Jill is a victim of religion and polio. She remains at Hoyt House, terrified of hell.
Jill d. 1958
All dressed up for First Communion, Eight-year-old Jill was proud of her new pink dress that matched her Mary Jane shoes.
Meredith gave her a stern look. "You must look presentable for the Lord Jilly, even though you missed catechism this year."
Jill was aware of the basics: the Holy Trinity and something about sin and redemption. Heaven and Hell. The scary stuff. "Yes, Mommy."
"And presentable for Fr. Andrew, of course. And be ready for confession. He will hear your confession before baptism."
"Yes, Mommy. But, what do I say if I can't remember any sins?"
Meredith gave Jill another stern look. "Haven't you done things that were wrong? Like disobeying your mother?"
Jill needed to know for sure. "Is that a sin?"
Meredith had to think about it. "Ah, ah the Commandments tell us to respect our mother and father." "But... " Jill had more questions.
"Get ready, Jilly. Tie your shoes. It's time to head to church."
Although fervently devoted and desirous of salvation, Jill was troubled by the notion of sin. What is sin anyway? Why are sins bad? If I commit a sin, would it hurt someone? I would never commit a sin if it did. Maybe Fr. Andrew will teach me about it.
Jill was next in line for the Confessional. A faint sound of tapping could be heard throughout the chapel. Jill's heels simply could not be still, rapping against the wooden pew. Her hands were damp with nervous sweat, her guts wrenching, almost as bad as when she waited in line to meet Santa Claus in-person at the department store.
A girl emerged through dark blue velvet drapes on the penitent side of the Confessional. She looked more nervous than joyful, Jill thought. The parish deacon motioned to Jill. You're next.
Feet barely touching the cathedral floor tiles, Jill felt like she was floating. She was barely aware of her feet, who somehow knew the way to the Confessional drapes. I just wish that I had some good sins to confess to Father Andrew.
The deacon raised the blackened drape and motioned Jill to enter the small chamber. She stared at the walls, mostly covered in red velvet, as she stepped onto the carpeted floor. The deacon silently closed the door.
She sat on the narrow wooden bench and faced a wall with a rectangular black screen. Above it hung a crucifix. Jill stared at it anxiously. How terrible! Then she lurched forward when the priest suddenly slid open his little window on the other side of the screen.
"Welcome, my child. " Father Andrew's shadow was visible through the screen. "How long has it been since your last confession?"
"Ah, Father, I don't think that I've done this before."
"This being your very first confession, you must have several sins to confess to the Lord today." These minor inquisitions were practically routine.
Jill's eyes wandered to that crucifix again: A man hanging from nails on a cross. Oh how that must have hurt! Jill cringed. He must have been a really bad sinner. Maybe I'll just keep my sins to myself.
"I suppose so" This was followed by empty silence. "Can I ask you something first?" "Of course.", Fr. Andrew easily replied.
"What happens to people who sin?"
Must I explain everything to her? "They go to Hell. A very hot place with a lake of fire." Curious now, she just had to ask more questions. "For how long?"
"Haven't you heard? They go to eternal torment forever."
Jill's eyes opened wide. "What about that poor man hanging from nails. Is he being punished for his sins?"
"That man is our Lord!" Fr. Andrew had to set her straight. "He suffered because of your sins, Jill."
Her forehead was creased now with confusion. "When was that? Did I commit sins before he got nailed like that?"
Fr. Andrew looked up as if needing guidance. "The Lord Jesus suffered for all your sins, regardless of when you sinned. All are destined for eternal damnation unless they confess sins and receive absolution."
Jill simply was not getting it. "Does that mean he confesses my sins for me? Then why is he being tortured like that?" She paused for air. "And what about people who never did any sins?"
"The answer is in the Book of John.3.16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. All have fallen from Grace, Jill. I'm sure you understand."
She was not finished quite yet. "But, Fr. Andrew..."
I don't have time for her questions right now. How to get her moving along? "Jill, am I hearing the voice of pride from you?" Then with gravity, " I pray that it's not true."
She felt his gaze pierce right through the confessional screen. It made her squirm to be so exposed.
"Only the prideful have so many questions" He paused to let that sink in. "Pride is a mortal sin, Jill. And mortal sins cannot be forgiven! Confess your sin of pride now and receive absolution."
