Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sister Catherine Regina Cut the Bells Off My Go-Go Boots

It's hard to imagine that I ever got an entire column outta Sister Catherine Regina cutting the bells off my go-go boots, because really: the whole story is right there in the headline. Everyone wonders why I hate the holidays? My grandmother threaded jingle bells through the toes of those go-go boots, and when Sister cut them off, I had to try to re-lace the boots at Recess, from toe to knee. Aaaaaaand I didn't know how to tie my own shoes. I also didn't yet know how to tell time, so I can't even tell you how long it took.

Everyone I know seems to recall their early childhood years as Prodigies -- let me tell you right now, I wasn't one. I couldn't even tell my right from left till... well, fairly recently. I only know of three exceptions: I was potty-trained at one -- about 5 seconds after I took my first step, according to my mother.  I also spoke verrrrry early (surprising precisely no one), and my first word was: Book. My grandmother handed me one, and then I reportedly shut up for awhile. Til I learned how to read, a short time after, and then I suppose I figured I had something to contribute to the discourse.)

In addition to the unfortunate go-go boot episode, Sister also taped Kathy With a K's mouth shut (cause she talked too much), and in a fairly prescient move, tied Cathy with a C's knees together with a jump rope (it was cause she wouldn't sit like a lady, but, in retrospect....) As you can see from my Basic Instinct moment in this photo -- I'm the backlit blonde -- that punishment might've better benefited me. (I wasn't allowed to wear dresses or skirts on picture day after that.)

Still, the next pic is Sister Catherine Regina reading the Little House series to us -- a good jump on Book Club. Again, I'm the blonde in the middle -- and that ethereal glow isn't my Holy Light from within, it's just the flash. As I flip through the rest of that yearbook, I notice things like "Class hosts an Indian meal" (tandoori, not maize) and "Latin students build model of Rome" and "Ana and Isabel re-join their old schoolmate Carmen from Spain." I can see that every page is filled with a mix of unpronouncable names and kids of every color from every country (a remarkable thing in 60s era Appalachia). I remember my Dad taking one of my classes on a hay ride and commenting on how excited he was for those hills to hear so many different languages for the first time in their history.

Bake sales were always my favorite day (not surprisingly) and the inscription on that photo from Sister Agnes Marian says, "I wish I could serve you Cake everyday." That's my blonde head on the left, leaning over the pastries. (The more things change...)

Our parish and our school was largely populated by a big group of smart and progressive thinkers. Evolution was taught in every science class (no one ever mentioned "creationism" -- if a kid happened to ask about the 7 days, a nun would usually ask them to "define metaphor"). The Old Testament literalism was respectfully explained in terms of Levitican and Kashrud law, and new testament charity was practiced every day -- feeding the hungry, visiting the sick -- they hauled us out on the street and put our asses to work.

Those nuns are the reason you will never hear me say, "oh, I consider myself Spiritual, not Religious," (that and the fact that it's the easiest way you'll ever find to rule out a prospective date based on how pretentious he is). Yeah, yeah, terrible things are done in the name of religion. Terrible things are done in the name of Pie too, grow up.

It was 12 good years -- no scandals, and no tragedies, beyond the occasional unexpected car wreck fatality. The very worst thing that happened to me was Sister Catherine Regina cutting the bells off my go-go boots.

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