It is really a surprise that I don’t have a complex. I should certainly suffer from abandonment issues. I mean, I always thought I was a cute kid. But if that was the case, how could I be so forgettable? You learned last week about my parents leaving me behind at the park when I was nine. Well, apparently, that was the beginning of a trend; only this time I was forgotten by a nun of all people. You would think a nun would have your back, but I guess not.
I was thirteen. We had moved back to Virginia and I was an eighth grader at Portsmouth Catholic High School. The school was home to about 300 students in grades 8-12. I loved it! I made some really great friends there, and we were all one big happy family. We looked out for each other, got into mischief together, and sometimes played pranks on each other. This was also the year that I had two of my favorite teachers: Mrs. Bates for Math and Mrs. Hernandez for English. It was Mrs. Hernandez who developed my love of English and inspired me to become an English teacher. Life was good! However, there were still occasional moments of chaos.
The day of the incident was cold and I wasn’t feeling well. Because our school was so small, we did not have a school nurse. When students were ill, they were sent to Sister Mary Rose, who served as the guidance counselor/bookkeeper. I’m not sure how old she really was, but she seemed to me to be about ninety. She was very sweet and expressed great concern over the fact that I was feeling sick. Rather than calling my mom and sending me home, she thought it might help to let me rest for a while. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so she escorted me down the hall, unlocked a door, and ushered me into a small, dark room (really just a walk-in closet) which contained nothing but a cot. She encouraged me to lie down and take a nap saying she would check on me in about an hour.
I woke a while later to the banging of lockers and thought it was the change of classes. Yet when I poked my head out of the room, I discovered the noise was from the custodians cleaning up for the day. School was over. The busses and all the other students were gone. Sister Mary Rose had forgotten all about me! The custodians informed me that she was still in her office though and I should have her call my mom.
When I walked into her office, she was standing at a file cabinet with her back to me. When she turned around and saw me, the shock was so great I thought she was going to drop dead of a heart attack. I’m not sure who felt worse at that moment: me for scaring her or her for forgetting me. We took turns apologizing, but my ordeal was not over just yet. When she called my mom to inform her of what happened, she offered to take me to the convent until my mom could come get me. The convent! I know later in life I would tease my niece that she would be hidden away in a convent until we deemed her old enough to date, but this was real. It was no laughing matter. I was mortified. What could I do though? You simply did not say “no” to a nun.
The next hour of my life was spent sitting alone in the living room of the convent while the nuns gathered for evening prayers. I suppose things could have been worse. They could have made me participate in their evening prayer service. Time ticked by so slowly as I stared out the window willing my mom’s car to come into focus. It was one of the longest evenings of my life. Needless to say, I never again reported to any teacher at the school that I was feeling sick. Lesson learned!