Learning how to make a bed, folding clothes, organizing lockers (that were at the foot of the beds), and cleaning up after oneself would be a challenge for most children under the age of 6 at home, but not for us. The counselors had a way to get our attention, and they had it down to a science. They would have us stand next to our beds as they stood in the middle of the room and with a loud voice say…” This is your bed, and when lights are out, you sleep, and when lights come on in the morning, you will get out of it and make it before breakfast…then show us how.
We would do this until we all knew how to make our own beds, and we pretty much did by the third try…well, most of us anyway. I got it right after the first try, and I was feeling happy that I did. When the counselor came over and asked me if I used to make my bed at home, I looked up at him and responded no. He just smiled and rubbed the top of my head then walked over to the boy next to me who seemed to be having trouble making his bed no matter how many times he was shown.
I thought something was wrong with him because he couldn’t even put the pillow inside the pillow case. I mean, how hard was that? The next thing I remember is they had us stand next to our lockers showing us how to fold our clothes and tuck our socks into a ball, and lay them in a particular order — pants, shirt, T-shirt, underwear, and socks on top. We placed our sneakers and shoes under our lockers and that’s how it was done. Again, we did that until we all got it right, except for that boy again next to me.
I remember he just couldn’t get the hang of it, no matter how many times he tried. He was having a really hard time remembering anything the counselors were trying to teach us. Now, some of you may be asking yourselves how do I remember all of this at such a young age? Well, remember in the beginning when I wrote about Impact Memory? The reason why I remember this particular story was because of that boy next to me, who seemed to have trouble doing anything right…I believe his name was Matthew.
He might have been older than me…not sure. He was a little chubby with dark hair and spoke in soft voice. I remember asking him one night when we were lying in our beds, why he didn’t want to learn to do anything? He said something that I will never forget as long as I live. He told me if he didn’t do anything the counselors were telling us to do, that they would just get mad and send him back home.
Thinking back at that moment, I thought that was a pretty good idea for him to think that, even though they never did send him back home. In time, he was making his bed and folding his clothes like the rest of us. Just two days ago, as I walked on the property where the Orphanage home once stood, I closed my eyes and let my memory take over just for a moment. I could hear the voices of the children playing in the playground not far from where I was standing.
I could see the big wrap around porch of the main building where we used it as a short cut to our dormitory. I could still see the smile on the face of Father Kenny as he would reach out his arms to hug us when we went to visit him down the driveway from the main building. I would remember Matthew. The little chubby boy who believed he was going to be sent home for not listening. For that one moment, it was 1967 for me again. I opened my eyes, and there I was, back inside my dorm St. Aloysius, laying in my bed talking with Matthew next to me while the other kids were goofing around on their beds until we heard those two familiar words……Lights Out!