Nuns on ice


The events depicted here took place in a time when Alaska didn’t have tourism; men had not yet walked on the moon; Florida was covered in orange groves; soccer was not embraced by American schools, and almost everyone smoked…something.

There I was sitting beside my mother across from the Sister Principal of a private Catholic high school for girls–with attached Convent. I had to lie through my teeth about the forged letter I sent the Principal supposedly from my mother deciding not to send me to the Academy. I chalked it up to a crank letter from one of my nutty friends. I took the entrance exam and exceeded all of Sister’s expectations, apparently. Later, when a student, I could not figure out how some of those girls could even pass the exam. I figured the nuns just needed their parents’ money.

The Academy was a shop of horrors. Imagine a giant, student-eating plant in the foyer across from the Principal’s office. Sister was a patient nun and one could see why she was Principal, but I imagined she would lose it now and then and throw a girl to the plant. It must be so, I thought, since one day a girl would be there in class and the next she was gone, never to be seen or heard from again. Of course, there was that time the FBI showed up and for an entire day we were quarantined in the big study hall. They left at the end of the day never to return–so did a few of the girls.

More of a horror than the plant? Attending Chapel and sorting out the Latin words of a drunken priest from his usual babbling. The nuns made you sit, stand, kneel, sing, recite, pray, read–in what seemed like a never-ending parody of life in ancient times. Add Latin to the Mass, priests in colorful, ornate, vestments; altar boys, incense, a choir of nuns singing in Latin and the depiction in stained glass and statuary of a half-naked man nailed to a cross and you have a typical Catholic church and service–a rich and elaborate form of ritualism. Add Romans, digging sticks, coliseum and slaves and we’re back in the cradle of civilization. The religion is resplendent with symbolism. And you think Freemasonry and Voodoo are mysterious and spooky.

Not everything was work, study, pray; try to get expelled. We had fun, too. In the winter the thing the nuns loved was ice skating. Off we’d go to the outdoor skating rink at UCONN (my later alma mater). Back then, and still, the sisters of that order wear the full habit of black with white (they now wear white in summer with black headgear). What gets me is that the sisters, individually, did not have much. But, they all had ice skates. Black ones for the regular habits and white ones for the Sister Nurse who wore a white habit. They do look like big ice-skating penguins. And they can skate the blades off just about anyone. Well, some of them can.



At that time in my short career as an ice-skating Marxist and shopaholic fan of the Rolling Stones, I had only skated on ponds and rivers–the bumpy kind, with cracks, frozen snow and the occasional leg piercing the ice and freezing in place. Once I landed on slick, artificial ice I was a mess. I believe every ice-skating nun picked me up at least once that day. Finally, two nuns came along, each taking an arm and skated me around the rink in a blur of fast forwarded penguins. Then (they were novices–you have to watch out for novices–they have a sense of humor) the two nuns got up to speed and let go of me. I ploughed right into a group of bowling pin penguins: I only got a spare–two nuns were left standing. I took the blame otherwise the novices would probably be punished by scrubbing all the floors in the Convent. You could eat off those floors.


The above nuns have state-of-the-art skates.  Nice. And they look like they know how to use them.

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