I have to go to Goodnight’s school for teacher conferences after work today. I’m not expecting to learn much that I don’t already know. I have electronic access to her grades, her homework, etc. whenever I want to. So does she.
As I make mental preparations for the conferences, I can already feel myself drifting back to my own grade school days . . .
I attended grades 1-8 at Our Perpetual Mother of the Below the Knee Hemline Catholic School in Smalltownville. Nuns taught nearly every grade level. The principal was a nun. In fact, Sister PleaseBeQuietNow is still alive, retired, and living at the Mother House less than three miles from where I currently live. (I hope she doesn’t read blogs, because I am about to . . . ‘spill the beans’ in lay-speak. We Catholics call it confession (well reconciliation, now, but I’m not sure any reconciliation can take place after this post.)
I spent my formative years jumping to my feet whenever the classroom door opened, ready to recite the rote greeting to whomever was about to enter. It was almost always someone wearing black . . .
I tried to be good, really. I memorized the Baltimore Catechism, fell in love with the voice of the guy who narrated the St. John’s film strip series, saved money for ‘pagan babies’ and went to church every Saturday morning with my best friend. It was our job to take the little metal tabs out of the bottom of the vigil light glasses and stick in the new candles so they would be ready for the weekend Masses.
Who knew that reciting the altar boy’s Latin responses with them would get me into trouble? (Who did they think the older brothers practiced with?) I took a flying eraser in the face when the boy for whom it was intended ducked in front of me. No apology. My kid sister threw up in class one day and they called me in to clean it up.
When I got to the 8th grade, I had to wash dishes in the cafeteria after lunch. It wasn’t terrible – they gave us chocolate pudding, but I would have rather been outside at recess. At least I got to use the Hobart.
I washed a lot of dishes in 8th grade . . . and ate a lot of chocolate pudding . . . but school lost its luster after missing so many recesses.
One day, an opportunity fell in place – sort of.
I washed the last dish, ate my pudding, and noticed that the nuns were still sitting around talking. I thought I might have a moment to run around on the playground. I left the lunchroom in the church basement and as I closed the door behind me, I noticed the handles. Hmmm . . . . I wonder if . . . sticking something . . . through both handles . . . . would make it a little harder to . . . . open the door.
I looked around and found a very large stick. I shoved it through the handles and skipped up the steps and out of the church to play.
Everyone in the school got a longish recess that day, but no one knew why. It ended about an hour later when the nuns figured out how to get out through the boiler room. (I knew they would. I had been that way before myself. It just took them longer than me to figure it out.)
When the line of nuns emerged from behind the church, looking like a line of marching penguins, they saw hundreds of happy children still playing outside. It was a wonderful . . . except for the huffy breaths that Sister CanISpankThem was making.
In the end, though I never admitted the deed, I think they figured it out because I got an E- in Deportment on my next report card.
When I asked the nun why she gave me an E-, she said, “Because it will make a great story when you re-tell it.”
When I asked her why she didn’t just give me an F, she said, “Because you’re not a failure.”
I know Goodnight won’t get any E- in Deportment. They don’t even have that on her report card. But if I hear any stories this afternoon that leave me feeling like I haven’t set a good example, I’ll remind her that she’s not a failure either . . . . . and then I’ll blame my mother!!!!!!