Jill was trembling with indecision, but remained silent. If I lie to Fr. Andrew now by confessing to having pride, I'm committing a sin by lying. If I admit to having pride, I'm lying to myself. So, I sin again. Am I going to Hell either way?
"Father, I need to understand..."
He cut her off. "You do love the Lord don't you Jill?"
Fixated again on the horrible, scary crucifix, she blurted out, "Oh yes Father Andrew. I just love the Lord God Almighty. Please tell him for me."
"I will do that, Jill. But first, The Lord is ready to hear your confession of sins now." He waited patiently in silence.
Not wanting to disappoint him, Jill made a deal with herself to say something that was not a lie. She said, "OK. I'm proud of disagreeing with my mother."
Now we're getting somewhere. "Excellent Jill. I hereby absolve you of the sin of Pride." He followed by making the sign of the cross. " In the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen"
"Does that mean I'm not going to Hell forever?"
Beneficently, he replied, "God has forgiven you for now. Go and sin no more, Jill. And don't forget: God has punishment for sinners. " Next he opened his curtain to motion to the deacon: Next.
Jill grabbed her school books and stood up from the bus bench. The whole world seemed dream-like. Watching the bus driver pull open the articulated door and spin the coin sorter seemed almost cartoonish. Nevertheless, she stepped up and placed her nickel in the coin hole.
She made a beeline to the nearest bench as the bus lurched forward. That motion flopped Jill promptly to the bench, triggering another wave of nausea. The sweet memories of that night at a drive-in hung in the atmosphere: Freddie admiring his barely one-year-old 1957 Chevy. That Chevy was special, a metallic blue two-door hardtop with no post. His touch on the gas pedal making the V-8 engine rumble and roar. Temporary heaven.
Jill savored the Memory of Freddie and she giggling while searching for best position for sex on the rear bench seat. The long hard hump that housed the rear axel did not help matters.
'Oh Freddie, we shouldn't. Isn't it too early for sex?'
Jill's weak resistance simply made Freddie all the more passionate. Just like in movies, Freddie hoped that he could wear down her resistance with persistence till she said, Yes! It always worked that way on screen anyway...
What a sweet moment it was when they both had their underwear tossed to the Chevy floor and looked at one another. Jill felt positively sinful and seductive as she gently smiled at him. Freddie became a stallion ready to mount. Condensation gathered on the windows as they worked up a steam.
By the time they looked up from the back, the drive-in screen was displaying The Blob without mercy gobbling up a local country doctor. Scary business. But, not as scary as facing the ultimate humiliation at home months later.
"Hey, Jilly." Freddie was relieved of his hormonal flush by then.
Jill was dreamily staring at her stud. He's just perfect! 'Yes, lover."
He stuttered a bit at first. 'I, ah, ah. Oh Jill, I love you! I want us to get married. Will you marry me?'
Jill's first and at least somewhat pleasant sexual encounter ended up with a marriage proposal. Pure heaven, then.
The sound of squeaky brakes yanked her from her misery. The school bus slowed to a stop at the corner of NW Hoyt and 10th Avenue.
Her feet were weighted down with the lead of apprehension that amplified with each step home. In the atrium, she unzipped her jacket and hung it on a coat hook. Another wave of nausea passed through her gut. Now is as good a time as any.
Like a prisoner expecting execution, she walked down the first-floor hallway, head hung low. She found her mother doing makeup in the bathroom mirror.
"Hi Mom.", Jill said gravely.
Meredith shifted her attention from the mirror to her daughter. "How are you feeling today? You've been sick to your stomach lately."
"I may have a problem.", Jill replied lamely.
Having applied cherry red lipstick to the upper lip Meredith applied it onto the lower one by pursing both lips together. "What kind of problem, my love?"
"It's been two months or so since my last period." Jill was truly hang-dog now. If she had a tail it would have been tucked under.
Dead silence lingered in the air. Meredith gazed in the mirror and approved of her lipstick. "You just have a medical condition of some sort Jilly.", she replied dismissively. "I'll call a doctor."
Jill just looked down shamefully and shook her head.
Five minutes of silence was interrupted with, "So, you're pregnant?" Meredith had just been slammed.
"Umm..... I guess."
Saying nothing, Jill was frozen in guilty silence.
"So, Jill, you managed to get yourself pregnant. Oh how wonderful!" Meredith slapped her palm to her forehead. Like a cascade of falling dominos, the ramifications of her daughter's pregnancy flooded her. None of them were pleasant.
