|This photo was taken by my daughter who also has aspirations of becoming a professional photographer|
When I was about 6 years of age, we moved to England. My mother had finally met someone who somehow didn't mind her craziness... at least not back then. My stepdad John, was from England but was working in the US as a nurse due to the low income earned by healthcare workers in his own country. After he met and married my mother, I suppose he figured moving his new family to England would be good for us. I will say that living there was the longest time spent living under the same roof as my mother since I had been born. Not a pleasant experience, but the most stable with John's family living right next door.
The last person I lived with before moving to England was my grandmother and Uncle Frank. I can hear my grandmother to this day begging my mother to leave me behind, but my mother wasn't having any of that. I was hers after all.
I can't be sure of how long we lived in England, but many things changed for me. One major change was being introduced to religion, God, and church... a Catholic church at that. The closest I had come to religion before that was when my grandmother would sing "Mercedes Benz," by Janis Joplin. "Oh lord, won't you buy me a..." Anyway, There were things one did when attending church... like getting up early and dressing your best. We walked to the church because we lived in a village... no cars were needed (I still think this is an excellent way to live!). Prayers were said, rituals were performed, then everyone went to the pub next door (There will be more on this later).
One ritual was introduced to me at a very sad time of my life. My mother had gotten a long distance call that Uncle Frank had died. Had I been older, I would have recognized that he didn't have much time left in this world. I didn't realize he was so sick. A hospital bed, oxygen, and a terrible, hacking cough, apparently didn't clue me in. When they told me he had died, Nana (my stepdad's mom) took me in her lap and said he would be going to Heaven now. Of course, with me not being involved in a church, she had to explain to me what Heaven was. At 6 I had already stopped crying, but I did cry for my Uncle Frank. I immediately went upstairs to draw pictures of him (his soul) floating to heaven. I taped to the wall beside my bed, each paper doll I drew of him (with plaid pj's and wings) in ascending order until he had reached that place (I drew clouds too... you know, to represent Heaven since it was up high in the sky.) Nana had told me about. Soon after I had gotten my drawings done, Nana bundled me up in my coat so we could walk to the church. It was already dark out and I was surprised it was still open. She told me the church doors were always open for people to go in and pray. She took me to the candles... I had seen them before, but had no idea what they were for. I was told that I would light a candle for my Uncle Frank and one for my Grandmother because of her sadness. After I lit the candles, we knelt down to say a prayer for both of them. I can't express to you the sense of empowerment those simple actions gave me. I actually felt as if I had done something wonderful for both of them.
When we got home, I sat down to write a letter to my grandmother telling her what I had just done. I didn't want her to worry. She would be alone now and I hated that for her... even then I knew how hard that would be on her.