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Memoir Excerpts

Here are excerpts from memoirs written by Lebanon College students Bill Chapelle and Gioia Grasso Cattabriga.

Chapelle is a special educator and an Equity Actor who lives in Enfield. He reflected on what Good Friday meant to him when he was a boy:

“I actually liked Good Friday when I was a kid, because for one reason, we couldn’t eat meat that day, which translated into a Mama Celeste frozen cheese pizza. Abondanza! Thank you, Jesus. Whatever I didn’t like about faith or religion, I always liked God, the idea of a God. And after I was old enough to understand what he was talking about in the Gospels, I liked Jesus, too. When I was eleven, my Sunday School took a field trip to see the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock opera, and I loved it so much that I asked for the soundtrack for an Easter present. … I enjoyed hearing the story of Jesus’ last few days in human form played out with electric guitars and drums. We would always go to the afternoon Good Friday service, called the Tenebrae or “Service of the Shadows,” which involved the gradual extinguishing of lit candles, so that by the end of the service, the church was dark. Then we would come home, and I would listen to my Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack while the frozen pizza heated up.”

Cattabriga, of West Lebanon, has composed many essays about her childhood. Here, she recalls “The House on the Hill,” a 100-year-old house that she lived in with her widowed mother and two siblings in Buchanan, N.Y.:

“Before my mother bought the house, a couple and their grown son had lived there for several years as renters. They either had hideous taste or were completely color-blind: living room, stairwell, and bathroom — including the outside of the claw-footed, cast-iron tub — were a peculiar shade of purple-ish grey that was too dark to be called lavender and too light to be called plum — more like a battleship grape. Soon after moving in, my mother painted the walls with soft, neutral colors.

“Retro decor wasn’t popular then, so the bathtub was a curiosity piece. No one we knew had a bathtub with feet or one that wasn’t white; our playmates asked to use the bathroom just to see it. Its novelty soon wore off: it was short and narrow and lacked a shower.

“The bathroom, like the tub, seemed to be made for midgets; it was about three feet wide by seven feet long. We could wash our hands in the minuscule sink or turn on the tub taps while seated on the toilet.

“For the first year or so after we moved in, my brother slept in the back bedroom and my mother, sister, and I shared the front bedroom. My sister’s crib took up most of one wall and my mother and I shared a trundle bed that, when opened, occupied much of the remaining space. When my sister outgrew her crib, my mother began sleeping on a daybed in the living room and bought twin beds for my sister and me.”

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