Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Nuns Never Hit Us

I looked out of my window this morning and saw the flowers blooming. We planted bulbs in our little garden and they are producing flowers (or, at least, popping up). Spring has arrived and, with it, memories of the nuns at my grammar school.

I will always associate the smell of flowers with the nuns' school. We seemed to have them all the time in the spring as the students would bring them in from home. I was returning one day after lunch and saw some colorful flowers in the woods, so I cut them and gave them to the nun. Unfortunately, the bouquet contained ragweed and several students started sneezing. I can only imagine the conversation at supper in the convent that night.

From 1947 to 1956, I cannot remember ever being hit, embarassed or humiliated by the nuns. I do remember being insulted by the laywoman who taught fifth grade. The nuns treated us with respect and I returned it by passing it on to others. It was one of the biggest lessons I learned from them and it has stayed with me all these years: if you want someone to respect you, then you respect them first.

I learned another lesson, too, but I don't know what started it. Apparently, some students made nasty remarks about our eighth-grade teacher and she eventually heard them. She came into the classroom and made some vague remarks about the situation (apparently those involved would know) and ended with, "it always gets back." I've remembered that over the years. Yes, it always gets back; so don't say it. Or, since it always gets back, make sure it's something nice. People like to know that someone is saying nice things about them.

We had a reunion 37 years after our grammar school graduation. No good reason; someone just felt like having it and many of the students showed up, along with three of the nuns. The old gals said they could only stay a while, as it was an hour drive back to the motherhouse and, at that time of night, it would be a bit much for them at their age. To nobody's surprise, they were the last ones out.

Everybody has a story.

A local priest died recently. Ordinary guy, perhaps a little more active than most inasmuch as his ministry had taken him to distant places and he met some big people, but he was as down to earth as you would ever want a person to be. What he absolutely never spoke about to anyone was the approximately two years he spent in a Japanese prisoner camp in the Philippines when he happened to be in that country when they invaded it. Whatever they did to him was more than he wanted to remember, or could speak of. But when the New York World's Fair opened, he made a point of going in and out of the Japanese exhibit because, he said, the doormen had to bow to each visitor. He had to bow to them so often in that camp, he wanted them to bow to him as often as possible.


Blogger Reading Reader said...

Great stuff. I didn't go to Catholic School, but the nuns that taught us CCD in elementary school were fabulous. Some were very young and pretty, too. I loved them a lot.

April 09, 2006 10:58 AM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

We thought it was a sin to see their ears (hardly possible as they were quite covered in those years) and guessed that their hair was the same color as their eyebrows.

April 09, 2006 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Cold Josh Vail said...

You know you mentioned the nuns and their docility etc. I went to a school which was run by the Dominicans, and from sixth grade up we had sister Henrietta, tall and straight who I doubt ever smiled in her life on earth. She did not seem to have a temper problem, however several of us back row boys in the class were recipients of he slaps. In fact, a friend of mine, Kenny did something, I forget now, and she pushed him under his desk and kicked him. Kenny was a tough kid, from a poor family in a bad side of the city, and he got out from under the desk, stood up and punched her in the mouth. We never saw Kenny after that.

Sister Amata, who must have been at least 124 years old wielded one mean three-sided ruler. She was the pre-cursor of Maxine and in her class she was ''da boss'', and I guess nearly half the boys in that class had their knuckles rapped over the school year.

Now, that didn't bother me. What bothered me was being punished for whatever and having to spend Saturday mornings washing the convent windows. My father would help me out a bit and bring a mess of fish over to them. Actually what that did was that my father and mother became more intimate with the nuns whom I suspected laid it down on them on what a troublemaker I had become since my earlier years there when I was a darling. My mom used to invite the mover for a picnic in the yard. Sister Amata would come over and funny how I found her to be a real nice person. Good old Maxine!

Enjoy reading you stuff. Very versatile. You must have touched many avenues in life to be able to venture into these subjects

April 12, 2006 1:24 PM  

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