One of the stories my mother loves to trot out in order to embarrass me is The Communion Story. It matters not at all that A) I have ceased to be a Good Sport about it; B) the hearer has probably already heard it; C) it happened eleventy thousand years ago; and/or D) there are several billion other charming stories starring Yours Truly that she could and should tell, but this one remains, inexplicably, her Favourite.
In a nutshell, here it is:
When I was about ten, our parish got a new church built, which was round. We had a good-sized congregation, and when it was time for communion, it was common practice for two priests to administer it. We formed two lines and went up. Well, one time, the priest on my side of the church, at the head of my line, ran out of wafers. I was directed by a helpful usher to the other line, got communion, and had to circle the entire church to get back to our pew. I promptly got turned about and became lost. I could not find my parents and siblings. I kept looking and walking more and more slowly. My father, seeing my panic, stood up so that I could see him. Relieved, I quickened my pace and slid into the pew. The end.
Well, to hear and see St. Patsy tell this story, it was an epic event replete with emotion and nonverbal histrionics on both sides of the battle. She really gets into it. And I sit there while everyone marvels at how anyone could become lost inside a one-roomed area! And they all look at me as if it just happened yesterday when I was fifty-three and oh how funny! Good thing you made it, or you'd still be there today!
In 1981 I was married there, by the way, and made it out just fine.
Anyway, I wish I could say that The Communion Incident was an isolated one, but it wasn't. I've been getting lost regularly forever. I used to think it was from not paying much attention, but it really isn't that. I can go to the same place for years and years, and I can still get turned around. There just isn't that sort of Logical Orientation Thing going on in me that there is in everyone else. My mother, especially, has an unfailing sense of direction. Her problem, though, is her inability to be able to communicate it to others. Here is a typical conversation between the two of us:
Nance: Which way do I turn?
Nance: What? How the heck do I know which way North is from here? I mean right or left.
Mom: Oh, Nance. Of course you know. North is where the lake is. So go in the direction of the lake!
Nance: Mom. We are nowhere near the lake. How in the hell do I know where the lake is from here? We can't even see the lake. What a dumb reference. Just tell me right or left.
Mom: Oh for pity's sake. You have lived near the lake all your life. How can you not know where it is? It's North. North. The lake is always North.
Nance: Mom. We did not live "near the lake." We didn't even go in that lake. And I know where it is, but Not. From. Here. I'm going right.
Mom: You were supposed to go left.
I'm the person who gets off the elevator and hesitates because I can't remember whether to go left or right. Every time. Give me directions with landmarks because that is a tangible guide for me. Better yet, come with me and I'll follow your lead. Yes, you can drive. (Rick--and my friends--always did before I got my own GPS.)
Can you imagine how overjoyed I was to read this article? To find out that my defect/disability is probably a genetic disorder? It was immensely comforting to find out, after all these years, that "individuals with Williams syndrome have strong language skills and are extremely social, but they have trouble...navigating their bodies through the physical world." Instead of having the chromosome for reorienting one's body in a space, people with the syndrome are unable to construct a sort of geometrical mental map of their surroundings. They cannot, for example, look for spatial cues to orient themselves. Their surroundings always seem random, regardless of prior experience with them.
That's me. And, to a lesser degree, one of my sisters. And I'm not entirely certain that my dad wasn't a closet Lost One, either.
I'm not going to feel any less cranky when St. Patsy hauls out The Communion Story this Easter (she's way overdue, and that's the next family gathering), but in my quiet heart of hearts, I'll feel vindicated.
image found here