In order to reach my destination of Ursuline from Aspen, I had to fly a puddle-jumper called Aspen Airways (which we not so lovingly referred to as Gasp & Scareways) from Aspen to Denver. From Denver, I had to take a big old jet airliner to St. Louis. Once I reached St. Louis, I took a taxicab from the airport to the main train terminal. From there, I caught the train to school in Arcadia/Ironton/Pilot Knob (which was one stop for all). It was always a fun train ride in spite of all the stops along the way. There was always either a worker from the school or a nun, at the station, to drive us the three miles to school, with our trunks and various other forms of baggage in tow. I always loved the train ride and the dining car and the porters. I also didn't mind that there were always lots of cute guys headed back to Kemper Military, to flirt unmercifully with. The train had an air that seemed more like the 1950's than the 1960's and it was always an adventure. For some reason it always made me feel sophisticated. I wasn't. I always tried to act sophisticated and order a martini, but they were always on to me, no doubt.
Upon arrival at Ursuline my junior year, I discovered that I had a *newbie* roommate. Apparently the newbie girls from Mexico did not have to spend their first 6 months in a dorm of completely dorky freshmen. I assumed that they were in enough of a culture shock as it was. I was deflated when I found out that she was from Mexico and spoke no English. Great, I thought. However, when I did finally get to meet my roomie, Lucia Begonia Guttierrez, we embarked upon a lifelong friendship. Her father was a diplomat in Guanajuato. I soon learned that girls in Mexico graduated from high school at 15, then the better Catholic families would send their daughters to Catholic boarding school in the States, to learn English and math. Ursuline had been educating girls from Mexico since the 1920's and the procedures had not changed much since then.
As it turned out, Lucia was a quick study & learned English fairly well, while I was basically sucking at my development of speaking Spanish. She did, however, teach me all the cuss words in Spanish. Those have always come in quite handy. Also, we could could cuss in front of the nuns (most of them) and they didn't have a clue.
There was one girl from Italy, one girl from Buenos Aires, and around 15 or so girls from Mexico. Each one was assigned an American roomie so that they would be forced to use the English they were learning. I used to think was so harsh, but now I realize what a wise decision it was. Too bad it didn't help me. Caca. Chichis. Chingado. Puta. Yup, there it is. Almost my entire repertoire of Spanish words, aside from the obvious ones like Mucho gusto. Buenas Dias. and Tardes. and Noches. Por Favor. Gracias. De Nada. El Banyo? (this is a very important one) Aqui. Aque. Loco en la cabesa. La Cocina. The days of the week. I can count to 20. (kinda) And a lovely little song my roomie taught me before she could speak English. I still know it to this day and can sing it almost all the way through. Since we were in the same room, we used to work on it after *lights out*, which was 9:00 pm. Sometimes when I'd screw up the words she would giggle till she was in tears.
Slowly, we became friends and I learned what a jokester she was. For the entire first six months since we were roomies, she would receive *care packages* from her mother, filled with cans of huge cheese stuffed jalapenos, cans of tuna stuffed jalapenos, and all sorts of gourmet delights I'd never tasted, much less heard of. Since I was always hungry (now I know it was an emotional hunger) we ate her goodies from home every afternoon before study hall. Which had me in a fiery hell of pain that tortured me all the way until dinner. Oh, how she giggled with the delight of her scheme, while I suffered FOR SIX MONTHS. I guess she at last decided I was a worthy friend, therefore letting me in on her secret. She then finally told me that salt was the remedy. After watching me freaking out over the pain of the heat I'd had to endure for six months. Which actually cracked me up. That she had done that to me for six months & I was so dumb, I let her. Lessons learned, baby.
Lucia was also my partner in crime on many of the nights I would listen in on the chapel, via the stained glass window, with my trusty glass. There were times that we got the insane giggles so badly, that we thought for sure we were busted or else going to pee in our pants. Thankfully, most of the nuns were pretty much deaf or someplace really close to that. We somehow escaped being discovered. We also avoided peeing in our pants. Little did I know that somewhere in my distant future I would some day have to wear Depends. (Not yet. But I see it in my future, lol) When the giggling got reeeeeeally bad, we fled back to our room in total hysterics, convinced that we would be discovered at any moment. Once we got back to the room, we'd jump in our beds, pull the covers over our heads and PRAY like crazy. I now have no recollection of why it was so funny, just that it was.
Now, during the Winter months the Ursuline nuns always wore full-length black habits with crisp, white around their faces. However, when it warmed up in the Spring, they would all change to their Summer whites. I can't begin to express to you how creepy it was to see one of them coming down the hall at night. Especially if you were out of bed and if it was a week night. If caught, you received a *pink slip* and after so many pink slips you got to do a TOUCHDOWN. You know how I feel about Touchdowns. Pink slips could also prevent you from getting to go town on Saturdays or Teen Town (a dance everyone wanted to attend, held on the first Sunday night of every month). All of the nuns carried little pads of pink slips around in their deep, hidden pockets, ever at the ready. Like it was a six-gun or something. Believe me, they could have out-drawn any bad guy in the Old West. They were fast and they were sneaky. Well, not really sneaky, now that I think about it from the adult mind's eye. I suppose there were so many of them that it merely seemed that way. Just like penguins, I tell you.
