We all know the story of Adam and Eve and in second grade, Sr. Barbara made the mistake of saying, "The apple is a symbol." Of course I asked her:
"A symbol of what?"
"You are not understanding me. It's a symbol."
"Yes, Sister, and an hour ago you taught us in vocabulary class that a symbol is a reference. A reference to what?"
The woman threw up her hands in frustration.
That same year we visited the natural history museum and toured historical Philadelphia. The following week, in Religion class, Sr. Barbara told us that the planet was only 5000 years old. W H A T????
"Sister, last week you showed us a 65 million year old dinosaur. Now you say that is impossible. Which is it?" This poor woman had me for two years straight. I can recall countless times when I argued... or at least pointed out contradictions. She was chewing a bottle of Tums a day by the end of the school year.
The school pushed the "pro-life" agenda even at that early age. I had no idea how you could get pregnant, but I knew abortions were bad. When she showed us a movie called "The Silent Scream"... to a bunch of seven year olds --- that went too far.(Google it). They even took us on an anti-abortion march, but lied to our parents saying we were taking a field trip to the hospital. People surrounded us with bloody clothes and sheets.. with red painted doll parts.. it was gross.
Sister taught us that Boy George was bad and WHAM! was good. It was the era of Madonna's "Like a Virgin", and I understand there wasn't much choice for them to guide us in a musical sense..... But telling us to listen to WHAM??? They wore "Choose Life" shirts in their video. That was all that was needed. When I asked the nun, "Do you know George Michael is gay?" She nearly flipped her habit.
When we were told to bring in our "most prized possession for an art project," I brought a picture of my deceased father. I hardly remembered him, and it was one of the few things I still had. The nuns came around collecting our items and I refused to turn it over. How could I trust a woman who didn't know the difference between 5,000 and 65 million? They took the picture anyway.
I was right not to trust them. They lit a bonfire, threw our possession into it, and said we needed to free ourselves from the bonds of idolatry. If you have read this blog at all, then you KNOW I chased the nuns--even at 8 years old--to get my photo back. That was when the fun began. They start playing records backwards and telling us the music we listened to was evil. KISS stood for "Kids in Satan's Service", AC/DC stood for "Anti-Christian Devil Children" and the Beatles were evil on so many levels that you would think Lucifer himself was the lead vocal.
Somehow I survived all that, but my mother insisted on keeping us in that school. Where she came from, Catholic schools were the best, and she wanted the best for us. I had the bride of Beelzebub for fifth and sixth grade, and I cried constantly. I can't image what my mother went through putting up with me.
Then the day of revolution came. My brother forgot his book, so I got a bathroom pass and went to the pay phone to call my mother. After a few minutes, Attilla the Nun approached me, "Excuse me, what are you doing?"
Confidence brewed inside of me. My mom was on the phone, this woman could do nothing to me. "I needed to use the phone." DUH lady... what does it look like?
"That pay phone is for teacher's use only. You don't have permission to use it."
This was it.. today was my independence day.. it was now or never, "I don't really think New Jersey Bell cares whose quarter they get."
This Sasquatch-like six foot tall nun's face turned red and steam blew out of her ears like a cartoon. She stomped her foot and pointed, "Get in that office! I'm calling your mother." I mean, this woman made Meryl Streep's character in Doubt look like Mary Poppins, and I stood up to her.
I laughed so hard, "Lady, who do you think I was calling? All of my friends are here."
Panic spread across her face. Her raised brows explained she was debating that possibility. She tried to rip my fingers from the phone to hang it up as I shouted, "Mom! She's beating me, Mom! Get up here!" Unfortunately for that nun, my mother drove a Pontiac V8 at the time. She got there fast, and didn't get lost. That was a miracle in itself. My mother often got lost, but at least she did so quickly in her American muscle car. After an hour of arguing, my brother and I were enrolled in public school the same day.
I found out years later that Sister Barbara left the convent and became a lesbian. I was never quite sure whether she was a hypocrite for her gay bashing to second and third graders, or if she was so traumatized by us kids that any relationship that could produce a child was now horrifying. We'll never know.
When I turned 18, I went back to that school. I wanted to tell them just how cruel and evil they were. None of the nuns (yes, pun intended) still taught there. It's probably for the best. I'm sure I would have landed in jail. As for Attila the Nun, I search crowds for her, hoping one day I will have the opportunity to get even. That's the Italian in me, what can I say?