25. January 2009 · Comments Off on A January Sunday Afternoon · Categories: General

My first three years of school (after kindergarten in an old one room building affectionately known as the chicken coop) were at St. Mary’s in Fulton NY. I absolutely hated it. Nothing against the religion, or my parents, but it I recall it to be a terribly traumatic experience. I never could connect with the nuns – the exemplar memory being the time I walked the twelve blocks to first grade circa 1960 (uphill as I recall) in a drenching rain, wearing an old rain slick three sizes too small. My legs got wet – very wet. Sister Mary Lawrence (yes, I’m going to name names here) accused me of deliberately jumping in rain puddles. On one level I am thinking “Lady, it’s f***ing raining out there like a b****, I am cold and wet, and you are f***ing laying this s*** on me?”. On another level (the one that manifested that day) I am beginning to cry, denying that I frolicked or did ANYTHING that would mock the seriousness of the religious predicament that was unfolding more and more each day, and was unique to me as a Catholic (the protestant – or as I understood them to be at the time – public kids seemed oblivious to any of what was really going on).

Over the years I have often expressed that the Catholic school experience was not something to recommend. Invariably the response was “Oh, you must have gone to a Catholic school back ‘in the day’ when nuns did all of the teaching – things are a lot different now”. I’ve also talked to many who recalled an altogether different experience; one that they regret that their children and grandchildren could have never benefit from.

I was in L.A. on 9/11, and on the first flight out, when flights started, my seatmate was a distinguished doctor from Fulton NY who was four years ahead of me at St. Mary’s. He went all the way through the local system, and attributed it to his success. Over the years I started thinking about that, and began to more often remember Sr. Mary Patrice (second grade). She was really OK for a nun. I actually saw some of her hair once – a “call-every-other-second-grade-kid-you-know-moment”. Then I graduated second grade (and completed First Communion – by now I’m really getting in deep), had a not too bad summer, and started third grade with – Sr. Mary Lawrence. Here we go again. By the way, I failed to mention earlier that Mother Superior, I truly believe, made the mold that Sr. Mary Lawrence was cast from. When Sr. Mary Lawrence was done with you, you went to Mother Superior to ensure that you “got your head right”. (I use those quotes because I didn’t really understand the dynamic until, years later, I saw Cool Hand Luke)

My general conclusion is that it probably was me and not them. I’ve noticed as an adult that certain executive officers that I’ve encountered professionally over the years have also put me in the same frame of mind. Substitute the Catechism for Sarbanes Oxley, a nun’s habit for a $2,000 black suit, eternal damnation for unemployment at an unemployable age and you get the picture. Anyway, I digress.

Real Wife asked me last week if I wanted to participate in a community trivia challenge type of fundraiser. It works like this – you recruit about 20 – 30 teams of eight people who sit in a cafegymatorium and compete in about a dozen ten question trivia rounds. I said sure.

Then I found out that the beneficiaries of the charity were children headed for Catholic summer camp. Immediately, I sensed the presence of Sr. Mary Lawrence on one shoulder, and Sr. Mary Patrice on the other. On the one hand, it’s an enjoyable Sunday afternoon which benefits the children. On the other, I might as well be herding them into the cattle cars.

Our team had two no-shows; the high school biology teacher and another teacher who is also the middle school scholastic bowl coach; a fact that was not in our favor. We had Real Wife (a teacher), two other teachers, two affluent farmers and yours truly, a self proclaimed renaissance man with nun love-hate issues.

It was a hoot. The M.C was a young priest who peppered the proceeding with both self deprecating and sharp humor, we had all the popcorn you could eat, and none of it mattered one whit except having fun on a snowy day.

We sucked worse than all but two other teams. As noted above, however, we were short two key members who would have undoubtedly helped our fortunes (damn them). My personal contribution that I am most proud of was knowing that WORM stands for(within the current vernacular of the Catholic church IT group) Write Once Read Many.

It’s fun to get together with friends and neighbors in this sort of format. As a conservative (otherwise introverted) person I highly recommend it as an alternative to say, for example, expecting The One to provide the funds to send the kids to camp.

I really wish I could have hit it off better with Sr. Mary Lawrence. In retrospect, she may have been the factor that got me through boot camp just twelve years later. I’d still like to have seen her hair – I think that I would be psychologically better developed.

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