Green Valley :: the Ghost
My room was very isolated and none of the other adults seemed interested in getting to know me. I did my duties, ate meals with the kids, then wandered back to my room for quiet evenings of letter-writing, candy-bar eating, and roach-killing.
What seemed to get me out of ghost status was a thundering pair of earaches. The middle ear infections reached their screaming peak one night about 10 and I had no choice but to reel down the road to ask for help at the nearest house, inhabited by Ron the headmaster and his wife Lynn. The house seemed full of people having fun. Everyone was nice. Pain pills appeared. A doctor's appointment made... I was suddenly a real person to everyone. "We were wondering who you were," someone said.
It's hard for me to remember the exact chronology of things or why I remained a ghost for so long. But somehow I had avoided an important part of the daily routine -- pre-breakfast exercise. I vaguely recall someone giving me the okay not to attend these sessions for the first week and I quietly continued avoiding them. The children and staff gathered at the pond and, like good little communists, did t'ai chi. I had not taken a gym class since high school and couldn't fathom what this discipline was supposed to do for me.
And once I started avoiding t'ai chi, it became harder and harder to contemplate joining in. Finally, someone -- probably Ron -- told me I needed to show up. But I had an alternate proposal. To avoid exercising I volunteered to wake up Lester every morning.
Lester was one of the two severely developmentally challenged youth in residence. Lester was a skinny kid of about 14 who spoke of himself in a stilted third person. If left unsupervised he immediately found trouble. So, there was a "Lester rota" -- someone assigned to Lester during every waking hour. Whoever got him up in the morning always had a mess on their hands because he liked to smear his feces all over.
Why in the world was showering the shit off a wailing adolescent more appealing than t'ai chi? I can only say that trying to figure out t'ai chi terrified me and waking Lester seemed heroic. Since I had no real skills with the kids, I needed a task that made me feel like I was contributing something more than inane chatter to the effort.
Then there was the fact that I was trying to impress a guy called Art.
I arrived at Green Valley School in Orange City Florida in February 1971. Around May, Lee Ricketts and I drove 10 kids north to the Catskills to start our own little farm adjacent to GVS' Buck Brook Farm. I left the Green Valley family, with my future husband, in August of 1972.
Green Valley was a residential program for troubled kids and a sixties-style commune for its staff.