Monday, March 4, 2013

Lessons from Momma's Childhood


Lesson number one, my mom does not like when you rough up her kids.  

“What did she do to you?!”

“Huh?”

“Mrs. Brown, just called.  She said that Shannon told her, something happened to you in school last week.  What did Ms. ______ do to you?”

“Oh, I was talking and sitting on my knees and so Ms. ________ tied me to my chair.”

Flames were coming out of my mother’s ears and eyes.  I don’t think she said anything else, but her mouth was trying to form words.  I did not know what was wrong.  I didn’t tell her about getting in trouble in school because I did not want her to get mad at me.  When getting in trouble at school there was never a question that my parents would be angry with me.  It was the 70s.  I went to Catholic school.  There were no conferences to discuss the behavior.  There were no lesson plans, IEPs or rubrics set up to handle difficult emotional problems or difficulties.  There was punishment.  Physical, mental and emotional punishment, and that was before you got home.  

There was the third grade teacher, Sister Maureen, who cut my friend’s hair because she forgot her barrette and her hair was hanging in her eyes.  Sr. Maureen would also use ammonia to clean her desk and blackboards every day.  It is a wonder, as we were inhaling those fumes, that we learned anything.  I watched Sr. Maureen smack many a third grade boy around. There was Ms. Farrell and Ms. McCardle in forth grade who chastised me because I asked if girls could try out for the football team.   They took me out into the hall and both told me that I was a “loud mouth, brat ... always was, and always will be.”  

There was Sr. Saint Eileen, the principal, who made sure that the lunch room, and recess stayed segregated.  Boys on one side, girls on the other.   There was no playing together in the school yard/parking lot.  Girls were given jump ropes, the boys were given balls and a much, much larger section of the parking lot to play in.  

There was that one priest who you NEVER went to confession to.  Kids always walked out of that box crying. He yelled at one of my friends telling her that she was bad and may go to hell, because her mother did not take her to Church that past Sunday.   I went to him once. He told me that if I forgot to tell him a sin, he would know and God would be angry.  I was 7.  Lesson learned, and then rejected! 

In first grade, we had a teacher named Ms. _________.  She was young.  I remember, having on my newly pressed uniform and walking into St. Alice Elementary.  I was noticeably tinier than my classmates.  Actually there were about 4 of us who were really small,  Megan, Jennifer, Debbie and Anthony.  Of them I was the shortest.  The first week or so of school there was one boy who cried almost every day.  There was no comfort given to him.  He was told to be quiet and allowed to be teased by the other students. 

Being so small I had a tough time seeing over the desk.  I often had to scoot up on my knees so that I could write.  I was also a talker.  I LOVED social interaction.  I talked to anyone and everyone who would listen.  Who am I kidding, I wouldn’t even care if anyone was listening.  (hence, my blog) One person who was kind enough to always listen to me was my first friend Shannon.  She was much taller than me and it was an established fact that she was very smart.  She did not get in trouble and was loved by all the teachers. 

On this particular day, Ms. _______ was a bit more agitated than usual.  She kept telling me to “Sit like a lady!” and “Keep your mouth shut!”  I guess I didn’t heed her advise, because the next thing I know she was pulling my desk up next to her desk in front of the class.  Little did she know, this was not a punishment, as I loved being the center of attention.  I scooted my knees under my bum and since she was the only person next to me, I continued to talk to her and ask a myriad of questions.  I looked to the back of the room where my friend Shannon sat and she was visibly distraught.  Her eyes were pleading with me to stop talking.  Some of the boys were laughing, so I continued to annoy Ms. _________.  

When, what I thought was Ms.___________ slowly starting to come around and act silly, was really Ms._________ slowly starting to have a nervous breakdown.  She was screaming and yelling like a lunatic.  I started to laugh because I thought it was funny to see how her chest and neck started to turn red and that redness slowly moved up to cover her whole face.  

She opened her bottom drawer.  She took out a rope and some duck tape.  She picked me up by the underarms and slammed my butt down in the seat.  She then proceeded to tie my legs, waist and arms to the desk.  She then topped it off with tape over my mouth.  I was still laughing.  I thought it was amusing until I looked at many of the other children in the class.   They were terrified, and I started to get a little scared myself.   My thoughts went to my mother.  I wanted my mommy.  But then I realized that I must have done something terribly wrong for the teacher to be this mad.  This taught me the lesson that I should just take the punishment and forget about it.  Which is what I did.  

Then my mother got a phone call from Shannon’s mother.  After I told mother what happened, she did not get mad at me.  She sat me down and told me that if something happens at school that I should tell her about it.  She was mad, but not at me.

Within a few weeks, we got a substitute, for the rest of the year.  I don’t remember the nun’s name, but I do remember that when we asked where Ms._________ was, she told us that Ms. _____________ was horse back riding and got trampled by the horse, and she wasn’t coming back.    

I don’t think that there was a horse accident.  But myself and many of my fellow classmates were given the first lesson in Catholic guilt.  Most of us did not like this teacher, I know, in my head I imagined many ways that she would be hurt.  I never pictured a horse, but I did feel awful that my thoughts made her get hurt.  I think this went through many of the 6 and 7 year old minds that day.  ‘Ask and ye shall receive.‘ 

I found out years later, that my mother was the “horse.”  She told me that she went to the principal, at the time, Sister Mary Austin, who was a great woman, and told her in no uncertain terms that if she didn’t get rid of Ms. ___________ my mom would. Apparently, Sr. agreed with my mother and fired Ms. _____________.

Again, ‘Ask and ye shall receive.’ 

More likely, Karma’s a bitch...... and don’t mess with a lioness’s cubs!  


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6 comments:

Dawn Brothers said...

I am about to pee my pants laughing. Ah the memories of Catholic School & the nuns/teachers they employed. Is it any wonder most of us, as adults, ran from any type of religion for YEARS??

Momma O said...

So glad you enjoyed it, Dawn! Yes and run I did! Thanks so much for reading!

The Great Dames, The Real Broads said...

Oh my God, I had totally forgotten about this. BTW, I totally remember when you convinced us all to challenge the boys to races in the "no man's land" of the schoolyard, between the boys and girls' yards and we all got in trouble for not acting like ladies. :) I wrote about it in a college writing class and my prof had to be convinced it wasn't fiction.

You were the bravest kid in the grade.

Momma O said...

I am not sure about being the bravest. I was probably just a little slow on the uptake. I had a difficult time remembering the cause and effect; i.e. If I caused trouble the effect would be my ass getting kicked. I was also convinced I could make the nuns, teachers and occasional priest see the err of their ways and because of me, the Church would change things. In the words of my internal Dr. Phil, Ummm, yea, How's that workin' out for ya? Well almost 40 yrs later and not much in the Catholic world has altered! ;)

Thank you so much for reading, my friend! You were always so good to me! THANK you!

Syrone said...

Passing through from UBP13. I've enjoyed reading your blog! Check out my blog
http://writingandallthatjazz.blogspot.com/ I look forward to future reading.

Momma O said...

Thank you Syrone! I am looking forward to checking out your blog. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!