Sunday, February 1, 2009

a stitch in time

[Here's my favorite nun movie!!! ]
When I was about 12 I was sure I was being called to be a nun. It was not to be. I changed my mind about a week later. I often think back to that time and the circumstances that gave me that feeling.

My great aunt on my dad's side of the family was a beautiful and smart young lady in the first part of the 20th century. I know she was beautiful because of photos I have seen many times of her as a girl and as a young woman. There she was, smiling for the camera, an older sibling of my grandmother. I know she was smart because our family genealogy record includes her college degrees and teaching certification and the list of schools where she taught many ages of children, finally settling in to teach high school students.

She began her own school journey in a one room school house as a little girl and she was to return to a one room school house as a teacher. An old newspaper clipping from a small town in Ohio told me this: The one room school house had many teachers that came to mold the young students' minds but most seemed to leave, many not willing to last a harsh winter season. My great aunt left too but not for the same reason as the rest. She left to take holy orders and enter into the convent. Once when she told the Mother Superior that the farthest West she had ever been was a small town in Ohio named Wapakoneta, she soon after found herself being assigned to a school in Arizona! She would continue her teaching, sharing her knowledge and love of learning with high school students, for many years into her own old age.

As an old woman, she was back in Southern Ohio and when I was 12 we made the drive to see her. I remember being so taken in by it all. The beauty of the church and convent buildings. The huge magical booming echo of the organ music and all the nuns singing familiar hymns. The simple, non materialistic lifestyle of the nuns. She seemed so absolutely happy and fulfilled. I was sure it was the plan for me. I recall my mom wondering what all my hundreds of questions were for on the ride back home to Northern Ohio that weekend.

The infatuation feeling quickly passed. I was to continue my life, observing the many priests and nuns I encountered so often in my Catholic upbringing, with a feeling of quizzical admiration for the people that felt so absolutely sure of the calling. My great aunt's brother also answered the call of the church and became a priest. Ironically (or maybe not so ironically) my guy's aunt was also a nun. You know those good Catholic families usually have some nuns and priests tucked into the family tree somewhere along the line !

I reread the newspaper article (celebrating her Silver Jubilee) and this time I found a new detail that I had overlooked before. It said that throughout her life she did beautiful embroidery work and was happy with her needlework in her lap when she had the opportunity. Her work was admired for its lovely stitches. Of all the images of her before the convent and after, I think I like that image that I hold in my mind the best. She died at age 85 at the time I was a teenager. She had a long life filled with her calling, teaching, and embroidery!

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