Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rhubarb's interview.....First question

Rhubarb Whine recently tossed out an offer to interview any readers brave/foolhardy enough to risk it. As soon as I put up my impetuous hand I wanted to grab it back down. But, too late! She'd already spotted it. I need not have fretted however. No attempts were made to coax skeletons out of my closet or to make me reveal my deepest, darkest secrets. Shirley put a lot of thought into her questions and I was eager to jump right in and start answering them.

But the flesh is weak.

That was more than a week ago.

Procrastination is not my middle name for nothing!

I love to tell a story and she has given me not one, but several opportunities to do so.....


These are the questions:

1. Readers know you are of Irish heritage, and were educated by nuns. You have said 'their ghosts haunt you still'. Share with us a memory of that time that has had a strong impact on how you live your life today.


2. Tell me about one person with whom you’ve lost touch. If you hope for a reunion, how would you like that reunion to take place?


3. Your love of books and reading is apparent. What genres and authors are your ultimate favourites, and why? Fiction or non fiction?



4. If you were recuperating in a hospital and expected a long stay, who would you want in the bed next to you, excluding relatives?



5. Left field question, to finish on a lighter note: This question requires a little more work on your part. You have five minutes to go through your house and find one object that reveals a lot about you to people who know you, but would tell nothing about you to the rest of the world. Post a picture of that object.


See what I mean about opportunities to spin yarns? I think I hear the OC groaning! His life's mission is to get me to give him the condensed version. Of anything. You'd think, after almost forty years, he'd accept the fact that I'm just not genetically wired for verbal brevity. But he keeps hoping.






Aggie and Her Flock of Little Lambs.....


When I was in secondary school there was an evil plot between the nuns and our parents. It's stated object was to provide us with a quiet, distraction-free setting in which to do our homework. It's unstated effect was to ensure that we had no life! The evil plot was Evening Study. It was optional, but my parents, being conscientious souls, wanted to give me every advantage.

School got out at four. We hared home on our bicycles, had a bite to eat, changed out of our school uniforms and cycled back for Evening Study from five to seven. First, the inevitable prayer. Then, heads down to work. If you had a question you could go,[quietly!] to the supervising teacher's desk to ask for help. On the evening in question, Sister Mary Agnes was our jailer. Her chiseled, chalky face gazed out over our bent heads. If she suspected that you were the source of any stifled snorts or snickering, she squashed you with a glare.

I was seated in the middle of the room. Half way through the monotony I heard a chair scrape in the silence, as a girl somewhere behind me got up. Passing my desk, she flashed me a quick peek at something she was holding in her pocket. I perked up instantly! It looked like one of the monthly 64-pagers we loved to read. Stories of schoolgirls, like ourselves, getting into and out of all kinds of scrapes and adventures! They were about the size of Reader's Digest and half as thick. I patiently waited while Mary W conducted her business with Aggie. When she turned and started back to her desk, she grinned at me. Grinning back, I motioned for her to slip the 64-pager to me as she went by. I was looking forward to a little diversion.....

As soon as I had it in my hot little fist I knew I'd made a horrible mistake. It was a 64-pager alright, but not the kind I'd expected from my fleeting glimpse. Now that I had it, I heartily wished I didn't. It was a 64-pager version of what my mother called a "penny dreadful." To wit, a bodice ripper! Complete with sultry, scantily clad beauty in the arms of muscle bound Lothario on its cover. The setting seemed to be a dark and stormy night......

I was panic stricken! And Aggie was already sniffing the air, nostrils flaring, smelling fear....I was a goner! Another chair scraped the floor in the silence, as Aggie, a monument of a woman, stood. She knew she had me this time! [It wasn't the first time Aggie and I had tangled.] Never taking her eyes from my face, she came at me with slow, deliberate steps, habit swishing, beads clicking out my doom. I had shoved the offending material into the middle of a book I wasn't using, and was striving for a cool, nonchalant air, totally defeated by my blazing cheeks. At my desk, she stopped. And towered. Aggie was six feet tall if she was an inch! And held out her hand. I feigned innocence, and puzzlement. To no avail. Unwillingly I handed over the evidence, mumbling about how I'd had no idea it was THAT kind of 64 pager.

Aggie turned on her heel, clutching her prize, and returned to her desk. She looked like the cat that got the cream. She didn't like me and I didn't like her. She was exultant.I was miserable.

