Wednesday, 9 February 2011

SHARING: A LESSON LEARNED

It's good to share, we all know that don't we?  'Share your toys, darling...be nice' our mothers plead.  We share our space, scrunching up on benches, 'Sit here, there's plenty of room' we say as elbows dig into our ribs and mounds of flesh overlap and get caught beneath our thighs. Our Government shares our taxes with despots and good, altruistic millionaires share their wealth, sometimes without fanfare.

So sharing is, on the whole, good.

I learned the hard way all about sharing.

At St. Edith's, the orphanage where I spent five long years, my brother Mick and I were the only children with a parent. Mum seldom came to see us. She remembers it differently, says that she came once a month. Uh uh!
She came once with Jan, the Norwegian Merchant Seaman, once with a tall well padded man who brought me a red child's handbag, once when she took us to a Pantomime of Cinderella, once in the summer when we climbed on the rocks and found an old empty tin of Heinz Baked Beans and she screamed at us, because, apparently it was well known that the Germans left bombs lying around disguised as beans. And another time when I had Mumps. And, of course, there was the time she bought the awful Harry.

I cannot remember who she brought with her when we got the Dolly Mixtures. More than likely they were a gift from a 'prospective daddy'. These tiny sugary  delights, in individual kid's size jars would have been unobtainable in war - torn, rationed England; they would have been  carefully measured out from a large jar and weighed to a strict 2oz measure of  the weekly allowance. Tipped into a paper bag and the top tightly twisted, they could, at least in my brother's case, last a week. Mine would be gone in a mouthful or two of sweet heaven.

I arrived back at the Convent clutching my Dolly Mixtures and, after changing out of my 'best' coat and dress into everyday hand-me-down skirt and Jersey [as we then called our 'sweaters'] I sat down and opened the jar.
About to put the first sweet-scented rose-pink square into my drooling mouth I became aware of the cessation of all noise and looked up to see ten pairs of eyes staring at the jar in my lap, well, eleven pairs if you count Sister's.
Sister Edith was a stern woman, perhaps she was old, she would have seemed so to me, at six years old. I might have fared better had it been one of the novices but no, it was Sister Edith.

'Do you not think it is Christian to share your good fortune, Molly?' She rose from her chair and towered over me. 'Of course you do...come girls...arranged your chairs in a circle and Molly will divide her bounty as Jesus shared his.'

There was a scraping of chairs on the floorboards as the girls did her bidding. They sat down, their palms upwards on their laps. Pink palms, white palms, large small and fat palms, all held out for my glorious squares of sugar.
Slowly I began, dipping into my jar and dropping a sweet in each one. Some of the girls could not wait and I watched with watering mouth as the delights vanished, each  sweet almost too small to chew. Round the chairs I went, pausing in front of Sister Edith, staring at her clasped hands then raising my eyes to her face, her lips in a tight moue  that could have been interpreted as distaste or disapproval. I remained rooted to the spot until with a 'tut' and slight shake of her wimpled head she indicated that I should move on.

Round I went, and round again, filling single large palms and cupped smaller ones until the jar was empty. I sat down and replaced the lid, realization hitting me. I opened my mouth to speak, to protest, to plead, but Sister Edith spoke first.

'Well, Molly! Jesus truly loves you. You have made your friends happy with your selfless act. Say thank you children.'

I swallowed the wail that rose in my throat and fought the tears that threatened to spill over-saving them for the comfort of my pillow later. As I watched the girls tucking into their spoils I thought that something was not right. If I had done such a good thing, why wasn't I feeling good about it? Why did I want to fight them all to quench my mouth of it's desire for those sweet sugary sensations?
Was I a bad person?

The lesson is this: It is very good to share, but do not give all your Dolly Mixtures away-unless you are a Saint or have an unlimited supply, or you hate Dolly Mixtures anyway.

43 comments:

  1. Great story.
    I have heard lots of stories about England during the war, from my Mother who lived there, was in the army there. When I read your blog, I can almost see it.

