Life at Tabor was all I had hoped it would be. Although I still struggled academically, I was completely comfortable there. Thanks to the Rifle Team, I had made several really good and lifelong friends. But I was still emotionally stunted and I wasn’t catching up. To make matters worse, I was attending an all boys school. I was 16 when I got my driver’s license and I still had not been out on a proper date with a girl.
When you are a boarding student at Tabor, you eat each meal in a large dining hall at large round tables that were arranged by dormitory. Each table had 8 students and a teacher and the protocol was for a pleasant dining experience including proper manners. At one of the tables were a teacher I knew, his wife, and his daughter. His daughter, Sue, was one of the original friends I had at Sippican albeit all grown up.
Since I was a townie my junior and senior years, I walked to school from home. Even though it was allowed, the idea of my driving to school was not something that my father would consider. It wasn’t a matter of whether he could afford it or not, it was more that when he went to school in the 1930’s he had to walk so why shouldn’t I? This type of mind-boggling logic was typical of how my father thought. Since Sue was not allowed to attend Tabor [all boys] she attended the local high school instead and waited for her bus along the route I usually walked to school. I would often stop and talk with her until her bus arrived and our lost friendship from years before was rekindled. I began to think that it would be fun to take her out and since I had no experience in such things I would need some help. It was Elinor that would give me the limited help that she could provide to get me started.
Sue and I are the same age but she was now a grade ahead of me. We would date for the rest of my junior year until she graduated and I would take her to the only Prom I would ever attend. But there were a lot of things about dating that no one had ever told me. There was a sense of permanence and commitment that went with it all. All of my formative years were defined by a lack of permanence in every facet of life. This was how I was brought up, when things changed you moved on. When you no longer liked the people around you, you moved on. This was to be one of the times when my lack of judgment and experience would catch up to me. From my immature standpoint, Sue was going off to college and I would be finishing my senior year at Tabor. And that was it. As wonderful as that relationship was, I felt it was time to move on. Just like my mother had taught me through her actions.
We had everything in common and yet I was unable to adjust to the concept of commitment. We had the kind High School first love relationship you always dream would happen. This would not be the last time that this would happen in my life, but it did signal for anyone observant enough to notice, that I was still an emotional mess. But no one did notice. Everyone assumed that something had happened. After all, happy couples don’t break up, so there must have been some problem, right? Only there wasn’t a problem with the two of us, just a very deep problem with me. I was getting better thanks to all of my supportive friends at school, but they couldn’t help me with this. I had never encountered the idea of someone going away, yet staying together all at the same time. The only advice Dad and Elinor had to offer was, “It’s up to you,” and that was no advice at all. It shouldn’t have been up to me, I didn’t know what I was doing. I needed guidance, instruction, and support, but no one could or wanted to help.
When I finally realized what I had done, I knew that I had to fix what was wrong, and what was wrong was me. I would have to look inside myself and try to understand it all. There was no professional help available in those days. Dads belief system was always based on what he could understand. So even if it had been available, therapy for me would have been out of the question. He didn’t know anything about therapy and so he didn’t believe in it. If people had problems then they should work them out themselves and not involve outsiders in the situation. Neither Dad nor Elinor recognized that I had a problem and they offered no constructive advice. Yet, they were often mystified as to why I would do certain things or say certain things and then not be able to explain myself. In fact I was in transition from the old life with my mother to the new life with my father. The new large family would be a big help to me, but there would still be many times when I would wonder if I would ever be as mature as I should be.
The worst part of all this was that I had no idea what my problem was. Medical or psychiatric information in those days was rare to the general public. And so I needed to retreat again to my little world and try to ask the questions that no one else would ask. I had always been a member of the First Congregational Church and I began attending with a new vigor. Now I paid attention to the sermons and often asked questions afterward. I would engage in philosophical discussions with my new cousins often trying to find answers. But I was alone in this venture. I’m sure that no one ever knew what I was trying to accomplish. I was already 18 and nearing another transition to college. I wasn’t ready for another major transition because I hadn’t finished the one I was in yet. It was all going too fast.
© J T Weaver
No one wants to touch this one with a ten foot “Comment.” I suspect it is because of nuances of mental instability, and admissons of emotional immaturity. Here goes. What does one say to some of this? I think each of us is a product, ugly or not, of parental conditioning, and societal structures. There is an emotional legacy we are passed forward whether we want it or not. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a beautiful thing, as evidenced in this collection of lovely stories. And….Ah, LOVE! There is nothing better. I have decided to hold the memory of my own child self harmless, and innocent. In retrospect, I wonder how I survived the upbringing. What is emotional maturity anyway? I’m pretty sure I haven’t mastered it. Maybe part of me just does not want to….and that’s okay too, because most children I have encountered have beautiful qualities that surrounding adults would do well to better model. 🙂
Well said, and thank you very much. I’m glad you liked the story.