But you can't keep a good woman [or an idiot] down. Next evening I was full of the joys again. In the middle of evening study I was taking a wee [unscheduled] break. Having a little chat, whisper, whisper, giggle, giggle with the girl behind me. She said something funny and I threw my head back in silent laughter...................And, glancing at the little window in the upper half of the classroom door, met the quiet, reproachful gaze of The Mag. The foolish laugh froze in my throat. I wanted to die. Take me now Lord. I'm sorry for all my sins. Just take me now. Make it quick and save me from a slow, tortuous death by humiliation.

But of course He didn't listen to me. There was to be no quick and painless escape.

Sister Margaret L. was the headmistress. She was a gracious, scrupulously fair personage whom I greatly admired and whom I desperately wanted to have a good opinion of me....


I died a thousand mini deaths while she knocked softly on the door; while Aggie jumped officiously to attention; while The Mag walked silently to Aggie's desk and spoke a few words in her ear; while Aggie triumphantly called me to the front of the room,her voice high pitched and tremulous in victory; while The Mag quietly bade me follow her; while I walked behind her, down endless, echoing corridors, to her office; while she graciously motioned for me to sit. Which was a mercy, since my quaking knees were on the point of buckling......

The next fifteen minutes were the most miserable I had lived through yet in my fourteen years. I don't remember details. But, not one to assume she knew the whole story based on Aggie's reportage, The Mag asked me to recount the entire miserable tale, in my own words. It was not a complicated tale. The only complications came from how I felt about being the hapless twit caught in flagrante delicto. I sniveled and wept my way through the sorry tale. She murmured something about being disappointed in me; about having expected better from me; about how she didn't think my parents would approve of my reading such trashy stories etc., etc.

As an adult, I think she might have had a hard time trying to suppress the urge to laugh [if I'd been in her shoes I would have!] There might have been a touch of sadism in it all too. They enjoyed making us squirm! In religion class, when we touched on vocations, the Big One was being called to the religious life. Of course they hastened to assure us that marriage was also a noble calling. But not quite as noble, you got the unmistakable feeling, as nun-hood or priesthood. Because of all the messy, unmentionable physical goings on don't you know!

To my surprise,[and disappointment,] I did not melt into a grease spot on the seat of that chair in the Mag's office; neither did I expire from the weight of the humiliation. I was conscious, and over-heated, and acutely embarrassed for every excruciatingly minute of it.

And what did I learn?

I learned that if I was to survive in life, I should take care not to involve myself in any activities that I would not want The Mag to know about! Of course she has long since gone to her eternal reward, but the lesson lingers on. If something would make me ashamed, were anyone I loved or respected to find out about it, then it's probably something I shouldn't be doing in the first place. So I don't.




I still have four more questions to answer, but if you'd like to join in, just say so in the comment box, and I will dream up five questions just for you. You can then post answers on your blog, along with these rules and an invitation to interview anyone else who raises their hand! I'll try to make my questions as interesting for you as Rhubarb made mine for me!

22 comments:

fifi said...

oh, horrible!


Now that there are so few nuns in the world, replaced in these positions increasingly by lay persons, it is interesting to consider the fat that whereas a nun was already mariied to Jesus, and was thus on the top rung of piety, how do all the lay persons prove their holy worth?
I mean, with that ring on your finger you could almost pretty well get away with any unkind act, really.

I'm probably sounding totally nutty here.

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear molly. There was an awful nun when I was at primary school called Sister Kieran. She used to come into classrooms, grab a ruler from a student's desk, run out.... 10 minutes later she'd return with the ruler in two pieces, a result of hitting some poor kid too hard.

Anyway, years later I saw her, she's now known by her own name, not Sr Kieran, and seemed like the most peaceful soul you'd ever met. I still remembered though..

Ali Honey said...

My what a ghastly arrangment. Living in the country and travelling by bus meant a set up like that could never have worked for us here in NZ.We had heaps of freedom.

Did you friend Mary set you up on purpose to get caught with her book?
Yes, please post your corn chowder recipe - it's probably too hot for soup at the moment, but I may try it - Thanks.

Stomper Girl said...

I'm glad you're writing these down in a proper abbreviated old-fashioned yarn-spinning way, Molly (never mind about the sighing OC behind you) because that was a cracking good story and I enjoyed being taken in by it.

And you gave us a life motto at the end, bonus!

Isabelle said...

But which one is you, in the picture, Molly?

Molly said...

Since you asked, Isabelle, I'm in the third row, last lamb on the right. As far away from Aggie as I could get!