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  2. That would have killed me. I was/am not a good sharer. When I was a child, I would buy my friends their own bag of chips or candy so I would not have to share mine. I still hate when my husband sticks his fork into my dinner for a taste (in a restaurant). I let him because he always gives a taste of his whether you want it or not - but I still resent sharing mine.

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  3. What a heart-wrenching story. I was poor growing up here in Texas....scared to death that any day the Russians were going to obliterate us with an atom bomb (we live just 20 miles from the world's largest military installation, and they always told us we would be the first to go)....knowing the only "shelter" was miles away at the library....but not once as a child did I receive candy as a gift and have to share it all with others. You are such an incredible person to have lived through all that you have lived through....war in your own country, being practically abandoned by your mom, raised in an orphanage.... and come out on this side with such a fantastic outlook on life. I have such admiration for you. I am literally crying for the child that you were right now, tears streaming down my face. Do you realize your writings have this effect on people? Your life story really should be immortalized in a book. I tell you, it would be a best seller!! Thank you for opening up your heart and soul and sharing your experiences with all the world on your blog. We can all learn from you. Big hug for the little girl inside you. (why were you bald when you played Goldilocks?)

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  4. l remember this story Mum, heart wrenching when l first heard it no less now...


    lots of love


    saz xx

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  5. I agree with Davis...well said!

    I would buy you an entire crate of Dolly Mixtures if I could...and if I had ever heard of them before! Very touching story. I would buy the book.

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  6. I think the lesson would have been hide your Dolly Mixtures until you are sure you're alone. For me anyway.

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  7. I suppose Sister Edith thought she was teaching you a lesson on sharing but, in my opinion, that was a very cruel thing to do. Only God knows her motivation.

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  8. Great story!

    www.rebeccabany.com

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  9. oh... bother..... perhaps, if you would have satisfied and 'enjoyed' yourself, you would have been more apt to want to share the joy....

    couldn't help but read your title and first few lines and think ..."but I don't wanna"

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  10. Here I sit now, wallowing in self pity. The wail in your throat rose sequencely with mine. I want to cry for the little girl that you were. I hope that writing this helps to hug the you from then.

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  11. A great read! More, more, more!

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  12. You tell the best stories. Well, it's not the best that happened and I think that Sister Edith was a cruel bitch. I'm sorry for your little girl that had to share to the point of getting nothing for herself. Hope you gorge on them now to your heart's content.

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  13. Great memory of a sad time Moannie....I like to think that somehow karma made up for the loss of dolly mixtures and rewarded you in sweet ways of another kind.
    Next time I am in Whitstable, maybe I can buy you something tasty?

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  14. Such a poignant story! You've created a such a vivid image, I felt like I was in the circle with you. I wish I was, then I could give you back your dollys.

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  15. Sister Edith...wow! I'd say there's a special corner in hell for a person like that. Sorry if that's too blunt, but that is certainly my honest opinion. I'm sorry you ever had to go through that, and everything else. You've obviously had a lot to conquer, and I agree with the others who said you should write a book. I know I'd buy it.

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  16. Moannie, I'm sorry for my ignorance, but were you put in an orphanage because of the war? I knew that children were sent to live with other families, but I wasn't aware that they went to orphanages as well.

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  17. Oh that's so heartbreaking. I could just about see those hands, that face.. and feel your hurt. How difficult for the little girl that you were. Great story, Moannie.

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  18. You brought me right there, I was standing beside you and following your every step. That's a great writer. And a poignant story.

    Tanya

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  19. This is a scene out of Dickens! How sad you must have been to give up the goodies that didn't come to you abundantly. How heart-wrenching this story must be in retelling, as we the readers can truly feel it with you. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  20. I agree with rosaria. It is a scene out of Dickens. It was a lesson, but a perverse one.

