taking the Lord’s name in vain as he vehemently cursed, “God dammit!! Another girl!! Breathe!! Dammit, breathe!!”
NOTE: See my Blog and poem posted October 2016, “I Entered the World Foot First,” for more of the details concerning this part of my story. But for my present purposes, the above paragraph stands as my first example of how Mormon fundamentalist fanatics often preach one thing while doing another.
For example, they claim to totally want and value all the many babies they have, —“all those little spirit children up in heaven just waiting to come to good Mormon fundamentalist homes.” That is their ideal — their ideology. But in reality, they aren’t as righteous and forthright as they let on they are — or convince themselves they are.
Add to this that from the day I was born, I never was a favorite in my father’s eyes, and it wasn’t just because I was not a boy: I was literally and vociferously “cursed,” you might say, right from the start! (I’ve always kind of thought so … or wondered … sometimes. But all my cards haven’t been bad, by any means. So that leaves me to wonder some more. Hmmmmm!
You shall hear what I mean, in my upcoming blogs, when I tell some of my earliest memories of being raised a “Saint” — just more contradictions and ironies to come, that is, wherein my seemingly pious parents said one thing while doing another. E.g., Daddy commonly used profanity; i.e., He broke the commandment that says,”Thou shalt not take the Lord, thy God’s name in vain.”
But in his/their self-righteousness, he/they did not see nor acknowledge their contradictions … nor have the integrity nor strength to even admit it to themselves, often — all the while claiming to be Saints when they were really just humans.
The hypocrisy was palpable! And their shadow-self hidden even from themselves. They were taught that they were God’s chosen people; therefore, were better than others — especially if they lived God’s highest laws: Plural marriage and not practicing birth control. They were going to “the highest degree of glory” for sure then!
Mormons believe Heaven consists of three degrees of glory, and each of these is broken down into three more degrees of glory — the highest degree being called the “Celestial Kingdom.” The middle degree is called the “Terrestrial Kingdom,” and Hell is called the “Telestial Kingdom.”
I was taught we Mormon fundamentalists were fore-ordained to return to heaven — that only all those people “out in the wicked world” — those who didn’t convert to Mormon fundamentalism and live God’s highest laws — would be excluded from heaven … due to their wickedness.
It was a double bind because at the same time my parents and our leaders taught this, I, for one, was constantly excoriated to the point I felt I was born to go to hell. Such inconsistencies in the belief system’s practices versus their teachings were and are problematic in themselves.
My parents and other Mormon fundamentalists were unable to understand or accept their shadow side. They have no idea they even had a shadow side. Such a concept certainly didn’t fit the beliefs handed down to them by their prophets. So they tried to hide their downsides, slip-ups, and sins. They were ashamed and afraid of their “shadow“/ their dark side.” But did bad things anyway … and covered them up by projecting their faults onto others, while pretending to be perfect themselves; i.e., Saints.
They fooled most people. But hindsight shows me the people who pretended to be most righteous were actually living the most sinful secret lives — all the more sinful because they pretended to be perfect saints living the Gospel.
Heavy religious social pressures within a sect, as they demand perfection of their conscientious members, may elicit this two-facedness — for the members’ survival, if nothing else.
But social misfits and imposters also use this guise of perfection within a group to get away with things like rape, pedophilia, and you name it. You shall hear what I mean as my story unfolds in future blogs.
* Continued in “My Memoir” blogs.