The Closet of Lost Things

The Nuns of Our Lady of the Foothills taught their students math, English, religion, history, geography, and a scattering of basic subjects. Their educational technique depended heavily on rote memorization and harsh discipline. The Palmer penmanship was beaten into our rebellious right hands. The left hand belonged to the Devil. Laziness on small ts earned miscreants a wrap on the knuckles. The nuns were experts in teaching pain.

A pinched arm opened our eyes to Math. The mysteries of adding, subtracting, multiplication, and division were boiled down to tables. 7 X 7 = 63. How didn’t matter. The charts didn’t lie. 1 + 1 always equaled 2. How a man and woman ended up with a baby was not part of our learning process.

The flow of history was divided into dates important to the Holy Roman Church and America; 5 BC the Birth of Jesus Christ, 1215 the Magna Carta, 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, 1776 the American Declaration of Independence, 1914 the Start of the Great War, and the 2nd Vatican Council in 1961.

Questioning why the Birth of Jesus Christ was 5 years before Anno Domino or why Christmas was only four months later than the Immaculate Conception was grounds for a visit to the Principal. Sister Mary Eucharist corrected adolescence heresy with a yardstick. She expected the same iron hand from the nuns of her convent.

The mysteries of faith were solved by the memorization of the Baltimore Cathecism; God made the world, God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things, Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God and God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. God reigned over man with capital letters. There was no detour from these tenets.

None what so ever, but my 6th Grade teacher Sister Mary Osmond ignored the dictums of her superior. The ancient nun had taught in Egypt. She entertained her pupils with tales of Africa. Closing my eyes I could see the Nile and children running bare-footed over the sharp stalks of corn without slicing their feet. Our minds were her loving flock and we followed her new approach to learning like trusting sheep.

Sister Mary Eucharist hated her. Fear was her favorite tool to teaching us. Sister Mary Osmond used love and we reciprocated by scoring the highest test scores in the Boston Diocese. Her knowledge flooded our senses and she had an answer for everything.

Not all of it was true.

One afternoon Connie Botari cried in the back of the class. Sister Mary Eucharist would have ignored the silent sobs, but our teacher put down her chalk and wordlessly glided down the aisle to Connie’s desk.

“What’s wrong?”

“I lost my headband.” Connie had looked very cute this morning with it on her head. It was pink. She was pretty, although not a pretty as Kyla Rota. neither knew I lived and breathed on the same planet.

“Is that all?” Sister Mary Osmond touched the young girl’s head with tenderness. “Don’t you worry about that?”

She paused for few seconds and I expected the venerable nun to tell the same thing that my mother told me when her six children lost a favorite toy.

“If you lose something than it wasn’t yours to begin with.”

My mother had learned that lesson from her mother. Nana had come over from Ireland in the Year of the Crow. She had been 12. Losing things was bad luck and she expected her family to avoid bad luck. Only St. Anthony had the power to help us find things.

“St. Anthony, St. Anthony
Please come down
Something is lost
And can’t be found.”

I had rejected the belief in God at age 6, but remained true to the powers of the saints. Most of them had pagan roots. Not St. Anthony of Padua, although the Italian had at one time lived in Morocco, which made his faith questionable in my eyes.

Sister Mary Osmond patted Connie on the head. She had a different take on loss.

“In heaven there is a closet with everything you ever lost waiting for you.”

“Really?” Connie Botari sniffed behind the swipe of her wrist.

“It has your name on it in gold letters. Nothing is truly gone. It remains in your memory, so you can enjoy seeing it again in heaven.” Sister Mary Osmond gave Connie a handkerchief. It had our teacher’s initials embroidered in a corner. “You keep it. All possessions are transitory on this Earth. The only thing you need is a pure soul to get you in heaven. That purity is your key to the closet with all lost things.”

I was on the verge of pubescence. Impure thoughts outnumbered evil deeds. I had abandoned my faith at an early age. Heaven was for only true believers. I was going to Hell and I was certain that Lucifer had a closet of mockery loaded with the things I never wanted in the first place.

I lowered my head into my hands. My toy boat and teddy bear would remain trapped in their heavenly closet, but then I remembered what Sister Mary Osmond had said about lost things. They remained forever in your head and I smiled, because forever will be a long time in Hell without a teddy bear.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *