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.
'Sister Smile' sang, and I swooned.
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.
He chased the snakes, now in honor of him, we chase the blues with green beer.
I got my under-under-under graduate degree from St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Hubbard, Ohio. It was back in the days when nuns scoured classrooms in search of children under the influence of Satan. They wielded rulers of punishment and itched to dispense swift corrective discipline to evil wrongdoers. I still have the red palms to prove their mighty swings.
At St. Pat’s, St. Patrick’s Day was a big deal. Although the student population was probably 80% non-Irish kids, everyone wanted to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I was Irish on St. Paddy’s Day, and pretty much every day, and I resented these freeloaders hijacking ‘our’ holiday. All the Italian and Slavic kids sported lots of green on St. Patrick’s Day. In protest, I never wore green on the sainted day.
“Hey, Scullin,” Bobbie Vespucci would accost me dressed in green necktie and shamrock lapel pin, “you’re Irish, right? Where’s your green?”
“I don’t have to wear green,” I’d say coolly, wishing I had a shillelagh to clobber his skull, “I don’t have to pretend to be Irish–– I am Irish.” This would cheese off all the wannabes in their green. I’m sure they’d have liked to pummel me until I wore red dripping down my shirt. Let’s face it, nothing is more threatening to kids than the one who won’t succumb to peer pressure (“you’re all jumping off the cliff? No thanks, I’ll pass.”). Rebelling was a beautifully Irish thing to do.
St. Paddy's celebration is enough to make you vomit green.
Today I still rebel against St. Patrick’s Day. You won’t find me in some faux Irish pub trying to swim upstream through the sea of oppressive flesh to get my jar of Guinness. I shant drink the black love until the foam seeps up my gullet and back up my gob (your body’s subtle way of saying it’s “FULL”) and have my innards projectile onto some stranger’s Timberlands. It’s amateur hour, the whole St. Paddy’s Day bar-hopping-pub-crawling-beer-guzzling-puke-encrusted-shirt affair.
St. Patrick’s Day has grown in importance and popularity thanks to the marketing efforts of beer companies and booze distillers. The holiday is now an alcoholic tidal wave that the masses gladly surf. As an adman, I don’t begrudge these marketers anything (I do have contempt for the florists and greeting card people, though–– the shameless money-grubbing hucksters). St. Patrick’s Day has grown in popularity because adults just don’t seem to have much fun anymore. At least not sanctioned fun.
Like Halloween, St. Pat’s is a holiday where it’s fine for adults to get silly and let their inhibitions down (the liquid courage comes in handy). It’s Christmas without the presents. The growing popularity of St. Patrick’s Day proves that society is pretty uptight and could stand to let off some steam.
Maybe we need to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day year ‘round. This doesn’t mean we have to get blasted and stumble home. But perhaps we could loosen up, have a wee bit of the fun a wee bit more often, without beer companies telling us it’s time to do so.
Maybe we could not be so slavish to our Blackberries or iPhones. Perhaps we could try and resist being in a perpetual state of frantic pandemonium; dodging deadlines and covering our arses with voicemail and e-mail crumbs.
Imagine actually slowing down a tad, not living by a self-imposed over-scheduled schedule of kiddie activities and obligation to our TIVO as it gathers gobs of entertainment for our escape from reality.
Imagine stopping, for just a moment, breathing deeply and exhaling slowly. Maybe stretching, sitting and doing nothing but letting your mind wander (a free range brain is a beautiful thing).
Indulge, babes. Take a nap. Call an old friend. Write a letter and thank an old teacher, mentor, client or associate. Listen, actually listen to some of your favorite music. Re-live those moments of your life when you heard those songs for the very first time and let the movies of the past play inside your head. You don’t need popcorn or Junior Mints.
Visit the priceless vaults of your memories. They’re yours and they pay handsome dividends over time.
Rebelling against the norm-- what a beautifully Irish thing to do.
St. Patrick earned his chops for chasing the snakes out of Ireland. This St. Patrick’s Day, try to chase some of the snakes out of your hectic life. Enjoy your life more.
Stop running full bore trying to keep up with your life. Slow down and enjoy your life and all those in it who make it worth living. Try and celebrate with them more often, not just on the sanctioned holidays but every day.
That’s my message of good cheer–– given like a nun whacking your sweaty palm.