Before the Fall…
Entering the Convent
As a young girl, my intention was to enter the convent. My friend Debbie B and I would play "nun". Her mother was the seamstress for the local Dominican convent and she had created miniature versions of these habits, in their entirety, for us to wear. Sometimes on the satanic holiday of Halloween.
This alone should have been a deterrent since it took about a half hour for each of us to be stuffed and sucked into the black linen dresses, complete with choking collars and tress hiders. They were hot and cumbersome, but I truly felt at home.
However, one day, as we were walking two by two in the courtyard of St. Mary's grade school, a sinking feeling passed through me. I was not going to be a nun. At that moment I felt nothing but empty, and then fearful. I knew I would go to hell if I did not enter the convent. I knew I would probably lead a decadent life and forever be cast in the fires of hell, never to see the beautiful clouds and angels preached about on the pulpit by Father Deleke and Monsignor Alstad.
I tried for years to put that out of my mind. I even had a stay at the convent when I was 16.
As a young girl of eight, I had taken piano lessons from Sister Carol. I adored Sister Carol, and as many young girls do, I idealized her. I dreamt of her and when at school, I could think of no one but her.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would go to the front door of the blond brick building, the door a wooden framed structure with the "craft" touches.
The room where the piano sat was behind that door. No foyer.
Sister Carol was patient, and loving, and very funny. And I refused to improve on the piano. My mother was aghast when she heard me. She had often walked in while I practiced in the basement of St. Mary's and commented on how well I did. Yet when she came to retrieve me from these twice-weekly lessons, it was as if another child were playing.
You see, if I improved, I would be advanced and Sister Carol would no longer be my teacher. It didn't take long for my mother to pull me out.
Sister Carol was the most day-to-day love I had felt until my baby sister was born.
My father eventually bought a Hammond organ, coming with free organ lessons.
I took these lessons from one of Hammond’s salespeople. At first site, most parents would never have left a young girl with this gentleman. He was tall, lanky with greasy hair and long, unmanly languid fingers. But he was harmless enough, and I bore no romantic interest. Consequently, I learned quickly, teaching my father and soon the sound of Ebb Tide and Claire de Lune filled the air of our house 38th avenue.
Yet the wonderful patience and love that I felt from Sister Carol stuck with me, as did other women in habits, Sister Vera, and later, Sister John Mary from St. Marks. I loved all of them and they became my role models.
I put the thought that haunted me as a young girl out of my mind.
When I was 16, I entered the doors of the same convent where I had tortured Sister Carol so many years before. This time, not through the visitor/student door as a child of eight, but the doors where only the “sisters” entered. I was to spend a weekend there; a social worker had arranged the visit.
The door shut behind. There I stood,
acacacacacac To be continued...cacacacacacaac
Music Sinnead Oconnor/I don't know how to love him
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