Jill looked up, incredulous and angry. "Mom. How can a girl get herself pregnant?"
"Who was it then?" Meredith caught her breath. "Some low life?"
"It was Freddie! We're in love."
"Oh, not that boy! Matthew told me about him."
"I don't care what my brother says. I love Freddie."
James walked into the kitchen and sensed tension between his daughter and Meredith. "Have I entered a... private conversation?"
Meredith caught his attention with. "Guess what James, our only daughter managed to get herself pregnant with a local boy!" She looked him in the eye and breathed "Now what?"
James, stone-faced, looked at Jill and then stared at Meredith. What am I supposed to feel now? There was a smorgasbord of feelings in his gut: Shock, anger, and overwhelm with a touch of guilt. With so many choices, he remained stoic.
"Where Jill? How did this happen to you?", Meredith demanded.
"Freddie and I went to a drive-in."
Meredith was incredulous. "A drive-in? Which one?."
"We were at the Westwind drive-in."
"The Westwind?" Jill's mother practically gasped for air. "What were you doing at a drive-in?"
It was time for Jill to be incredulous. Is she honestly that thick? She looked at her mother with disbelief. "They were showing a movie we wanted to see. Duh!"
"'The Blob'. It was really scary, too."
"So," Meredith continued, "you two watched that movie. Was it afterward when he forced himself on you? Is that when he did it, Jilly?"
"No way! Freddie and I are in love." Jill had already been pushed to the limit. Go ahead and tell her. "He wants to marry me!"
James' face returned to stone. He stared off for a moment filled with silent resignation. Without acknowledging his daughter, he said "Oh shit, Mere. What do we do now?"
They were both very active in Rotary, the Lions Club, and sat on boards for several corporations. And what about the Church? Word would get out for sure.
With the twin daggers of disappointment and fear, Meredith looked at her daughter coldly. "Consider what you've done, Jill. Shame on you! This is sin. A bad one. I'll be praying for you."
Then to James, "What are we to do? This, this is so terrible."
Looking down, James seemed to have been studying his shoes while listening. "Uh. We could put it up for adoption."
Meredith nodded in agreement. Jill was not their daughter, just another problem to handle.
Jill could scarcely believe her ears. "What! To you, this is nothing more than giving away a puppy! It's a baby! How could you?" Then she screamed, "And it's all my fault!"
"Don't worry Jill. Your father and I will handle it." Her shallow attempts to comfort Jill fell on deaf ears.
"Handle what? Me or my baby,..... My 'it'?"
Distressed now, Meredith had to mend that fragile bridge to her daughter. "I don't mean it that way, Jill I..."
James raised his hand to intervene and gave Meredith a serious expression. "You and I have corporate positions. Church positions. This puts all at risk."
He glanced at Jill, giving her a look of sour disappointment and slowly shook his head. Then to Meredith, "The question is: how can we end this quietly?"
She was dubious. "What do you mean? James, I hope that you are not suggesting abortion." Next, she had a thought. We adopt out the baby somehow. But, how do we explain to everyone our obviously pregnant Jill?
Meredith did not have the guts to look her daughter in the eye. She too was flooded, mostly with anger. Yet, her calculating mind took over. "Or one of those homes for wayward girls like we now have?"
James finally found his voice. "It's just that...."
Enraged now, Jill looked them both in the eye. "If you only had me spayed like a dog, I wouldn't have got myself. ....knocked up!"
Her father tried to intervene and gave her a stern expression. "Now Jill, that's no way to talk to your parents."
Jill suddenly stood up, tumbling her chair to the floor. She well remembered Fr. Andrew's warnings about sin. I've committed two lately: sex before marriage and getting knocked up.
"I'm headed for Hell. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad!"
Rendered speechless now, Meredith and James could only cast their gaze anywhere but at their daughter.
Jill felt suddenly nauseous, really nauseous. She bent over and wretched up her lunch on the kitchen floor.
Instead of looking at Jill, Meredith and James looked at one another and shared communication.
Now what? Whose job will it be to clean up this mess?
Her mother went on autopilot. "No worries, Jill. I'll clean it up."
Once her stomach was empty and relatively settled down, Jill ran out the back door and stumbled down to the yard, face-first onto the grass. Her legs had suddenly stopped moving. Her brain told them to move but they did not. And for no good reason.... except polio.