Monday, July 9, 2012

Sister Patricia, "Fat Pat" and karma...

I finished the John Irving book this morning.  I can't call it torture because I was sitting on my deck facing the sea while devouring it, but it was so close.  Around page 400 is when some of the pieces started to come together.  Nothing about this is unusual for Mr. Irving, but this book was just really out there.  He's always been at the top of my list of favorite contemporary authors.  He still is.  But I just can't tell you to read this book.  Typically his novels are perfect for vacation.  Picking up a John Irving book for an hour and then going back to it in a day, or two days . . . it really doesn't work.  You need some dedicated time.  He crafts a novel so beautifully.  I was too stubborn to put this one down - I was in a contest against myself. I'm not sorry - I just wish it could have been different.  See how I made that sound like relationship angst?  That was purposeful.

Once I saw him (I want to call him John, probably because he comes from New Hampshire and I feel entitled) as part of the Barrick Lecture Series at UNLV.  He read a chapter from a book he was working on, Until I Find You, and then took questions.  I loved every minute of it.  I won't abandon him. Just skip this one if you happen to like the books I read.

Now I'm reading Skippy Dies.  I like it.  It's smart and witty.  In between chapters (and because I'm at the ocean) the novel has caused my mind to wander back to the halls of one Notre Dame Academy in Massachusetts, and not in the most flattering way.  I was reminded of the nicknames we had for most of the nuns who lived on that scary third floor convent.  Sister Patricia was "Fat Pat" (karma, maybe?), the dedicated librarian who seemed to be 100 years old.  Fun was keeping a library book out past the due date and returning it to Sister Patricia.  When she told us we owed 30 cents we would tell her we had no money (weren't we so funny?) and she would just melt down.  "Of COURSE you don't have any money."  Sometimes our tiny study hall had no novice watching over mischief in the room.  That study hall was next to the Reference Room, something Sister Patricia took great pride in.  Maybe a few girls threw themselves up against the common wall to rattle her encyclopedias.  By the time she raced into the room each student was engrossed in whatever busy work needed to be done in study hall.  Nobody ever looked up when she walked into the room.

I read some more of Skippy Dies and then I remembered "Chicken", also known as Sister Katherine.  Here was a woman who dedicated her life to God and we called her "Chicken".  Wasn't her wedding band enough evidence of that?  Does that seem right?  No it doesn't.  But she was very tall and very lanky.  The only thing small about her was her head.  It was extra small.  And her skin was yellow, like a pale yellow that resembled the skin on a chicken breast.  Now I only buy skinless chicken breasts (fat pat, karma anyone?), but you just don't forget that.  Nor could I forget her waddle, and I'm not talking about the way she walked.  She had that flapping neck skin thing.  I'll say it again... karma?

Lumpy was just Lumpy.  I don't even remember her real "sister name", but I think I remember she was in charge of making sure nothing shady was going on during our lunch break.  She once stood at the back door near our locker room about to open it when Mary Ellen Murphy quickly beat her to it from the other side and hit her with a hard and slushy snowball to the face that was meant for someone else.  It was meant for me.  I can still see Lumpy standing there with wet snow dripping off her face onto her chest  That was also the first time I ever saw someone laugh and cry at the same time.  To clarify, it was Mary Ellen who was laughing and crying at the same time.  Hard.

If we had a nickname for the ancient (see a theme here?) nun in the electric wheelchair (nobody had those in 1970) who ran the little candy store in the basement, well, I don't remember it.  For that I am grateful, because at this point I'm feeling pretty lousy about myself.

Maybe Skippy Dies needs to wait.  There's just so much time to reflect at the beach.

If you think I've told you the entire story . . . you'd be wrong.

post signature

1 comment:

Me said...

Flapping neck skin thing. . I am dieing over here. . Bwahahaha. You should write a book on your history with nuns.