Interesting Times

Drifting

By Pat Gourley

Sage Story Telling
July, 2014
 
  

A secondary definition of “drifting” is to be driven into heaps by the wind. This particular definition reminds me of one of my favorite childhood experiences when growing up in Northern Indiana in what is called the Snow Belt. That of course was the several times a winter when we would get snowed in and be unable to get to school, a Catholic grade school about ten miles north of our farm.

I grew up on a farm on a rural country road in a part of Indiana that was the frequent beneficiary of snow squalls coming off the southern end of Lake Michigan. These squalls were often driven by strong winter winds out of the northwest that would gather moisture off the lake and dumped it right on us in the form of snow. The issue with getting truly snowbound often depended on whether or not there was significant drifting. When that occurred it would often take the county plows twenty-four to sometimes seventy-two hours to get us plowed out. We lived in the southern end of La Porte County, an Irish Catholic enclave, and plowing our little country lane was never a first priority it seemed.

This of course suited me, my brothers and sisters and cousins up and down the road just fine. Looking back on those years particularly grades one through eight when I was attending St. Peter Catholic grade school in La Porte I was not a very happy student, particularly after the fourth grade. I had this rather spontaneous and precocious, OK perhaps the adjective should be flamboyant, quality to my personality. For reasons I am now completely unaware of and perhaps was even oblivious to myself back then I learned it was best to tone it down a bit and you would fit in better. Better to drift along with the prevailing current than to turn around and try to swim upstream. I never went crazy though because I had a great mom and dad whose unconditional positive regard was always unflinching.

By the time I had reached eighth grade and my early teen years I was much more withdrawn though considered by my peers and teachers to be a serious young man perhaps headed to the priesthood and a pretty good student. Perhaps this was why in part I was chosen to play the role of Jesus in out eighth-grade Easter week play. We literally read from one of the gospels, not the most creative of productions. Which gospel it was escapes me but it was the Passion of Christ as it was played out in those tomes and dealt with the drama of holy week leading up of course to the crucifixion and resurrection.

For a little gay kid who would later be fascinated and tentatively drawn to the queer S/M subculture I was probably on some level disappointed that the crucifixion part was really skipped over as I recall. No loin clothes or whips for this little Jesus. It was a Catholic school remember and those Holy Cross nuns had no sense of humor or perhaps worse no realization of what sorts of nasty transgressions could really feel good, no sense of the erotic. Some of my best lines in the play though were after the resurrection. I got to be Jesus in large part because I was perceived to be the best little boy in the world.

That I was tormented with a reality that I was somehow very different from the other little boys was something I would have at the time guarded to my death. I do though remember thinking what a phony I was playing Jesus, being the big old sinner I was sure I was. Not that any sort of gay sex had remotely occurred for me yet. The biggest transgressions involved laying naked along the local river bank in the summer with several of my male siblings and cousins all of us sporting hard-ons and talking about how girls got pregnant. Believe me it was not the thought of a penis in a vagina that was doing the trick for me but the sight of other erect penises all within touching distance and what a magical phenomenon that was to behold!

Back to drifting.  That really was how I was getting by in those years from fifth grade until my family moved up to Northern Illinois at age sixteen when my whole life changed for the better in ways unimaginable. Just drifting and allowing myself to be buffeted and intimidated by the strong winds that were the Catholic Church and its many minions and their truly perverted worldview. How ironic that it was that a couple of those same minions in the form of a commie-pinko nun and a queer male guidance counselor allowed me to stop being buffeted by the wind and instead to lunge headlong into the winds of change sweeping the whole country in the late 1960’s: something that proved to be much more soul quenching than just drifting along.

 

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