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  21. Yes, you are an amazing storyteller. You have amazing stories to tell. How did you ever survive such things and then emerge to share with us your story? Yes, you do share well. You share honesty, longing, loss, and the voice of the young girl who remembered and then brought the story to life.

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  22. pfft - christian like, nothing christian like about taking a childs dolly mixture from them!

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  23. Such a touching story. Thank you for sharing it.

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  24. What a moving story. That nun should have made sure you had your share too. What a horrid lady.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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  25. This was beautifully done, touching without the remotest hint of misery memoir about it. Funny how nowadays it's the rich telling us all to share and how we're all in it together, I don't see them parting with any of their figurative Dolly Mixtures though.

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  26. Oh... I know you don't believe the same sorts of things as I, regarding afterlife rewards, but I'm of the firm belief that someday you will find a gigantic jar of Dolly Mixture waiting for you :-)

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  27. I love your stories, and would definitely buy the book! The poor poor little girl, and the old b---- of a sister. You are so brave to share this.

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  28. I lived in a Children's Home in Oklahoma for about 6 years. I recognize the lesson. I am sure there were plenty more. I did take away something positive from that awful place. I now appreciate the small things in life. I don't have to have a fancy to be happy or satisfied.

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  29. I like to think, if I'd been in the circle with a hand turned up - I'd have taken the shared treats and then given you back half of mine!

    Mean old Sister!

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  30. Such a great post. Incredibly true; we are often accused of being sinful if we don't share everything we own. But that shouldn't always be the case.

    I think I'd have eaten a big handful first!!

    CJ xx

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  31. Oh jeeez, it turns out that I didn't have to be in an orphanage to experience the same crap. I know how you felt, went through that many times. I know that it, of course, did not have a positive effect on me... to this day, I am very conscious of the things I own, maybe too much sometimes...

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  32. Why is it that nuns, who are supposed to be drawn to a life wherein the teachings of Christ are alleged to be engraved on their very souls, why are they so very lacking in empathy in nearly everyone's memories? It's irony in action. Believer or non-believer alike generally admit the dude had some good ideas about how to treat one another, no matter how religion has misused the man. This is another example of just that, in teaching kindness, inflicting unhappiness shouldn't be part of that.

    Ah well, I suppose we can look back over time and pity that joyless shrew of a nun and know that you finally had the last laugh because you left that misery behind, made your own life. Conquered when you were able to be the author of your own story and now share on your own terms, making others full in their own turn :-)

    Take that, Sister Dourly Done!

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  33. Hilary: Thank you so much for your kind words, the past is so much more vivid to me than yesterday...shows my age eh?

    Jeannie: Bless you for those words. Sharing is good, it truly is, unless he eats the best bits.

    Leave it to Davis: I remember those frightening days too...The Cuban Missile Crisis and the threat of the Russian bear. I am so sorry to have upset you...I do try to tell the truth, as a story, rather than as an 'it happened to me, isn't it awful' kind of post. Truth is...there were more tears than smiles, but I seem to have been blessed with a gene that allows me to see, not especially the 'funny' side but a knowledge that tomorrow will be better.

    Sazzie: Of course you have, my love, but you know it didn't mark me.

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  34. She: Thank you, I can taste them now. As for the book, it is written, but just for the Family- I steal bits from it from time to time.

    Ellen Abbott: There was a doll's pram,a sewing box and a xylophone that were put away under lock and key and later, a box of biscuits which were handed out after Sunday tea...I made sure I received my fair share of those.

    Pat-Arkansas: My thoughts [much later] were on the unnatural life of a nun. Choices made and possibly regretted, or perhaps a dislike of children.

    Rebecca Bany: Thank you for your visit.

    Kay: Yes, your first instinct became mine, I must admit.

    dys-func-tion: Thank you for your comment, and yes, telling these stories does help, because as I age, that time seems to loom closer in all it's detail.

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  35. Mollie: Thanks thanks thanks! As my every day life is too boring, I am sure there will be more. It is unavoidable. My task is to remember those I have not already told.