Pauline said...

boy, did this bring back memories of the nuns and Catholic school and early humiliations - you had me squirming with you.

Can't wait to read the rest of your answers to those questions!

meggie said...

Oh the burning heat in the face of shame! I tried to be 'good' at school. I am so glad I never had to deal with Nuns. My mother had her fingers broken by a vicious nun with cruel ruler!
Look forward to more of you answers.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I do so enjoy your girlhood stories, Molly. They make me wish that I had also grown up in Ireland, land of wonderful tale tellers and most charming accents, WB Yeats and the greenest grass on earth.

This made me recall a day in 6th grade when a book called "Love Without Fear," which allegedly demonstrated 11 sexual positions, was being passed around our classroom.

Unfortunately, the teacher sniffed out the book just as it reached me and I never got to read it, although I was penalized all the same. This struck me at the time as several kinds of unfair, and still does.

Thimbleanna said...

What a great tale Molly -- I just love your stories of Ireland and your childhood -- I can't wait to hear the answers to the other questions.

Oh, and I clicked on your picture -- what an adorable little girl you were. Everyone looks quite happy -- a catholic girls school must have been a very good place to grow up!

rhubarbwhine said...

So glad you have started these. You have turned your answer to question 1 into a wonderful talle, and I can't wait to read the next 4 installments. Bravo!

peppermintpatcher said...

Oh, oh, oh. I could feel every stare and glare you suffered. Fabulous story.

StitchinByTheLake said...

Oh this brought back memories Molly! I wasn't educated by nuns but my Principal, Mr. Seymour, (elementary school) could outdo them any day. I once found a copy of Peyton Place lying on the sidewalk on my way to school. At that time, about 1956, that was the worst book ever! Several friends and I snuck into the girls bathroom to sneak a read and got caught. Oh it was so hard to face him - embarrassment and shame were his two weapons of choice. And they worked! blessings, marlene

Warty Mammal said...

Wow. Wow to Rhubarb's excellent questions, and wow to that story.

Evening Study sounds dreadful. When are young women supposed to run around and feel the breeze in their hair if they're locked up until the sun goes down? Perhaps that was the idea!

By way of contrast with your tale of youthful innocence, I distinctly remember a pornographic novel being passed around my science class at about the same age. The teacher, a football coach, intercepted it. He winced, shook his head ruefully, then gave it back to the student he'd collected it from without comment.

Looking forward to your next tales!

raining sheep said...

I am torn between wanting to double over with laughter or scream in indignation at the unfairness of it all. I have to admit that I am an atheist...I also freely admit that the atheism probably comes from a) going to a strict catholic school as a child, and being taught by nuns and b) ...well we won't go into that in the comments section :)How dreadful that you had to go to study sessions after school...I can imagine no worse hell for a child.

silfert said...

Sounds like some of the stories my mom tells on occasion.

Having read your bio, I think we could be friends... :D

fifi said...

ok Molly, answer the next question now.......

persiflage said...

Oh, those nuns! Where are they all now?
I think you drew an excellent lesson from that unpleasant experience.
I well remember being caught out in the cloakroom one lunchtime. My sister and I, with various other mischievous and creative friends had written a few satirical sketches on the school and the nuns. We were acting them out, when I noticed the other girls had all frozen. Of course the satires were confiscated, and huge troubles loomed. Would we be expelled? Well, we weren't, but we were so scared. Our mother said that Reverend Mother told her that our scripts were clever and witty, but they couldn't allow us to get away with that sort of thing. I think I learned to appreciate the sense and intelligence of Reverend Mother, who was strict but balanced and fair.

Anne said...

Brings back memories! I wasn't a favourite of the nuns at our school. I seemed to be always the one in trouble. Just had a bit of attitude they tried to stamp out! As a consequence I hated school, yet in later years loved learning.

Anne Marie said...

Loved your story!!! Boy how things have changed over here in Ireland!!!! I was lucky in that I never had any mean nuns but my mother can tell a few ghastly stories. I wish the nuns were still running the hospitals over here, everyone comments on how clean they kept them and now they are so filthy. Can't wait for you to answer the next question!

riseoutofme said...

Ah ... Sr. Mary Agnes ... Baggy Aggy ...

Oh go on then .... Ask me!

Eastcoastdweller said...

For all the misery such a system caused children, I wonder if they are in truth any happier today under virtually no discipline at all.

One of these days, I'll raise my hand for the five question thing, after I do a better job of keeping up with my blog friends.