Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Was A Boarding School Brat.... Part 3


The first year I was sent away to boarding school I was placed in the *dorms* which is where all freshmen & newbies lived. You had a bed, a dresser, a wooden locker style closet (which held maybe 5 hangers of clothes) and a privacy curtain (that was just like a hospital room curtain). Not that we needed that much space. We wore uniforms 5 days per week. Still, you had to learn to mesh with all the other girls that you'd really rather not mesh with. Especially freshmen, when I was a sophomore. But those were the *first year rules*, degrading as they were. The *first year rules* made making new friends from my own class difficult, because they had all already been together for a year. They also had semi-private rooms which meant only one roommate instead of 10 to 15. Unlike me, the newbie.

So, I chose the next best thing. I became the *pet* friend of all the senior girls and many of the juniors, my first year. I don't think there was ever a graduating class bigger than 15 and mine was only 11. Anyway, life was grand and I was *in* with all the cool girls, the older girls. I could always go hang out with them in their private rooms (like Heaven to a Dormie), listen to records (yes, those big black plastic looking thingys that we used to play on Hi-Fi Stereo Systems, lol), and talk about boys. Mostly them talking about boys. That's what I was there for. To listen. To soak up all their infinite wisdom, for whatever it was worth. I paid attention.

We also rolled one another's hair on orange juice cans or beer cans, depending on the length of your hair and what you were able to sneak in without notice (beer cans). I also had a friend pierce my ears, without asking permission from my mother (because I knew her answer was going to be the same as always: "Only sluts have pierced ears, wear ankle strap shoes, wear ankle bracelets and have tattoos. Are you a slut?") This is a teensy glimpse into my mother issues. Welcome to my world. So, I brazenly paraded around the dorms with clothes pins attached to my ear lobes for more than an hour, in order to deaden them. Then after my friend had sterilized the threaded needle with a match she'd stolen from Cozy Corner, I became a full-fledged, bonafied, pierced ears, street-walking slut. I had pierced ears. Whoooo... I knew that the caca (shit) would soon be hitting the el fan-o.

Unfortunately, my lobes became infected, which meant a call to the Brown Recluse because I had to take some penicillin. She cut me off financially except for the bare neccesseties and instructed me to learn to live with it. She always was a softie, The Brown Recluse. Which meant I was not able to go on any of the field trips & excursions. Nor was I allowed to go home with any friends for a weekend. I had willingly defiled my own body by piercing my ears, became a full-fledged slut & then let the ears get infected, which cost her more money.

However, being the clever boarding school girl that I was, I found strength in the strangest places on those weekends when everyone else was gone. When I became bored I wandered around the school until I found the kitchen (oh yeah, there's a surprise), where I soon became friendly with the nuns in the kitchen. Most of us had never seen who worked in the kitchen, much less cared. The nun who actually ran the kitchen was Sister Herman Joseph, which I always thought was weird because she had a man's name, lol. She was a very large woman with a really stern looking brow. Until she laughed. Then, she looked like Mrs. Santa Claus and I adored her.

A couple of the kitchen nuns were postulants, meaning that they were still in the early stages of becoming a nun and had not yet taken their final vows, so they were more friendly. One of them spoke broken English with a German accent (Maria Katarina) and the other had a kind of Yankee drawl to her speech (Mary Francis) and she wore the most gawd-awful black horn-rimmed glasses with the thickest lenses I had ever seen. They were both wonderful to me on those lonely weekends and were major contributors to my weight gain in the long run. They always wanted me to eat for some reason, and I was all too happy to comply. Sometimes I just sat on a stool to the side and watched everyone work in the huge kitchen. Just because the students were gone, didn't mean there weren't still meals to be prepared. So, I watched and I ate until I wanted to barf, returning to my room just in time to yell "Timber!" as I hit the pillow.

I'm not really sure how many nuns were actually there at any given time. Although we went to Mass every morning, the nuns all filed silently into their pews & kneeled in the back of the chapel, as always. Vespers was the same, as was Benediction. Unless you were late, you might not ever know how many penguins were really there. That's how I found out, and it took my breath away. Some on walkers. Some on canes. Some in wheelchairs. There was one reaaaaally old nun who was hunched over, wore a hearing aid and walked with a cane. One day when I was late for Chapel, she was just going in too. She had the sweetest little grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye that truly caught me off guard. So, I asked her if I could assist her and she actually let me. Her name was Sister Appassionata, which I decided was the perfect name for her, in agreement with whoever gave her the name after she married God. She always reminded me of a little Leprechaun, Really! I'd be willing to bet that many years ago, under that black & white Habit, red hair grew in massive curls upon her Blessed head. She was always such a sweetie.

The other one I remember is Sister Carmelita. I remember her because she was the only one in a wheelchair then and I was so surprised that she wasn't Latino. You know, because of her name. I was young & un-Catholic, ok? She didn't want anyone helping her, as I soon found out. Feisty old Catholic nun broad. I stayed away from her at all costs.

Since students (especially non-Catholic students) were not allowed in many of the vespers conducted during the holidays, I was always hell-bent on finding out what kind of strange rituals they carried on with. I was convinced that they danced around in the moonlight @ night without their habits, but that simply wasn't so. These were deeply religious, good, kind women who loved God and I was always in awe of their dedication to their religion as well as their profession as teachers. I know this because at the end of every floor of students' rooms there was a huge, gorgeous stained glass window. On the other side of that stained glass window was The Chapel. I listened many nights with a cup to the glass. All I ever heard were the dedicated chants & prayers of good Catholic nuns. I found great solace in that. For a whole year I was convinced that I wanted to become Catholic so that I could be a nun, like them. Even though I wasn't Catholic, these women had a profound influence on me and in helping to shape me into the woman I am today. I didn't know it then, but I am immensely grateful to all of them.

To be continued...

7 comments:

Daryl E said...

Sounds to me as if you out-foxed the Brown Recluse .. those weekends at school clearly did more for you than a weekend at a friend's (but I am equally sure it didnt seem that way at the time)...Daryl

brneyedgal967 said...

LOL - you were convinced you wanted to be a nun? LMAO

Sister Snooty Primadonna. That might actually work.

Asthmagirl said...

I just read parts one, two and three. What a hoot. I think your mother and mine were seperated at birth! Although I never did anything dreadful enough to get sent to a nunnery (that she knew of!).

Thanks for a great story (so far)!

noble pig said...

Oh the Brown Recluse...that just kills me.

My Aunt is a nun. She's 82 now and lives in OHIO. Deeply religious and I was always in awe of her.

She would come to California every summer and stay with my family for 6 weeks where my brother and I would see her without a habit and we were always, always amazed. It was so dang exciting to see that veil come off!

Snooty Primadona said...

Daryl: Yup, it was a constant effort to stay ahead of the Brown Recluse. She never was able to break my spirit, lol.

Tammy, don't laugh! I was really serious. For about a month. LOL!

Asthmagirl: I'm sorry you had a Brown Recluse too. They like to make life hell for everyone.

Noble Pig: You mean they could take the habits off during vacation? Who knew?

scargosun said...

The school I went to was a "Mother House" too for the IHM nuns. When they asked me if I wanted to become one I seriously told them, "Navy blue isn't my color." A neighbor had given me a gift certificate at age 12 to 'have my colors done' and navy blue wasn't one of them. I wasn't even being a smart arse.

elizasmom said...

ooh, I am loving this series — I am learning about all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies of your life. Fascinating.

And Brown Recluse? HAH!

 

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