Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Before the Fall (continued)

Page 45
Sister Dianne


The door shut behind. There I stood, in the foyer with the prerequisite coat rack and umbrella stand and an antique mirror and halting throne
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The mother superior took my hand and then put her arm around my shoulder.
Today, as I write this I am drawn to tears, at both the completeness of that moment and what I sacrificed to be what I am today.
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She led me into the “family” room where several of the holy ladies spent their evenings. There was no television. There was a piano. The same piano I had played as a young child. I guess it had become retired from teaching and now waited for the graceful hands of the holy only to ring the sounds of Christmas Carols..

The room smelled of old wood, pine cleaner and the carbon blue of the mimeograph machines teachers used to duplicate work for the students. I could smell the remnants of dinner, roast beef perhaps?
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There was no carpeting; hook rugs covered the polished wood floors. The chairs and couch had the tweedy, prickly fabric so customary in “Early American” d├ęcor. The decorations consisted of everything from holy statues to knick-knacks of children and flowers. Magazines, books, papers of students being corrected by the Sisters who taught.
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One of the sisters sat on a chair in the far corner of the vast room with a guitar. She was picking a tune, a sheet of music across the ottoman as she found the chords.
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Sister Francis, who had led me into the room, was gone. I had not heard her leave, nuns floated away, never walked.
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I stood in the doorway, my pathetic overnight case in front of me as both my hands grasped the handle. I suddenly felt very small, and embarrassed by my jeans, sandals and peasant blouse.
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The sister who was strumming the guitar was the first to look up, the rest followed. Several rushing up, one taking my suitcase another helping me to take off my Sandals. Another handed me a glass of milk, as if I were five years old. I detested milk, but took a sip so as not to be rude.
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The Sister in the corner who had been strumming the guitar was also called Sister Carol. It seems that my Sister Carol had left years before. I somehow resented this nun taking her name, but soon found her to be every bit as wonderful. She put her arms around me, hugging me close, leading me to the ottoman where her music was. She took the pages carefully placing them on the tiny bare space not covered by books and papers on the bookshelf directly behind her. She then reached behind her chair and pulled out another guitar, identical to the one she had.
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That is where I learned to play it. She and I laughed and tortured the others for an hour or so before I was led to my sleeping quarters.
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A cell as they called it.
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Decorated, not.
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It had a single bed, no headboard, a white chenille bedspread, my favorite to date, a small bureau and a crucifix over the bed. A small window offered the only light in the room, and it was so high, I could not see out. There was an oil lamp on the bureau. I fidgeted with it, looking around for something to light it.
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The door opened, and the new Sister Carol peeked in.
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“Do you have everything you want?”
“Yes, thank you” I had nothing. But I had everything. I omitted asking for light, it was obviously their bedtime, though it was only 8:00 pm.
That night, and the next morning, preparing breakfast in the huge industrial kitchen and enjoying a meal in silence, followed by vespers were magical.
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But this would not be my calling...
To be continued

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