Ying and Yang

Sweet innocent Sister Theresa. We all loved her. Beatific: possessing an angelic soft hewn face with saintly features. She was young and she was beautiful. And a nun at that! Thinking back, what a waste but at that time she made a lasting religious impression on our impressionable minds. In today’s world she would have been our elementary school “Ying.”  And with all things “Ying” there had to be a “Yang” and in this case our elementary school “Yang” turned out to be Sister Mary Bernice…”Yang.”  Burly, tough as nails, she wore polished black, ankle height sea boots with that black habit of hers.   Her gait was that of a sailor who was not yet accustomed to the stability of dry land.  She possessed a jaunt or a saunter not unlike Charlie Chaplin all the while twirling a baton, or strap, that we would become very familiar with soon enough.  She was so intimidating that even the parish priests took notice. Her face was non descriptive really as it was framed by that white veil of nunnery.  I think her hair was black, slightly graying at the temples. I know this because her temples seemed to bulge out whenever she was laying out the wrath of our heavenly father across the palms of our earthly hands.

Like her gait she also yelled like a sailor: a real Chief Boatswain’s Mate or Buffer in the naval vernacular. Her wrath came down unexpectantly and unrepentantly with the sure fired will of an archangel but no St Michaela here!  She had two main weapons in her arsenal to keep us all in line. Her hands, left or right, it didn’t matter, came across one’s face totally and entirely out of the heavenly blue like some religious and corporal stealth attack. Just like that: whack, whack, and more whack, followed by the incessant burning of the cheeks and ringing in the ears. Not tinnitus mind you for that would come later but a toned deaf ringing with each whack of those unflappable calloused palms or the knarly backs of her hands. And with years of experience under her black habit she learned to cup her hands ever so slightly and in such a way that with each open palmed whacked imprint her fingers would somehow claw their way across ones face in such a manner that they seemed to draw one’s cheek and face upward toward heaven, as if in a corporal raptured state of mind waiting for and begging for heavenly intervention.  To be fair to her she was an equal opportunity inquisitor. The girls got it too. And their faces? Wow. Pink and as pink as pure virginity could be but stained with the tracks of their tears: welling up and falling down and across those pearly, innocent, pretty cheeks.  

Us lads, we chuckled…