by Ann C. Averill
When I was a little girl, my family ate dinner at 6:30 every night. A meat, a vegetable, a starch, and a homemade dessert like tapioca pudding or apple brown betty. Often my brother and I watched The Early Show from 5:00-7:00 PM featuring movies like Mothra Meets Godzilla. That meant just before every climax, we’d be called to the dining room to place napkins on our laps, and say, God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food.
What I really wanted to pray was, God, please, let me finish the movie.
On one miraculous occasion a Tarzan movie, starring Johnny Weissmuller, aired the same night we had a babysitter, so my brother and I were allowed to eat in the den on folding trays. We ripped into TV dinners and ate Salisbury steak, tater tots, and green beans right in front of the television while Tarzan swung from vine to vine to his tree house on the escarpment.
Jane, played by Maureen O’Sullivan, waited for her man in an animal-skin mini dress, ready to serve roast wildebeest and mashed bananas. Tarzan sat at the table in his loin cloth. After a day of swimming raging rivers, wrestling alligators, and fighting off greedy white hunters, it was good to relax with his mate and Cheetah, their chimpanzee child.
In high school, one morning in May, the kind of morning that makes you want to blast the stereo and tan on the roof, my friend Marie called, “Wanna skip school?”
So, while our peers were turning the pages of Great Expectations, Marie led me to a stone wall on the edge of her neighborhood. Over the ledge lay a mansion and, ensconced by a carefully pruned privet hedge, a built-in pool. In an era of public pools full of baby pee, this was luxury reserved for movie stars. We scaled the wall, stripped into our suits, and dove into the deep end.
Then as Marie sunned in a chaise and I balanced on the tip of the diving board, a maid appeared through the shrubs. “Mr. Cushing would like to know if you’re friends of his son?”
Marie shielded her eyes from the sun’s glare, “Of course.”
Fortunately, Cushing junior was away at prep school and couldn’t contradict. The maid retreated and returned with poolside chicken salad sandwiches, no more questions asked.
Years later, I learned that Maureen O’Sullivan’s second husband was Mr. Cushing, the gracious host who’d provided us trespassing liars a free lunch. I swam in Tarzan’s wife’s pool. Yet, what a letdown to find Jane living in the suburbs.
As a child, I dreamed of living in a tree fort, like Tarzan, able to talk to animals, capable of a blood-curdling cry that could call down an elephant stampede on my enemies.
As an adult, I realize that paradigm is age old—Eternal Eve, her hunk Adam, keepers of a pristine paradise where God is great, and God is good.
This piece is an excerpt from Ann’s upcoming memoir, Breadcrumbs, A Baby Boomer’s Path to Jesus. Ann is also the author of the e-book, Broken, 180 Days in the Wilderness of an Urban Middle School, based on a true story. You can read Ann’s blog @annaverill.weebly.com.
“Angel of Mercy” is an excerpt from Ann C. Averill’s upcoming memoir, BACK TO THE GARDEN: A BABY BOOMER’S SPIRITUAL COMING OF AGE. She’s a former teacher who hopes she’s been an angel of mercy in some measure to her students. Ann lives in the paradise of Western Massachusetts.