Friday, 30 September 2011

Tales From Convent Days

Once upon a time......

there was a little cottage in the suburbs. It was home to six very special children with very special needs.  They were cared for by wonderful caring women who did their utmost to make the children's lives as happy as they possibly could.
It was in this house that a wonderful friendship began. Two of the women carers who shared the same passion in life for caring for others, found a bond that would stretch for many years. Their chosen profession was not an easy one, but it was one that fulfilled the soul in oh-so-many ways.  The beauty of life was evident and the simplicity of the meaning of life was the lesson to be learnt. 
These children had been born with a range of serious intellectual and physical disabilities.  Their bodies were cruelly twisted and were unfree to move of their own accord, however their smiles were free and easy and when they did smile, it was as if a million rays of sunshine were streaming from their faces. Their eyes lit up and the beauty of life was evident. It was these divine moments that kept the women coming back each day. Where ever there was a smile, there was love and hope.

The little cottage was run by a convent. The sweet nuns who tended the  convent were a lovely lot. They wore their hearts on their sleeves and wanted only the best for these children. Budgets were tough and many a time the women would arrive at the cottage and light bulbs had been removed from half of the house to cut down the electricity bills. The women carers would laugh and roll their eyes but came to admire these nuns all the same.  One sweet nun in particular made her way down to the cottage regularly and with a shuffling of her shoes up the front path it was evident that she was about to arrive. She was the accountant who kept tabs. She was a sweety and a battering of the eyelids always won her around. She had the kindest heart in the world that nun. I often wonder if she is still with us. 
The boss lady.....Sister B  was a tough cookie to crack. She was the glue that held the centre together.  With one look you could sum up her mood and know whether or not today was the day to ask her for more money for a particular purchase. Often one of those visits would begin and end with a meet and greet and then leave again.....maybe tomorrow would be a better time to ask....and then we would make our way back down the street to the cottage.

The sisters had an old boiler room in the depths of the convent where they would store all unused furniture.  It was a little spooky and it's musky smell had visions of Freddy Kruger fresh in one's mind. was soon to be learned that within it's walls were gorgeous antiques which had been discarded due to being old and unwanted.
It was here that this lovely friend of mine and I visited one day and between the two of us our eyes were popping out of our heads.
Delicious old pine tables and sideboards, endless rows of chairs and bric a brac were it's treasures.

My dear friend and I both adored antiques and appreciated the quality. When the nuns had a clean out of their boiler room, we would be waiting on the street to clear the bounty. Old paint splattered chairs came home to be beautifully restored or painted and bits of bric a brac was loved. I remember 2 complete boxes of vintage light globes still in it's display box being discarded.  I still remember the smile on my friends face when we split the bounty and took a box each home to display.  Years later I donated my box to a local antique centre with a "pretend" general store. My light globes are still on display there to show children of today how things were in the "olden days".

As well as these moments of happiness, my friend and I shared many happy moments with these beautiful children. One boy in particular had the most wicked sense of humour and would have us crying with laughter with his one worded comments that were priceless and very well suited  to the moment.  I'll never forget his cheeky grin as long as I live.  I remember pulling up in the minibus next to a police car in the traffic one day.  The young boy, pressed his face up against  the window and yelled out "PIGS",in a very dry humour filled voice to the police.  I almost died. My friend and I looked at each other and I swear I have never laughed so much in my whole entire life. It was so inappropriate ,the police turned their heads to see where the abuse had come from but all they saw was a busload of handicapped children that were sitting like little angels looking like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. The boy had obviously heard this cuss term from somewhere in his travels and knew when to use it. Oh my goodness the cheek on his face was very memorable and we were holding a straight face giving him very good reasons as to why you didn't cuss at the police and how naughty he was. Inside ourselves we were in stitches and dying with laughter.  Oh how funny this moment was.  These were the moments that kept you going back to these children.

The children became our children. Their needs and wants were everything to us. We would be dead tired and exhausted but a smile or a milestone for them would have us refreshed in an instant.
Life is such a precious gift. Regardless of the lives these children had come to lead, I came to appreciate what obstacles they could overcome. They never ceased to amaze me.  I found that I never felt sorry for them, rather I admired them. I admired their strength of character, I admired their determination to reach for the stars. Sure there were some very sad stories but even these children had a determination in their eyes that not a soul on this earth could take away from them. Their courage was boundless.

I wonder all the time what became of these young friends of mine. I wonder about the adults they became, I wonder where their paths have taken them.  I wish for them happiness and love.  One in particular still lives in my heart. There was just something about her. She was very young, very disabled, she was around 5 years old but functioning as a young baby. She was learning how to walk, had a big happy grin and big brown eyes that could reach into your soul. What a little treasure she was. 

These precious years that came to be at this cottage were very happy times.  The memories make me smile, not frown and I treasure the good times I had there.  If only for a few years I had with these children, I hoped to have touched their souls in a way that has helped them through their lives. I hope that the good times we showed them will cross their minds and make them smile. The same was they had us smiling all of  those years ago.

My dear friend who I worked with is still a treasured friend and we laugh about these happy times.  She is a constant friend who is always there with her happy big blue eyes and a gorgeous smile. Her smile lights up a room, her energy is a happy,boundless one. She has changed many little lives for the better over the years and I am so very proud to call her my friend.  She is an earthbound angel who wings are so huge they can wrap around almost anything. She is one of life's true blessings.

It was she who pushed me to my next place of being. My days of working in the cottage had tired me and I was in a place in my life where I was unhappy with many things. She encouraged me to move on and to go out and  explore the world and reach for my dreams. This moment is one that will be forever etched into my mind. We were sitting in the front garden of the cottage. She picked my soul up off the ground, gave it a silent embrace and pushed it into the wind so that it may follow it's dream.  I thank her so very much for this wonderful gift. She didn't realise it at the time but the place where my soul landed was a pivotal moment in my life, a turning point. Great change arrived and my world did a 360 degree turn on it's axis. A new found ray of light appeared and my world was never the same again.

and so there is a story of my past. It lives just there, in the past where it belongs. But like a precious old photo album I bring it out from time to time, I turn the pages slowly, I remember the laughter and the tears and then I pack it away again with a smile.

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