Monday morning. Always the day I never want.
For almost all my decades Sunday evening has filled me with sadness and dread. For a long time I didn’t know why. What was it that brought tears, that carried through the many events of my life, when I couldn’t figure it out? Twilight, just before gloaming, when the sky color changed to no color before it went dark, dread approached like a heavy black cloak blocking out the day stained with sadness.
What happened on Sunday evenings? Return to the orphanage. Mama frequently arrived right after breakfast to take my brother and me to Nana’s house where we spent the whole day with her. Sunday dinner was always roasted chicken, creamy mashed potatoes crowned with a pool of liquid butter, and hot salty gravy, with a side of biscuits and a tall glass of icy cold milk. With any luck there’d be watermelon.
Sometimes we went to the home of my favorite uncle, Mama’s bestie, and her whole huge family would arrive bearing incredible dishes for the groaning table. I always sat next to him, perched on all the phone books to keep my chin above the table cloth.
Food gatherings were the only entertainment, regardless which of Mama’s siblings had the duty. Then, there was no money, no opportunity for doing anything else. What else would we want? My brother and I were out of the orphanage for the day, surrounded by numerous adults and their families. This was my clan. My troop. My camp. I belonged. These were my people. My brother was…and is…my person.
As the day passed, with full stomachs and endless, riotous laughter, I felt the weight of its coming end. A heaviness settled on my shoulders. I began to brood. I moved from the warmth of countless arms, the attempt by grownups to cheer me, the admonition from Mama to stop pouting, and the hustling of two small kids into the car for the return to the Home for Friendless Children.
Standing at the big mahogany door with the heavy brass knob, Mama smoothed my hair, kissed my little brother, and in we went as she turned her back and left us. The sun had set and we’d soon be off to bed, me to my dormitory, Bobby to his.
Many little kids had the same Sunday experience. The sounds of sorrow filled the air as we coped with separation from family and climbed into white iron beds sporting white counterpanes and pancake flat pillows. Lights out brought weeping, the lullaby sung into the dark on Sunday nights, the permanent memory of a shattered childhood.
Monday morning arrived with the realization that this was my little life. Dreams of living at home with Mama dimmed as the week began just like the weeks before. Mama had once again left me here. The passage of time is distorted for four year olds. The week would stretch beyond its reality as I waited and hoped for her return the next Sunday. That didn’t always happen. Consequently, some Sundays were about waiting for the one who never arrived. She came when she could. If there was opportunity to work extra hours, she did.
The day I dreamed of would eventually come and my whole world would change. The war would end, Mama would remarry, and my brother and I would leave the orphanage to live a more or less normal childhood. We didn’t know life is rarely a fairytale for anyone. We had only one desire around which we built all our hopes.
Meanwhile, the orphanage actually became my home. My belonging place. Time brings adjustment. Little kids are resilient. We adapt.