I mentioned Sister Joseph Ellen in my last post and I thought I ought to write about her. I have been told by my parents that I was a quiet, well behaved child. This may or may not be true- I know that I wasn’t rambunctious and remember being somewhat full of fear about all manner of things, but this may not be any different than it is for all children.
Sister Joseph Ellen would strike terror in even the toughest kid. I was at more of a disadvantage than the other kids. I’m the second youngest of six. So four juvenile delinquents with the same last name as me cut a swath of destruction before me. By the time I got to a grade I was already doomed, labeled a trouble-maker, smart aleck coupled with my inability to learn I was, in short, screwed. My best defense was laying low- hide behind the kid in front of me and pray not to be called on. I found this is also a good defense once you get married.
The only real freedom a young boy has in a school run my nuns is the boys restroom, even the nuns didn’t cross that line. My personal favorite way to let off steam was to wet toilet paper in the sink and throw it on the ceiling, it would stick there with a satisfying “Splat!”. Sister Joseph Ellen must have gotten wise to my antics because as I left the bathroom one day after letting off a little steam and she blindsided me with a sucker punch to the arm. She had pretty impressive shoulders and forearms like Popeye so it was a pretty good hit- having mostly brothers I knew a good Charlie horse when it came down the pike. All I could do was exaggerate a slam into the lockers and feign real injury. Of course feigning injury is lost on a person if they don’t care if you are injured or not. What’s funny about the whole mess is that she didn’t even know I was throwing toilet paper on the ceiling- she hit me because she “knew I was up to something and didn’t appreciate Tom Foolery in the bathroom.”
I saw her 15 years later at a grade school re-union and she was just as nice as can be. I told my dad about how pleasant she was and he said “She’s just old and trying to get into heaven”