I was in my element.
Wearing a sort of uniform, dark a-skirts, white shirts, sweaters for chilly days, I looked the same as I did in college, not much different from the girls I was teaching. Anywhere else I’d feel out of place, old-fashioned, convent-girl look; here, I felt joyful, every minute of every hour. Clothes were incidental. We appreciated hard work and rules.
Early October, I overheard a couple of nuns talking about their pilgrimage to Rome, and within minutes, I had reserved a seat on the same plane. Finally, an end in sight.
That evening, at home, as I fixed dinner and waiting for Uncle to close the store, I casually mentioned the news. Aunt's face went into an immediate frown, "Is that the reason you're late again?"
I didn’t think I needed to remind her that I worked full time. and attended graduate school. Maybe she hadn't understood.
“I’m not going to inconvenience you any longer." I said, and without taking another breath, I went on:"It’s been a long time. Why, my folks may not even recognize me! I’m thinking it’s going to be difficult to adjust back home. I may not know how to behave like an Italian any more.”
My chatter was quick and fast.
“How can you talk like that? We have given you everything!" She was now angry and loud.
Usually, I would have smiled, and attended to some chore to placate her. Instead, I walked away without responding. The smell of her Pall Mall cigarettes was encircling me. Her hair in a towel smeared with dark streaks told me she had just colored it. That combination of smells made me want to rush to the bathroom.
“Well, you need to ask permission from Ted!” She hurled this like a stone aimed for my head.
“I’m too old to be asking for permission!” I asserted boldly and out of character. Something about having money to buy a ticket back home was giving me confidence and courage.
“We won’t hear another word about this. You can’t go around making these decisions by yourself!”
“I don’t need permission. I'm not a child. I'm paying for this myself.” I yelled and slammed the bathroom door shut. This was the only room where I could lock myself in and regain my composure.
The place was in a shamble. Bottles everywhere. No wonder she was angry. I was not home to take care of the children on an evening when she had decided to color her hair.
“You’re an ungrateful slug. You’ve been nothing but trouble.” Hissing with rage, she was pounding at the door.
I opened the door and something came out of my mouth: “I might as well leave right now.” I then rushed to the bedroom to gather some things before I lost my courage.
“Your Uncle will be very angry! You’ll wait until your Uncle returns.” She was shouting at the top of her range. When she saw me put some clothes and books in a suitcase, she grabbed it forcefully, “We paid for all that stuff!” Those were the last words I heard as I dropped everything and stormed out, walking as fast as I could to the street corner where there was a phone booth. I called Myra whose number I remembered. She accepted my collect call and picked me up twenty minutes later.