Category Archives: mental hospital

Moccasins of Shame — An Outtake

Sometimes, for the sake of narrative flow, style, character–any number of reasons–a writer has to cut passages in order to make a better book.  As Faulkner said, “Kill your darlings.”  In memoir your darlings are not simply scenes you made up, they are part of your life, part of you.  This passage had to be cut from Chanel and I think it’s a better book for its absence but it doesn’t make it less meaningful for me.  Thanks to the modern miracle of blogging (like the extras section of film dvds) I can share it with you.

Moccasins of Shame

The hospital was bright and clean inside and smelled like a swimming pool. Mother’s room was all bleached white and glowing with sunlight. Her blond hair was pulled back in a bun. Looking at her in the skinny hospital bed, I didn’t think she looked sick at all. She looked beautiful, like a fairy princess.
Mother laughed and smiled and was so happy to see us. Daddy stood against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest, as we climbed up onto the bed to hug her and kiss her. She told us that she got to eat her breakfast in bed and that most nights they showed movies in the dining room after dinner. She told us about a woman she’d met there who had been a famous Olympic diver, but had then dived into a swimming pool with no water in it and now she had problems thinking straight. I wondered aloud why someone would jump into an empty swimming pool in the first place, but Mother said it had been an accident.
Before we left, she gave us each a little pair of moccasins that she had made for us during recreation. I asked what that was, and she said it was a time when everyone at the hospital got to make something with their hands—baskets or pot holders, for example—and that she had decided to make something for us. The moccasins were brown suede and had little beads sewn onto the tops of them—they were so pretty. I told her I loved them. Then a nurse came in and said that visiting hours were over and we kissed Mother good-bye.
“I’ll be home soon,” she promised.
I rode home in the car smiling the whole way with my moccasins on my lap. I told my father that I planned to wear them to school the next day to show everyone. My father said nothing; he just looked out at the road over the steering wheel.
The next day, I pranced into my classroom wearing the moccasins to show everyone how clever my mother was and how much she loved me.
“Look! See?” I said to anyone who would listen.
“Gee,” said Carol Rulnick as I modeled them for her.
“My mom made me these pretty Pocahontas shoes!” I sang.
“Those are nice,” said Tommy Flatto.
“Is your mom an Indian?” asked Phillip Braxton.  He was so dumb.
“Can I try them on?” asked Carol but I pretended I didn’t hear her.  I was crazy in love with those shoes; there was no way I was going to let her.
 I basked in the attention of my classmates and struck a few dramatic foot poses to show my moccasins off to their best advantage.
“Wendy Lawless, you come here this instant,” said my first grade teacher Miss Entus.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said skipping up to her.  I figured she just wanted a better look at my beautiful shoes and maybe to ask me where I got them.  But she didn’t.  She took her glasses off and stuck her hands on her hips.
“Wendy, I am appalled that your parents would allow you to wear bedroom slippers to school.”  She looked down at me sternly. 
“But…” I said. 
Until this moment I had loved Miss Entus with all my heart.  She was thin and blonde like my mother and she gave us lollipops during the spelling test.
“I’m afraid that it’s against school rules,” she said folding her arms across her chest.
I wanted to tell her that they weren’t bedroom slippers and that my mom had made them for me, that she had sewn the little beads on herself.
“You go to the office right now and you tell them that you are to be sent home,” Miss Entus said.
“But…” I tried again.
She pointed to the door.  I looked down at my feet, heartbroken.  There was hush as I walked out of the classroom and down to the office to wait for my father.  
Apparently no one had told Miss Entus that my moccasins had been hand-made by my crazy mom during her recreation period at the loony bin.