    Gaelyn: Bless you, been with me for so long you have already read most of my stories. And yes, now I always have a bowl of sweets on the table in front of me and now I have a strange desire for Dolly Mixture.

    Libby:I see from your profile that you are in the Midlands...Whitstable is not the resort I would have expected you to visit...but I should really like to meet you if and when you are in the neighbourhood.

    Kara Muller: Thank you for your visit and kind words.

    Mountain Mama [great name] Hard to believe they won't be judged, I agree, but I cannot hold a grudge...at the time I thought that everyone had the same life. And a book of my childhood would be a bummer, honestly.

    Kyle and Nicole: Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, I love each one...when I think that we are all strangers, yet share things as friends do.
    Mum always used the war as the reason for our being sent to the Orphanage, but it was '38 and the war began in '39. I know she was in an Airplane factory, a supervisor painting the luminous dials and it was essential, but she was also a widow with two small children, was working long hours, and could not find childminders...and St. Edith's was the only place she could find that would take us on the small fee she could afford. She thought, I believe, that it was a boarding school.

    Hilary: Thank you so much. Gonna try and find one with some sunshine.

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  36. 365: Thank you so much...Tanya.

    Rosaria: Thank you. This is so special, coming from you, means a great deal to me.

    Bruce Coltin: Thank you..all these wonderful comments are overwhelming.

    Retired English Teacher: At last, an A. How I wish I had had an English Teacher like you in any one of my eleven schools.

    Sandii: I am sure that she is now drowning in Dolly Mixtures for eternity.

    addhumor: Thank you for coming to visit and for leaving a comment. Very much appreciated.

    mutheletchumi: I am happy that you took the trouble to visit. Thank you

    Maggie May: Love you, thanks for coming over...I'm going to try and find something less traumatic next time.

    MLS: You know that I need you approbation [no pressure] and when it comes I am very happy.

    Suldog: From you mouth, etc, etc. XXXX

    Finance dirctor: How lovely of you. But I am afrai it would make pretty poor reading...that's why I only give you dribs and drabs. Thank you so much.

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  37. Debbie: Sometimes I wonder how many children actually do have a happy childhood. I know I have taken away more good things than bad. Thank you for visiting.

    Doc: I know if I had had a second chance I would not have been so thick as to leave myself out.

    Crystal: Thank you for your lovely comments.

    Bz: Childhood is hard even when everything is as it should be, most of us survive. I live by the motto...'No regrets' and it has kept me sane.

    Land of Shrimp: You know, I try not to moan, or whine...it is just that they are good stories, they happened to happen to me and I am fine...of course there were times in my teens, when I felt deprived, but it got me nowhere. The Nuns? Well, strange creatures. That sort of extreme sacrifice is beyond my ken. I understand true altruism...but to deny all in the hope of reward...I don't get it.

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  38. What a wonderful tale. But I wouldn't have shared my Dolly Mixtures with anyone. Midget gems maybe, but not the Dolly Mixtures.

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  39. Beautiful writing, but I think it wouldn't have been such a vivid and lifelong lesson had it not been painful.

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  40. Ellen Abbott has the right idea! ;-)

    What miserly creature, that Sister of No Mercy!

    Nothing that cruel has been done to me as a small child in the name of sharing, but I have not forgotten the loss of one particular candy I dug out of the crevices of our living room couch and promptly put into a pail of water to soak off all the filth it was covered with. I still remember the moment when I went to retrieve it and stared into nothing but a pail of water. Only much later did I learn how that came about! ;-)

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  41. Thank you for the response Moannie! Love your blog!

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  42. Oh I totally felt you pain throughout that Moannie! I used to go to a little boarding school and I remember on your birthday you'd be given a tray of doughnuts to share with the other pupils but everyone took it as such an offense if you didn't give them one. All you really wanted to do was give them to your BEST friends and save two extra for yourself! I also loved your description of their little palms, and thank you - you've given me my word of the day 'cessation'. Georgie

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