Day 37: Handle With Care

“That dimple on the inside of your wrist?” says Sister Mary Herman. “It’s a scar from Jesus’ crucifixion. That’s where the nails were hammered through. His agony was so great that you bear the mark of it. Remember his pain and your sin every time you move your hand.”

Sister Mary Herman teaches us to hate our bodies and ourselves. She doesn’t stop at the shameful dark places that already embarrass us. We are bad. We deserve the hell that is surely waiting for us.

We are ten years old.

She is one tough nun. Built like a linebacker with a five-o’clock shadow to match, Sister Mary Herman glares at us from beneath her wimple. She is heavily-upholstered and traditional – no modern habits for her. Her ankles hang over her sensible stern lace-up oxfords. Steel-rimmed glasses magnify her pale beady little eyes. She wields a ruler as a weapon.

And yet we are resilient.

We count the whiskers sprouting from her chin. We watch the spittle fly as she works up into some particularly gruesome tale of errant children rightly punished. We somehow know that she’s a crazy old bat.

She was probably my age at the time.

We carry the scars of her rough handling — but she didn’t win. We’ve all enjoyed the hell out of big ripe juicy lives, despite our shameful sinful wrists.

I do hear Sister Mary Herman’s voice in these trendy days of radical self-acceptance and love. She scoffs at every self-help article that tells me to forgive myself for my flaws. She snorts at popular wisdom that tells me to embrace my imperfections. She sneers and scowls out of the mirror at me.

Now, though, I can stick my tongue out at her. There are perks to being an adult.

5 thoughts on “Day 37: Handle With Care

  1. Beth

    I had Sister Mary Winifred. In first grade she had us so convinced that God would punish, not only our errant deeds but our thoughts as well, that when I knelt down in my gray plaid uniform with green knee socks and burnt my entire bare thigh on the hot water pipe that ran along the pews to heat the church I didn’t say a word through the entire mass. When she saw the size and scope of the burn as I was leaving the church she gasped and told me that God would have forgiven me if I had sought help. That for me was the first chink in the armor that was the rule as of the Catholic Church. By the time I graduated high school that armor had been cracked wide open!:)

    • Oh, you poor baby. For me, it was the notion of guardian angels as God’s spies. They aren’t comforting beings — they nose around you constantly, reporting every little mis-deed back to God. They even watched you pee (I asked Sister Mary Herman about that. She was not amused, but she did answer me). That did it.

    • Wendy Heath

      The epitome of evil… scaring children so badly that they’d rather hide pain and damage than preserve self (and not just talking burns, here.) Ugh.

  2. Beth

    Wow! She told you they watch you pee? That might have put me on the psych’s couch.

    • Yep. It creeps me out to this day. It was likely meant to discourage self-abuse. Those angels watch me clipping my toenails and picking my nose, too. I really ought to be on the psych’s couch :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *