Posted tagged ‘nuns’

“Education is wonderful – it helps you worry about things all over the world.”

September 2, 2013

Today is damp and cloudy. Maybe rain, even a v, is in the forecast. The whole weekend has been the same. I don’t think we had as many tourists for the weekend as usual. The forecast was spot on.

In kids’ parlance today is not Labor Day. It is the day before school starts. The buses roll tomorrow morning. My neighborhood has kids now, little kids, and four of them are headed to elementary school together: two to kindergarten, one to first grade and the oldest to second grade. They’re outside riding bikes now. I suspect their heads are not filled with images of new clothes, buses and the first day of school. They still have the look of summer about them.

The red spawn of Satan got the hose treatment again this morning. A short time later it was back but ran as soon as I walked on the deck. It didn’t take long for the hose and me to have an impact.

If I were to go back in time, to my elementary school days, I’d choose the fifth grade. We got bused for a while to the next town while the new school was finished. It was an adventure which also shortened the school day. We had the same hours as the rest of the school so we were on the bus for a part of the morning and a part of the afternoon. We always got back just as school was letting out for the day. In the spring we moved into the new school. My room was on the first floor. The nun I had that year was a jovial sort. She used to hand out pieces of candy as prizes. Seldom did she leave her desk chair to walk around the room so she’d toss the candy to the prize winner. She periodically had contests like who could list the most homonyms, now called homophones. I remember that contest because I won, and this was before computers. My prize was a miniature book with Bible verses. I was intrigued by the size of the book and not so much by the verses. I don’t remember what I learned that year, but I figure it was pretty the same as all the other years. Nouns and the other parts of speech never seemed to disappear and once we hit decimals and fractions they followed us everywhere. Columbia and coffee are forever linked. There was only so much geography. As for history, I have no idea what we studied in the fifth unless it was the Pilgrims, but in those days history sort of hopscotched all over the place.

We were still young in the fifth grade. We jumped rope during recess and giggled about boys. Fifth grade was when I punched the boy who constantly teased my friend and wouldn’t stop when asked, even nicely asked. That is probably my favorite memory of that year. I learned to stand up for friends and I learned I had a strong right.

“‘Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”

August 27, 2013

Gloomy is the best I can say for today. It was late last night when I heard the rain start. It wasn’t a dramatic storm with thunder or lightning was rather quiet and gentle. I could almost hear each drop as it fell on a leaf or the deck. When I woke up, it was still raining, still a quiet and gentle rain. Since then, the rain has stopped. Everything is still except for one raucous crow.

I didn’t go to the dump yesterday. I didn’t feel like it, but today we’re going. I have collected all the recyclables from the cellar and put the trash bags by the car. The rest of yesterday’s to-do list got finished. I felt quite accomplished. I even filled some bird feeders which were not on the list. I’m thinking some sort of a trophy would be nice. It should be engraved.

My first grade teacher was a menace. She scared the heck out of me. Her name was Sister Redempta. She was really old, at least to my six-year-old eyes. Her habit was black and white. She wore blinders on each side of her white coif (I looked up what that was called. I always just said headpiece). It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized that coif gave us an advantage. The nuns had to swivel their heads back and forth to catch us so we had a bit of time to do whatever. Every nun I had in elementary school kept a handkerchief up at the end of her sleeve. A bit of white always showed. That’s sort of gross when you think about it. We could always hear the nuns coming because the giant rosary beads they wore around their waists made a lot of noise. It was like an early warning system. I had more good nuns than bad throughout my elementary school years. Considering it was baby boomer time and some classes were huge, with 30 kids, you’d think discipline problems, but there were none. Our parents would have killed us.

When I was in the seventh grade, the habits were changed, and the blinders were replaced by what looked like small visors. Now the nuns could see everything. They had the advantage. That was a sad day for us.

My aunt is a nun. That’s all I’ve known her as. She used to wear habit. Now she wears regular clothes. We all call her my aunt the nun as if she has no other name.

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”

March 29, 2013

The day is lovely, sunny and fairly warm. I stood outside a long while this morning checking out the lower forty: okay, a bit of an exaggeration there. It was the side yard where the day lilies grow. I noticed their shoots are all above the ground. In the front garden the most beautiful cluster of yellow flowers is blooming. It deserves a picture so I’ll go back out later. All of the crocus are up: purple, yellow, white and a few variegated. I’m thinking they are the best harbingers of spring.

My feeders are empty again, good thing I bought more seed yesterday when I did my errands. Gracie and I did four of them including the dump and Agway, her two favorite spots. I also stopped at Hot Diggity Dog and bought Gracie some pastries for Easter then went next store to Buckies Biscotti and treated myself to lunch and a cupcake. It was altogether a most satisfying day.

We always had Good Friday off from school though the nuns expected us, the older kids, to pick an hour to do vigil between noon and three. The vigil was in the downstairs church, never in the big church upstairs. I remember how dark and quiet the church was. All the statues were covered in purple cloth. The only sounds were the creaking of the pews as people came and went or just tried to make themselves more comfortable on the wooden pews. I remember wearing play clothes to do vigil, even pants. It wasn’t like a Sunday when you had to wear a dress. There was always a nun sitting in the back checking us in and out. We only had to stay an hour, but it seemed far longer just sitting there quietly and supposedly praying. I sneaked in a book a couple of times and got caught once. The nun just held out her hand, and I gave it to her. I must have look too suspiciously pious with my head bent in constant prayer. She gave me back the book when I left.

Some years, when I was teaching, Good Friday was just before April vacation week so I got to leave early, on Thursday night, for Europe. I usually went every April. One year my sister and I went to London. She had never been there, and I had been there several times so I let her pick what she wanted to do, and we did everything on her list and more. I remember waking up on Easter morning and finding the Easter Bunny had left fudge eggs and cards, both compliments of our parents who had sneaked them to each of us to give to the other. That Easter Sunday we went to Windsor Castle, and there were huge crowds wandering around and a band was playing. I remember it was really windy and cold. That’s my strongest memory of that Easter Sunday.

“Come, pensive nun, devout and pure, sober steadfast, and demure, all in a robe of darkest grain, flowing with majestic train.”

October 2, 2012

It is another beautiful fall day with lots of sunshine. The breeze is ever so slight and just ruffles the leaves. When I closed down the deck, I left out a table and a comfy chair so I can enjoy days like today. That’s where I’ve been for the last couple of hours. I fed the birds and read a while then figured it was time to get on with my day. I came inside but oh so reluctantly.

I have a couple of errands today, left over from yesterday. One I couldn’t do and the other I forgot to do. Looks like I’ll be putting four or five more miles on the car this week!

I wore uniforms for almost my entire time in school, from grades 1 though grade 11. They made it easy to choose what to wear, and uniforms made us all equal. My grades 1 though 8 uniform was a blue skirt, a white blouse and a blue tie: a cowboy tie is what we used to call it. The skirts had to be at least half-way down the knee. I remember the eighth grade when crazy Sister Hildegarde was my teacher, and she went after a girl who had rolled the waist of her skirt to make it shorter. Eleanor Garland was the girl’s name. It is a name I’ve never forgotten as the incident was so awful. To make it even worse, Eleanor was somehow related to crazy Sister Hildegarde, and we all knew it. I can still remember Sister Hildegarde storming down the aisle to the back desk, her veil blowing behind her, where she made Eleanor stand up. We always thought of her as poor Eleanor even before the incident. She had teeth which needed braces, was too skinny, not all that bright and was really shy. To have rolled her skirt so high was a defiant, rebellious Eleanor none of us recognized but should have applauded en mass when the incident happened. I’ll never forget Sister Hildegarde standing in front of poor Eleanor berating and yelling at her. Crazy Sister Hildegarde then  grabbed the hem of Eleanor’s skirt and pulled it down to where the rules said it should be. Eleanor never moved and crazy Sister Hildegarde never stopped yelling. Poor Eleanor cried silently, tears streaming down her face. She was humiliated and we were horrified. When Sister Hildegarde was finally finished her attack, Eleanor was told to sit down. She did so without a word. None of us said anything either. We turned around to let Eleanor have as much privacy as a room full of kids and a crazy nun could give her.

After graduating from the eighth grade, I went to a Catholic high school where every one of the nuns was sane. It was in a different town. I never saw Eleanor after the eighth grade. I sometimes wonder about her.

“The schools ain’t what they used to be and never was.”

June 5, 2012

Just read the weather description for Saturday through today and say ditto. It seems it will be like this through at least tomorrow and maybe even Thursday. The sun may deign to appear on Thursday afternoon, but then again, maybe not. My deck has been swept many, many times, but you’d never believe me if you saw the debris on it today.

From the time I was a kid, June was the second best month of the year. December with Christmas beat it out, but June meant no more school and the long anticipated arrival of endless summer days. All the other months paled in comparison. We used to get out early in June, usually before the public schools did. I guess that was our prize for putting up with nuns and wearing uniforms.  I remember the last day was always a half-day used for cleaning out our desks, returning school books and getting our report cards, the ones which announced we’d been promoted. That piece of news was always on the bottom of the back underneath the subjective appraisals about behavior and work habits. The front was for grades in all our subjects, and we had many. My favorite was always silent reading. I figured I got a good grade because my lips didn’t move when I read. We also got grades for penmanship, oral reading, spelling, arithmetic, geography, music, art, religion and science which was paired with health and safety. I don’t remember being taught anything having to do with health and safety so I have no idea what they mean. The back was the fun part: is obedient, is courteous, works well with others, takes care of property, does careful work, finishes work on time and puts forth best effort. The only time you got graded was if you got a NO which I did in the first grade for does careful work and puts forth best effort. I guess a messy paper meant a cavalier approach to learning.

I remember running home on that last day freed for a couple of months from the fetters of a desk, books and a nun in a habit.

“Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”

October 15, 2010

Last night I opened my bedroom window so I could fall asleep to the sound of the rain. I heard the wind and I heard the raindrops tapping on the overhang near my window. It was a lovely way to drift off to dreamland.

The day has yet to make up its mind. Should I be sunny or cloudy?

Yesterday I put the storm door on the front. While I was retrieving it from the cellar, I happened upon a dead mouse. By the looks of it, the mouse had met its heavenly reward a while back. I’m figuring Maddie was the mighty hunter. Fern is the queen who sleeps on a couch pillow.

I used to moan and groan when my mother woke me up for school. Nothing is worse than being torn from a warm bed, forced to eat lumpy oatmeal and made to walk to school in all weather. A kid’s lot is a tough one.

Nobody does well sitting in the same place most of the day, especially if it’s a confining desk, but the nuns kept us in line, mostly from fear of both them and our parents. I don’t ever remember a kid acting up in class. Whispering was the extent of our misbehavior, and you had to do that just right or risk wrath. You ducked your head behind the person in front of you and used a mixture of whispers and hand signals to get your message across while at the same time keeping an eye on the nun in front. Short messages had the best chances of success.

If you got away with it, talking in class was a deed worthy of song, one to be remembered in the annals of time and to be reenacted over and over during recess.