Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Oh, the Scrapes We Have Seen!
I should have presented him with a box of chocolates after I wasn't expelled on my first day of school.
At that time, I knew little about Religious Sisters. Only that they wore long black dresses and starched white bonnets. And I knew that when a student misbehaved, Sister would swoop toward the child "with her beads swinging!!!" Or so my mother had warned me, using a tone of apocalyptic doom.
I realized, from Mother's words, that the beads were something worn by Sisters. Now this, to me, was thoroughly exciting. I positively loved beads; I was enchanted by the gleaming white pearl ones Mother put on when she and Daddy went out for the evening. I loved colorful glittery beads worn, usually with matching earrings, by my aunts and cousins. Oh yes, beads were fine things! Fine, fine things! They signaled celebration and beauty and times when a lady wore her finest.
I must say, what Sister wore on the first day of school didn't strike me as her finest. Today must not be particularly special to her, I decided, because she arrived unbeaded. She stood tall and straight beside a cracked slate blackboard, dressed in a stiff white bonnet and a long plain dress of black. Around her neck, I saw not one single bead.
I still have a sharp memory of my disappointment. Not only had I expected beads, I'd anticipated lengthy strands of them (after all, they had to be long enough to "swing"). White, gleaming strings of pearls dancing around Sister's neck as she swooooooped.... which was a rather attractive image all on its own to my six year old mind. I envisioned a large, dark, graceful bird, magically flying forward with its pearly circlet swinging.
But Ah! (I suddenly remembered). Mother had said I must DO something in order to see the beads swing. Ah HA! I suddenly got it. I had the magic! I knew the secret.
I must misbehave!
Sister presented me with the perfect opportunity. It happened when she told us that whatever we did, no matter what, we MUST NOT WRITE ON OUR DESKS.
Ahhh, that was it. My ticket to a vision of swinging, gleaming beauty. I waited until Sister was looking directly at me, I made sure to catch her eye, and I took my big fat long wooden pencil and carved as hard as I could onto the top of my desk.
Here it was: the moment of swooooooping! Like a rushing hawk, Sister flew down the aisle between desks and swept toward me. But oh dear. She had forgotten her pearls.
And then I saw them. A long strand of fat black beads had been concealed in the gathers of Sister's skirt all along, and now they were swinging. Back and forth, with every swish of her dress, they were swinging. I was so focused on the dark, unshiny beads that What Happened Next has always been a blur. It had to do with my being grabbed up from my chair, shaken back and forth a bit (remember that to Sister I must have seemed like the most defiant child in all the universe), and a red-haired classmate looking over at me with thumb in mouth and horror on face. I don't remember what was said; the scene replays in my mind like a silent movie. It's just as well. I didn't know words like defiant and disobedient and disrespectful and wicked yet anyway. It was probably better to learn those later, in some other way.
(I wonder if my guardian angel just read that last sentence and sighed).
Yes, this story of the swinging beads is true. And the gratitude to my guardian angel: that's true as well. Oh, the scrapes we have seen!! Oh, those sad times when he has watched me race headlong into sin. I've gone along my merry, self-appointed, disobedient, defiant path of potential doom so often. And all the while, he has stayed busy wrestling and fighting and trying to lead me in right paths.
This is a long overdue public thank you, guardian angel.
Thank you for battling for my soul.
Painting: Domenichino, Guardian Angel