I understand that my generation may be the last one in America to have really good nun stories. Although being taught by nuns for twelve years was no picnic, I received a first-rate education AND got some great stories from the experience. One of my favorites was told to me by my cousin Carolyn about a colorful nun we knew back at St. Patrick’s.
As I recall, Sister Kathleen had a dark complexion, a strong Eastern European accent, was rather athletic (at least for a nun as she often pitched for the lunchtime kickball games) and had a no-nonsense demeanor (borrowing from Brian Regan–we never had a nun with a nonsense demeanor). She actually was an average looking (which was above average for a nun) woman of about 30 or so; but of course we were never sure about how old the nuns were, where they came from, or if they went to the bathroom. We could only see their hands, and their face, (but not their forehead or even their ears) and even though I had a great aunt who was a nun they still did not seem completely human. In Sister John Margaret’s case-this is meant in a good way. But for some others…you know who you are…
As the story goes, Sister Kathleen was handing out test papers, and calling out the names and grades. I know–seems unbelievable in the HIPPA/post 911 era that one’s grades were announced to the whole class, but this was 1960 and the nuns ran their classrooms as they saw fit. Self-esteem was the least of their concerns; they were focused on our immortal souls.
Sister Kathleen fancied herself a sort of Sherlock Holmes, and had gotten it in her mind that some of her students were cheating. She begins calling out the names and grades.
“Mary Kathleen Dubinsky, 85%.”
Then she would call the next name,
“Katrina Pavelosky, 85%.”
Finally, the last name,
“Joseph Patrelli, 85%.”
She would then point at these three students , slowly moving her finger from one to the other, as she discovered the pattern, and stated with great confidence (and in her thick accent),
“I know…I know… a triangle of cheating is going on here!”
The class would attempt to suppress their snickering. We would often replay the scene years later, complete with the heavy accented word triangle. Apparently Sister Kathleen saw something that was not actually there. Sometimes I do that too, see a pattern when one does not really exist, or find fault when really there were no bad intentions. Which brings me to some final thoughts on adoption.
Often I have spoken with adopted kids (many who are now grownups) about their feelings about being adopted. I know they wonder if they were considered a problem, if they were given up with any sort of sorrow or regret, if their birth parents loved them, and if they were missed. Even when they love their parents, they can have concurrent feelings of loss and hurt for what happened to redirect their path. I cannot speak to that directly, as I have never given up a child. I can only say that from what birth mothers have told me, giving up that child was the most difficult thing that they ever did, which I do not doubt.
Of course an infant cannot be privy to the conversations, tears, fears, debates, arguments, pleadings, prayers,and whispers that all focus on him or her. This tiny person is the center of a huge hullaballoo that they did not cause, and that will send ripples in two families’ ponds for generations.
Unbeknownst to them, a young girl whose biggest decision before this happened may have been which jeans to buy, is now weighing all the options for another person’s future. This is scary stuff indeed. While she is trying to sort it all out, many in her family are trying to help, which sometimes means trying to get her to come to a decision that seems best to them. Some of these young women finally come to terms with what they can or cannot give their child, and their passion to give this child all that he or she needs. And while the gut-wrenching decision is being made in one home, often two anxious, sincere young people are praying their own desperate prayers, hoping that God hears and sees.
It is a strange, wild, wonderful event, mixed with both happy and sad tears, when such a transaction is made, legally sealed, and a new path is forged for this tiny person. Those of us who have received these precious people do not take it for granted. We sneak into the nursery at night to watch them sleep, hold their tiny fingers with love and awe, and kiss those precious foreheads with such gratitude that there is a palpable feeling of angels in that room. We sense that God is smiling, saying to us, “it is good.”
On the other end, we knew that there was a sadness, and a longing, and sometimes comfort in knowing that a chance at a good life had been secured. So I want to end this set of posts with this message to those who have been adopted: your birth mothers loved you, miss you, and will never forget you. They tried to make a decision that would give you all that you would need to be happy and successful in this life. There was no thought of not valuing you, not wanting you, or not missing you. I know that sometimes the bad feelings come, but like Sister Kathleen’s triangle of cheating, in most cases they are not at all based on reality. My prayer for you who have been adopted is that you can find peace. God bless you Dear Ones. Now and forever, Amen.