A Fear of Nuns Who Dressed in Black


English 12 SJU


Due: Tuesday, 10/28/03’


As a child growing up in the early 1950s, I was convinced that my parents were raised in a much better time than I was. Looking at old photographs, it was hard not to think that everything was easier back then. It seemed like everyone laughed all day long. What I would have given to grow up under those conditions. Granted, I now realize that my parents had just as many hardships growing up as I did, but in my childhood I was convinced that my life was a living hell. In the end, all my troubles came down to the dreaded women in habits. Children today may have worries of their own, but they should all be glad that they don’t have to deal with the nuns of old.


In the fifth grade my parents removed me from my local public school. I had been part of one too many brawls over milk money and my father believed that the nuns would be able to “whip me into shape.” I think Sr. Maria took that phrase a bit too seriously.


To my dismay, my parents had informed Sr. Maria the circumstances of my transfer. Needless to say, she wasn’t exactly the sweetest person once she discovered my tendency to fight.


In the morning of my first day at St. Angus’ parochial school, Sr. Maria instructed me to stand in front of the class. I knew that I was about to be embarrassed, but I was sure that I could take it. After all, if I could take punches to my face and not flinch, why would this woman of God be able to affect me.


“Please inform the class why you are here,” she said with a nasty smirk on her face, “And you had best tell the truth.” I stood there and told the class that I had been sent there by my parents because I had gotten in fights in my old school.


Sr. Maria continued the inquisition. She asked me if I felt like I was better than the rest of the class, and that I didn’t belong there. I told her that I didn’t know what she meant. That woman drilled me and manipulated everything I said in an effort to make me sound like the supreme enemy of all my new classmates. It must have worked, because at lunch time I had to sit by myself next to one of the dumpsters.


Verbal abuse continued in the following weeks. Some days I would be publicly humiliated and other days I would only be reprimanded a few times in private. Slowly over the course of two or three months, Sr. Maria shifted her preferred weapon from her tongue to her ruler. I think her plan was to verbally abuse me to a point where my self esteem was so low that I wouldn’t complain to anyone if she physically assaulted me. And physically assault me she did.


It started with the classic “ruler on knuckles” routine. I wasn’t the only one in the class who received it, so it didn’t bother me too much. Then it escalated to tripping. Sr. Maria was impressively sly when it came to tripping me. She would only do it when no one was watching, so that my classmates would never see me be tripped, but would see me fall on my face.


The tripping didn’t really bother me too much either. I would keep it to myself at home, and explain that my bruises came from playing football during recess. After a few weeks of being tripped almost every day, I made the mistake of telling my father that Sr. Maria was tripping me. That night I received the beating of my life. To my father, the fact that I was being abused by the teacher only meant that I wasn’t being respectful enough in class, which deserved a beating. So now I would get hurt by the teacher in school, and when I came home if my parents found out, I would get hurt for being hurt by the teacher.


The ruler and the tripping never really