It’s Elementary

Posted on March 21, 2019 under Storytelling with 2 comments

The march from Morrison School to St.Ninian’s Cathedral for communion

(Photo courtesy of Karin Alex Fleuren)

My first experiment with school lasted exactly one day.

I was an August baby and turned five a few weeks before school was about to begin. My mother thought that I might be ready for the rigours of school and sent me off with my brothers and sisters to Morrison School. In those days, everyone who lived in town, walked to school as there were no other options. Our parents were far too busy for those niceties. As  the family got bigger, it became a moot point as the car could not fit eight passengers. The Dodge Caravan had not been invented yet.

Morrison, our elementary school, was only a stone’s throw away from our home on Hillcrest. We could practically see it from our back doorstep. The high school was even closer and the campus of St.Francis Xavier University loomed in the background. For most members of our family, all of our formal education took place on a small footprint of land. Our informal education took place at the bowling alley, the Parish Centre, and the Memorial rink.

I trudged across the open field to the school on a bright September morning. There were plenty of kids playing in the school yard. I swear that half of them were from Hillcrest Street. The bell rang and it was time to begin my educational journey.

My home room teacher was a nun from the religious order called the Congregation of Notre Dame, or CND’s as they were better known. It was not that I had never seen a nun before, living in “The Little Vatican” but I had never really seen one up close, close enough to smell their starched uniforms. Sister M. towered over me, with her pointed hood perched on her head. I remember that she didn’t smile a lot. “Take your seats.” That was a command and not a suggestion.

The rest of that first day is a bit of a blur. The only thing I remember for sure is that I was not a happy camper. Most of this was age related as many elementary teachers would agree that keeping some children back until they are six, is beneficial in the long run. I felt overwhelmed and frightened. Sister M. made it very clear that she was the boss and would broach no insolence from her young charges. She carried a long yard stick by her side and would occasionally smack it on a desk to get our attention.

It seemed that every class started and finished with a prayer. The fear of God was never far away.

I enjoyed recess and lunch break but little else.

In those days, many of us went home for lunch. With an hour to kill and a mere five minutes from school, we marched home at noon to our main meal of the day. Yes. We had dinner at midday which seems odd these days. “Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, amen.” Meat, potatoes and some canned vegetables was normal and there was always a freshly baked dessert. “We give Thee thanks for all thy benefits, O almighty God who livest and reignest world without end. Amen”

The last morsel was barely on its way into the stomach, when we were all herded into the living room and dropped to our knees. It was time for the rosary.

Praying the rosary was, and is, a key component of Catholic tradition. It is a time of contemplation, meditation and worship.  The rosary begins with the recitation of the Apostle’s Creed, an Our Father, three Hail Mary’s, and a Glory Be. There are five decades which each begin and end with an Our Father and a Glory Be, and have 10 Hail Mary’s in between. When you pray the rosary, you meditate on the events in Jesus’ life.

Concentration and meditation are not the strong suits of most six year olds and I often found my mind wandering, especially on this, my first day of school. I had prayed entering the school, prayed before and after our noon meal and now a few decades of the rosary. All I could think about was Sister M. and her long stick and dour demeanour.

Dinner didn’t set well as I made my way across the field for the afternoon session at Morrison. And, my knees hurt from 30 minutes of kneeling on the hard living room floor at home. Like any good fighter, I stayed until the final bell. But I felt like I had suffered a TKO, a technical knockout.

My mother was a no nonsense kind of person. It didn’t take her long to realize that sending me to school was a miscalculation and she hastily arranged my withdrawal the following day.

That evening, I got on my PJ’s, brushed my teeth and crawled into bed, with a wave of relief washing over me. Mom had sprung me from jail. A life sentence of one day was over.

“Did you say your prayers?” Mom stood in the doorway with armed across her chest. I crawled down from the top bunk and once again, dropped to my knees. I tried to think of what I would say to my creator. I had done a lot of praying that day.

“Deo Gratias.”


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2 Responses to It’s Elementary

  1. william wallace says:

    ite, missa est

  2. Bernice grant says:

    How could anyone forget those days!!! Great little story, Len.

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