Mexican families were very strict, but my roomie's family was particularly so, which meant that Lucia was doomed to stay weekends at the school, with with Poor Pitiful Me. The other girls from Mexico were busy going home with friends for the weekend. Which made it much less lonely on weekends & holidays. Her use of the English language always cracked me up and still does. Although I'm certain my misuse of the Spanish language gives her far more entertainment value.
There was one senior girl whose parents lived in Thailand my junior year. They were American, so they sent their daughter Anne off to America to school every year. Anyway, one weekend we were the only three at school and Anne wanted to trek over to behind the gymnasium for a smoke. Lucia & I looked at each other with eyes wide, then our grins got even wider. We were definitely game.
Now, there was this one nun named Sister Assumpta (who was my *dorm mother* the first year) who would occasionally slip out to join us in a smoke behind the gym. It's a miracle that she wasn't with us that day. It was a well known rule that if you were caught smoking @ Ursuline, the punishment was bad. Which is why it was always so hilarious that Asuumpta came with us. Anyway, so there we were acting like we had the habit reeeeeally bad and just puffing away. All three of us still had on our uniforms because it was Friday of the weekend and we'd just gotten out of classes, bid our friends goodbye and saw that the nuns were off to vespers before we launched our excellent smoking plan.
We were talking about something brilliant, I'm sure, when Anne whispered "Shhhh!" She said she thought someone coming, so we all three stubbed our cigarettes out and put them in our blazer pockets and started walking around the corner of the gym with purpose, as if we'd all just been on a brisk walk together. We ran into, and almost knocked down, Mother de Lourdes. Crap! Shit. Caca. She was the one nun that could see through ALL of us and our deviously executed schemes, no matter the brilliancy. She was a real spoil sport, let me assure you. I guess she was just as shocked to see us as we were to see her, as it seems she was saying her prayers outdoors that day. She stopped, looked at us with those eyes, and continued on. It felt like we stood there with our gaping mouths hanging open for an eternity, but I believe it was more like a couple of minutes.
When the 3 of us recovered from our blinding initial shock, we burst into laughter and ran all the way back to the dorms cackling like a bunch of little witches. We had escaped Sudden Death. Yes! We were triumphant and quite pleased with ourselves. Oh yes we were. By the time we reached the main building we were still laughing and almost gasping from being out of breath, and as the Dinner Bell was being rung. Which gave us approximately 7 minutes to run upstairs and drop off our blazers, because we were afraid they'd smell like smoke. Lucia and I met back up with Anne in a couple of minutes & went in to eat.
Roughly about 20 minutes after we had gone in to eat in the student's dining room, we were finished with dinner and ready to hit Rec Room, where we were allowed to play table tennis or listen to records & dance or occasionally watch an approved television show or two, in black & white, of course. There were lots of board games (that no one ever wanted to play) as well. I'll never forget that we were just getting ready to watch The Fugitive when the BIG Fire Alarm went off. We all knew what to do and headed back upstairs in order to reach the outside, groaning because we were going to miss a rare opportunity to watch TV. Most of the nuns in the main building (floor mistresses) were out on the lawn, where we joined them.
A minute later you could hear the fire engines on their way from town out to the school, so we were fairly certain it must be serious. I believe it was around 30 minutes before the firemen finally loaded back up on their truck and disappeared into the darkness and toward town. We were all being allowed back in, so we said goodnight to the nuns and to Anne and went our seperate ways. It was obvious to me that it must not have been too bad because we didn't smell anything and no one was revealing to us what it was. Must have been a false alarm.
The next morning we got up to our usual routines and when the Breakfast Bell rang, we headed to the dining room to meet up with Anne. Anne didn't show up, which was odd. Had she overslept, her floor mistress would have been in to give her a nudge. Maybe she decided she wasn't hungry. As soon as we were finished we headed up to Anne's room to see what the deal was but were cut-off by the Posse... her floor mistress, Mother Monica. She informed us we weren't needed on the senior floor and that we should immediately find somplace else to be.
Hmmm... So, Lucia & I went in search of Sister Assumpta. She'd know where Anne was & what was going on. We found Assumpta in her little cubicle in the freshman dorm and when she heard us, she came out to greet us. It looked like she'd been crying. She told us that Anne had evidently not exstinguished her smoke entirely, before putting it in her blazer pocket. When she'd gone back to her room to leave her blazer, she hung it on the back of her door. Apparently, it ignited with the dry cleaning fluid, caught the door on fire, then damaged about half her room.
This is how Lucia looks today, with her hubby. She hasn't changed a bit since high school. The Bitch.
Anyway, Anne had been expelled. No arguments. No protests. No goodbyes. She was just gone. Lucia & I never smoked on the school grounds again and I highly doubt that Sister Assumpta did either. Only in town. At the Cozy Corner Cafe. I did not need that kind of trouble with The Brown Recluse. No indeed.