Education Blog

The Power of Story Student Spotlight: Elizabeth ter Poorten

By Elizabeth ter Poorten, Power of Story Student 04.04.17

Elizabeth ter Poorten is a seeker, a storyteller and a writer.

She began to write four years ago when she signed up for Power of Story, a JBFC Media Arts Lab course created by Anne Marie Santoro. In this warm and supportive environment, her writing came to life. Elizabeth likes to write insightful short stories that describe interesting moments she has experienced to share with her readers.

In the past, she established one of the first Montessori schools in the United States.

At present, she is a consultant. Most recently, she took a leave of absence from Power of Story to open a Montessori school in Beijing.

Elizabeth lives in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. She has two daughters and five grandchildren, and is an active member of the Jacob Burns Film Center.

My First Communion, by Elizabeth ter Poorten

When I was four years old, I had my first experience of “Spirit”. A neighbor had given me a record called “Onward Christian Soldiers”. World War II was on and I would hear the adults talking about it or the latest battle would be discussed over the radio.

I would march around the room wrapped in a blue curtain, down the hall into the kitchen and back into my room just as the finale was coming. I was filled with emotion and some deep love for Jesus, whoever he was and wherever he was.

When I was six, we moved to East 66th Street in New York City. My mother enrolled me in the St. Vincent Ferrer School. My mother thought that this was a perfect arrangement because I could walk around the block to the school. I never even had to cross the street! Yes, it was convenient and safe.

Sister Gertrude Marie was my teacher. She was a Dominican Sister. She wore a long, brown dress habit and a black veil on her head so that you couldn’t see her hair. There was a white band across her forehead tucked into her veil. Around the waist she wore a long string of rosary beads with Jesus on a cross hanging on the end of the beads. Sister Gertrude looked beautiful and mysterious. She had large, brown eyes, soft full lips and perfect white teeth that showed when she smiled, which was quite often.

After a few months, we were told that we were going to make our First Communion. Before that you had to be baptized. However, my mother had neglected to do this and I became very anxious, as I was the only one in the class who was not baptized. This was supposed to have happened when I was a baby—why had I not been baptized?

The church was right next to the School. On Sunday I would go to mass. I loved the music, the incense and the statues. During Mass, I could really look at the statues carefully. They wore long, pale-colored robes and smiled down from their altars or stands. There was one statue in particular that I loved to look at often. It was Mary, the mother of Jesus. She had shiny, brown eyes that were set into her face. Her eyes would follow me wherever I was.

One Sunday, I decided that I did not want to wait to be baptized or wait until the spring to make my First Communion with my class. I loved Jesus so much. I knew he would like it if I went up to the altar rail to receive communion with all the other people who loved him. It was just Jesus and me together. When I knelt and received the host on my tongue, it was very special even though it tasted like a piece of stale cracker. It didn’t really matter: this was my communion. I was communing with Jesus.

Over the next month, I would go to communion whenever I could. This was between Jesus and me and he was God. He would listen to all the things I would tell him. He would understand and help me because I knew he loved me.

One day, my mother received a phone call from the School. We were to meet with the Principal at three o’clock. We went to the office; Sister Gertrude-Marie was there, dear Sister Gertrude-Marie. She looked worried and she wasn’t smiling. Finally, the principal came in.

“You have been seen going to Communion!! Was this true?” “Yes,” I responded. “Didn’t you know that you had to wait?” she said. “Wait for what?” I thought. “You had been told that you had to wait to make your first holy communion together with your class and you are not even baptized yet!!” “Why?” I thought. Why wait, Jesus didn’t care and he loved me.

As I look back to that afternoon, I am grateful I learned that no one could ever take from me or stop my love for what had been born in my heart and soul. It was okay, it was between Jesus and me!

On my way back home, my mother took my hand. I looked up at her. She was smiling and looking straight ahead. She stopped and looked at me. “It’s all right, darling,” she said. “It’s all about love, isn’t it?”

We Can Kiss Again for the First Time

by Elizabeth ter Poorten

The moon smiles down through the clouds

shining bright above us.

When I think about kissing him once again,

I will kiss him like it was for the first time.

I stand close to him near his smiling face.

I see the moonlight over his shoulder.

Our lips are only a breath away.

As we murmur softly, the inches shorten.

I can feel his sweet warm breath on my face.

We hesitate, we pull back.

I nestle into his arms, his lips brush my lips..

Finally, slowly resting gently on mine.

Ah….silence, a new breath!

We can kiss again for the first time

over and over again

This post is the fourth installment in a series of spotlights on students from our Power of Story courses. To learn more about our adult courses and register, please visit our Courses @ The Lab website. To read the first three installments in this series, visit the Education Blog HERE.