Tue 30 Mar 2010
As a kid, I attended St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Hubbard, Ohio. My uniform was sharp-creased navy blue dress pants with a crisp white shirt and clip-on tie. We had ‘lay teachers’ (ordinary civilians), but we were also taught by ruler-wielding nuns who smacked palms into submission. The pain told the brain and body to obey.
One tormentor-in-habit used to give me an open-hand whack across the chops because she thought I was tormenting her on purpose with my ignorance in math. I wasn’t– I really was that stupid with the ‘new math’, and her instilling fear in me certainly didn’t help matters. I’d laugh at her slaps (being class clown, I had to save face) which only get her angrier. But at least she’d let me sit back down again with one cheek out of four stinging.
I was subjected to some pretty inventive disciplinary actions by nuns: holding erasers with arms outstretched for long stretches of time or kneeling on the floor and placing my nose into a small circle that the nun had drawn on the blackboard. Gitmo had nothing on the good Sisters.Regardless of my dark nun memories, I have fond memories of my angelic, idyllic nun: The Singing Nun, Sœur Sourire (Sister Smile), AKA: Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers, a Belgian woman of the beads who recorded an international hit song “Dominique” in the teeth of Beatlemania. She appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show (I remember it and was captivated– it would be years later when nuns would subject me to their disciplinarian ways). They made a movie of her life where a younger, prettier woman played the good Sister–Debbie Reynolds.
The real Sœur Sourire had a guitar, a song and an angelic voice. The song “Dominique” would occupy a warm cubbyhole in the corridors of my consciousness. Years later, when the real nuns disciplined me, I would hear the joyful song of The Singing Nun and feel comforted. I believed She of the guitar would never have subjected me to pain. But I could have been wrong in my assumption, after all, she never had to teach me math.
Enjoy the song from the movie and let it take residence in your psyche. If you have a nun tale to tell, do tell. I harbor no ill will at the good nuns, they’re all saints to me. Some of the saints had a mean right cross to the head.