Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I thought I would start a new series of stories today. Once again these are memories from my growing up. Although I have some serious doubt that that is the case. I mean growing up. I grew older, wider, my hair turned white but nope not up. I have always said that there is no future in growing up and mean it. I was cursed by my lucky star at age 13 on the lawn across the street as I lie there with friends and said "I am never gonna forget what it feels like to be a kid". Cursed in a good way. I can't forget what it felt like to be an adolescent. Oh, I can pretend to be an adult but it's boring. I know that is why it was so easy for me to work with kids for so many years and love every tear jerking, hormone blinding, feeling ugly in their skin, can't talk to my folks moment. But this story is from being 6. BTC, before the curse. This is one of my grands favorite story so here goes.

I was a chubby, happy for the most part, 6 year old. My sister had just gotten married and was expecting my neice. My brother had joined the Air Force and was in basic training. And it was time for me to start first grade.

My parents, were friends of people who were a little on the upwardly mobile, Mom's didn't work, living near the country club and trying to keep up with the Jones' (in our case the Hernandez' and Alarids'). So when their daughters, my play mates, enrolled in St. Vincent's Catholic Academy for girls, so did my Methodist self. That should be your first clue as to part of the dilemna. I had not a clue about Catholicism, nuns or really strict rules. I was the baby. My bro and sis were 11 and 12 years older than me. I lived in a house with a bunch of self involved adults which meant I pretty much did my thing by myself.

We had to wear uniforms, which itched, were plaid and very unattractive in my eyes. So I would try to sneak another skirt underneath the uni. This is pre Vatican 2, I think and no meat on Friday was the rule. Huh? My Mom sent me sandwiches with meat in them. Nuns took them away and made me eat in the cafeteria. What? You say I have to eat all of everything? You have got to be kidding me, not at my house. But then I wasn't in my house. Didn't have a head clothe to attend mass, had to wear a kleenex on my head, kept taking it off. Okay so the nuns were not happy with me. So everyday at lunch, Sister Mary Geraldine, head of the hate Linda club, would take my lunchbox away from me dump the contents in the garbage, then sit with me while I ate every bite of food off of my tray. And I got the message that because there were starving kids in other places was why they were stuffing me with crap food I didn't like????? And why didn't they just send them the stuff from my lunchbox and back off from me? Anyway, like a good Pavlov experiment, I learned to puke upon hearing the lunch bell. And then again when it was time for mass, and also anytime Sister Mary "torture you" came near.

She then turned to the tact of osterization of the chubby girl in the uniform that didn't fit because she puked on the one she wore from home. I mean it was completely open in the back, showed my ruffled panties and all. She told the other girls that if any of them played with me, they would go to hell because I was an evil child......(she didn't have any idea how right she was).

I was in a car pool with my girls in the hood and they wouldn't even sit in the same seat with me. I was afraid to tell my Mom cuz they were having to scrap money together to get tuition for school anyway and boy did I already know that discusssion inside and out. So I took my problem and stuffed it. Even went to the principals office everyday after the lunch puke and was paddled with a paddle and told I was bad. I just explained to her, Mother Superior "smack my butt", that I was spoiled and that is why I acted the way I did. This went on for 3 more weeks. Until one day when my Mom was picking us up and wanted Renee to sit in the back with me instead of both of the other girls crowding in the front seat and was told I was evil and she didn't want to go to hell. My Mom left us sitting in the parking lot and went inside to get the "what the hell" from the principal. Really I think she went to give them nine shades of it.

After that, I was the only girl who had ever withdrawn from this prestigious school, others had been asked to leave but my Mom left them with an earful, to hear her tell the story, of Methodist wisdom about Christian kindness, etc.

The first day of public school, I puked when the bell rang for lunch. My first grade teacher's name was Mrs. Sandman. She was the kindest, most understanding, nurturing lady to have put up with a very mixed up child like me. She made me love school, teachers and fairness. She taught me that I was worth taking time with. She gave me back a piece of myself that had been taken away. She was a shining star for a kid who feared those woman in black....friends of no one as far as I could tell.

This is a happy story for me now. I have used it a million times with youngsters to teach a lesson of good outcomes, tolerance, kindness and forgiveness. I could have made it the cornerstone of a horrible set of feelings towards others but Mrs. Sandman would have been so disappointed if I didn't make it all for good.....and she wore a tree of life ring ( found one in an antique store here, bought it and hoped it had been hers) and every once in awhile you could see the star in a circle pendant on her necklace. Hmmmmmm, I wonder.........................


  1. Yes, it makes you wonder...let's hope so...

  2. Well, just got off the phone with you, but had to comment about your story. First of all, HOW BLOODY AWFUL!!!! My experiences in Catholic schools were nothing like that, in fact, I believe that much has to do with which order of Sisters are at the helm. We were educated by Sisters of Loretto and Jesuit priests. I have a friend that was brought up in Brooklyn, NY and she had similar stories of such maltreatment of students and she was Catholic through and through. I'm not saying our nuns were perfect. I remember my second grade teacher...funny, I can no longer recall her name, just Sister!!hahaha!! Anyway, she was also a bully with me. I was the biggest kid in the class so I was easy to spot. She made my life so miserable and I did tell my parents, but my mother, back in those days, told me I must be doing something wrong. She went to visit that dawg and she, of course, was just as sweet to my mother as she could be and told her she just adored me...liar! OH, just remembered her name, Sister Victoriana...bitch.

    Then there was the nun in 6th grade who was our religious teacher (thank God I had a wonderful lay teacher except for religion and music) and during that time, those little troll dolls were very popular....they were referred to as Dammit Dolls. Everyone of those girls had hers sitting prominently on their desks but guess who she zoomed got it. My sister, 4 years older, was the student star in our family so when I came along, it was like, WTF!!! This nun was always comparing me to my sister, St. Letty, and she told me that day that Letty would never own one of those little "pagan idols" because she was good and smart. I told Sister Lucille Marie that not only did Letty have one, but 3 huge big ass ones (ok, didn't use ass)! Guess who went down to the principals office for being insubordinate and disrespectful??? Luckily, the nun downstairs liked me...she thought I was a funny kid. She wanted to hear my side of the story since the nun from upstairs had blathered on and on about my comeback. She told me I shouldn't speak back to sister and that she didn't want to see anymore of those little dolls (only because she had gotten other complaints from teachers and she was tired of hearing about it). She assured me she would make the announcement official and she did during our afternoon prayers and announcements.

    Hey, I got millions of stories about Catholic schools. There was a series of books published years ago called, "Growing Up Catholic" for our generation and they were hilarious!!! I suppose I didn't think of other religions since I grew up with mostly Jews and some protestants in our neighborhood...there was never any prejudice among us our or our parents. I would give my neighbor, next door, bacon every Saturday since he wasn't allowed to eat pork....was our secret but when his parents found out later, they roared...every Christmas we send them over red chile tamales made with pork...again, no biggie.

    Ok, I've rambled long enough. The maid's gone and my dogs are hungry, so gots to go.

    Love ya mucho,

  3. Oh, kids can be so cruel, can't they? I had a teacher like yours, also. His name was Mr. Ferguson and when the kids were cruel to me...and they were because of my dad...Mr. Ferguson was always there for me.

  4. Great story, I grew up in Utah, My dad was catholic, my mother a mormon. I went to public school but still didn't quite fit so I can sympathize somewhat.


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