The Good Sisters

just me, coloring outside the lines

One of our colleagues and close friends rushed into the English Office early one October morning.

It’s going to be Halloween!  Mimi announced.

The rest of us groaned. 

Halloween on a high school campus falls somewhere between Carrie and Zombie ApocalypseII.  It is typically a lost teaching day and is spent keeping marginal control of 150 to 200 students dressed in every conceivable costume and are much more interested in each other than the assignment at hand.

I have an idea!  That was not news to us. Mimi always had a new idea.  We’re sisters.  We can all come dressed as nuns.

We looked at her. We looked at each other.  We grinned. A plan was in the works. 

On Halloween, we arrived, one by one, and looking very nun-like.  With floor-length black habits, 1940s black shoes, white wimples, black veils, rulers in hand, and reading glasses perched…

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The Good Sister and the Judge

The next school year, come October, the Sisters were in agreement:  we would be arriving in our nun’s habits once again, except, sadly for Sister Mary Peggy who was now at a new school. The rest of us were all looking forward to a Second Annual Peaceful Halloween.

Then I received a summons from Superior Court.  I had to appear to testify against a small time con artist who had been working our campus and I had to be there at 11:30AM on October 31. 

A court summons was not going to get in the way of my Halloween calm.  I called the prosecuting attorney.

Any way to change this?

No.

Any way to make it later in the day?

No.

I explained that it was Halloween and I was committed to being a nun.

He groaned and then, after some reflection, said, Well, half the courtroom will no doubt be in costume.  Just get here on time.

Will do.

Fortunately, I was scheduled during my prep and lunch so I quickly left after class, drove to the courthouse, parked and very piously entered the courtroom. The Judge, a frail elderly man, smiled and nodded at me.

The prosecutor turned, smiled, and immediately called me to the witness stand.  I must have been a sight, in full habit, taking an oath that I would tell the truth.

The prosecutor then addressed the court.  She is not really a nun.  This is the Halloween custom of her English Department at the high school in question and she has to return to class right after testifying. 

The Judge nodded, half listening but more concerned that I was comfortable and had water if I needed it. He then very gently explained to me that there was no jury, and that he, the Judge, would be rendering the verdict.

The first round of questions, from the prosecuting attorney, was straight forward and I answered them confidently with crisp sentences.  I could say I sounded just like an English teacher but I probably sounded more like a nun.

Then, it was the defendant’s turn and his attorney came at me full force. I continued to answer directly as he increased both the volume and intensity of the questions.

He tried his best to be intimidating, but I taught teenagers. This was a walk in the park.

The Judge evidently disagreed with my assessment. He looked at the defense attorney and scowled.  He finally leaned forward, pointed his finger at the attorney and began to sternly lecture him.

You are not to treat the witness this way. You are to treat her with respect she deserves. Do you understand?  I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in my courtroom.

He hadn’t heard a word of the prosecuting attorney’s explanation regarding my costume.

He looked at me.  In a much softer voice, he asked Now, are you alright?  Do you need water? Don’t let him rattle you. You’re doing just fine.  

He leaned over, smiled and reassuringly patted my hand.

The prosecuting attorney just leaned back in his chair and grinned.

I finished the answers to the few remaining questions, smiled a thank you to the Judge and scurried out of the courtroom with black robe and veil flying. I rushed to make the elevator down the hall and get back in time for my next class.

A middle-aged man with straight black hair slicked back and dressed in a well-cut dark suit held the elevator door open for me. He smiled broadly. As he exited at the next floor, I realized he had red hands and a long red tail with a pointed arrow.  No doubt an attorney.  

Later that day, the prosecuting attorney called to let me know that the defendant was found guilty, which he was, so it all ended as it should have.

He also wanted to know where he could purchase nuns habits for future witnesses.

The Good Sisters

One of our colleagues and close friends rushed into the English Office early one October morning.

It’s going to be Halloween!  Mimi announced.

The rest of us groaned. 

Halloween on a high school campus falls somewhere between Carrie and Zombie Apocalypse II.  It is typically a lost teaching day and is spent keeping marginal control of 150 to 200 students dressed in every conceivable costume and are much more interested in each other than the assignment at hand.

I have an idea!  That was not news to us. Mimi always had a new idea.  We’re sisters.  We can all come dressed as nuns.

We looked at her. We looked at each other.  We grinned. A plan was in the works. 

On Halloween, we arrived, one by one, and looking very nun-like.  With floor-length black habits, 1940s black shoes, white wimples, black veils, rulers in hand, and reading glasses perched on the end of our noses, we were ready. Sister Mary Peggy, Sister Mary Sabra, Sister Mary Janet…well, you get the picture.

nuns (1)

Our principal, a very devout Roman Catholic, was among the first to get wind of our costumes.  He rushed down to the English Office, scowling. 

Not funny. 

It’s Halloween.  We’ll be good sisters. 

He rolled his eyes.  He had heard that before, usually in regards to our attentiveness during predictably long staff meetings where we attempted to keep ourselves awake by group-writing limericks, an increasingly trashy romance novel or correcting student essays. 

Today, however, as we had no other clothes and there was no way he was going to get 12 substitute teachers at the last minute, he was stuck with us.

The warning bell rang for first period.

I walked into my English II class of 35 sophomore students, all dressed in various Halloween garb and ready to hijack the prepared lesson. The kids looked at me, looked at each other and then just looked stunned. They didn’t know how to react, with some trying to hide their laughter, some just plain surprised.

Good morning children.  I stood facing them, stone-faced, the ruler tucked halfway up the habit sleeve and the reading glasses sliding down my nose.

Good morning, ah, um. 

Sister, I corrected them in a firm tone.  The costume had now taken over and I was totally in character. 

Just because it’s Halloween, you still need to stand when addressing me.

And then, just like magic, the tone of the room changed and I was teaching 35 darling teen angels, calling each by their given name…Gabriel not Gabe, Kathryn not Kathy and so forth.  Even more amazing, they sat up straight, hands folded on their desks and stood when politely answering my questions with “Sister, the answer is...”

At lunch, black habits and long veils could be seen flying across campus as the good sisters flocked to the office to exchange stories.  The stories were all the same: courteous students, orderly classrooms, lessons completed even with Halloween.

Halloween had become a dream, not a nightmare.

We looked at one another, looked at our habits, grinned and instantly decided to come dressed as nuns for the rest of our teaching careers.