My name is Janet Baker. That’s me, second row, far left, with the slightly manic look. I have had other names and many adventures, most of them my own damn fault. I was Janet Hayhurst for almost thirty years, in case you are looking for me, and if distracted, I will still sign it, my teacher name, my married name.
There’s dear Father Trombley in the top row. Look what a slight man he was. He barely spoke ten words to me in my life, except in the confessional, but I pray for him in gratitude at every mass. He was big enough to protect me from the devils in my life, because he was holy. I knew he was there. If it got out of hand, at home. Not many little girls are so lucky.
And those are my classmates from Holy Angels, on the Sunday of our First Holy Communion. We were seven years old. It was May in East St. Louis. May! The world smelled wonderful! Look at us. Look at Annie Carter there in the front row, with her little leg in the hard iron brace. She’d had polio, one of the last to suffer it, but she went on and joined a special religious order, the Madames of the Sacred Heart, who made a profound formal curtsy to their beloved Christ in the tabernacle, rather than an ordinary genuflection. It was like that for us all–there was nothing we couldn’t do, no obstacle we couldn’t overcome, for we had God’s grace to help us.
Look at our faces. Find the genius among us–at least one certifiable. We did not know what was ahead of us–the sixties, LSD and birth control, Vietnam, our marriages, our children, our divorces, and, now I know, the worst of all, the unspeakable catastrophe, the implosion of our Church at Vatican II.
I thank God for it all and ask for your prayers.
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