Sunday, September 11, 2011

Storytelling Sunday---Me and My Big Fat Mouth!

My big fat mouth has gotten me in trouble many times at school through the years. But I'd say the very first time was 1963 when I was in the 6th grade. I had the meanest nun of all, Sister Richard Maureen---most were pretty mean in the 60's, but she was the meanest. We had just come back to the classroom from lunch. Dick Hoffmeyer---we grew up with him as Dick, but suddenly when we entered high school, he became Rich---go figure! Dick did something that made us all laugh hysterically. Sister came in and asked, "What was so funny?" Dick raised his hand and she called on him. He said, "Sister, I cut the cheese." We all cracked up again. Sister quickly put a stop to that. Well, I couldn't stop giggling. Sister got out her roll of masking tape with the blue stripes. She put it over my mouth. Of course, I was mortified and very near tears. So what does a 12 year old girl do to hide embarrassment? She continues to giggle.

Completely frustrated with me, Sister put me in a corner out in the hallway. There, I was able to have my own private little pity party. I was still out there at 3 p.m. when school let out. I looked a sight with that blue-striped tape over my mouth. I was embarrassed all over again as the kids filed out for the day. Even worse was knowing that my brother and sisters couldn't wait to get home to "tell" on me. Back then, if you got in trouble at school, you got in worse trouble at home. That gave me something else to worry about.

Around 4 p.m., Sister Richard Maureen was leaving our classroom for the day. As soon as she stepped into the hallway, she gasped when she saw me still standing there. She didn't admit it, but I realized that she completely forgot about me. She wasn't exactly nice or apologetic, but told me I'd better learn to control myself in the future and then sent me home.

But that's not the end of the story. I got my chance to confront Sister Richard Maureen about 40 years later. It was the closing of our childhood parish and school, St. Aloysius in St. Louis, MO. The whole family came. We were delighted to see old classmates and teachers. I would never have recognized Sister Richard Maureen. When I found out she was there, I marched right up to her and said, "Hi Sister, I'm Barbara Zimmermann (Eads) and you were the meanest teacher I ever had!" She said, "Was I really?" We started talking. I was sure that she would want to apologize to me for what she did all those years ago. But before I even got to remind her of her "crime", she told me that at the time, she was a brand new teacher---22 years old and had 59 students in my class. She had to be tough in order to keep that many kids under control. I remembered that our classes were huge, but I had no idea she was so young---nuns always seemed old to me---and she didn't have any helpers either. Suddenly, I felt a little sorry for her.

I never did remind her of what she did to me. I figure, just like all of us, she made a mistake and probably has enough of her own regrets. She didn't need to be reminded of just one more. If something like that happened today, parents would be "all over it." That teacher would have been in so much trouble. But you know, I was none the worse for it. I learned to behave. And a little humbling is good for the soul. I wasn't harmed for life. I'm pretty well adjusted and happy. In fact, I think I owe Sister Richard Maureen a big thank you. Because of her, I'm still a rule follower. It might drive some people nuts, but I like myself this way.

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