I grew up with priests and nuns.
(Please hold any snide remarks on my behalf until the end.)
Poppy’s brother, Father Mike, was a priest. At any given holiday there was a man of collar at the table, sometimes two if he brought with him a friend, a visiting priest with no nearby family. He was a remarkable man, a warm, loving charitable man with a sharp sense of humor. Handsome, too. With his looks and wit he could’ve been in those days what was called “a movie star,” but no, he became a priest, as in my grandparents’ generation becoming a member of the clergy was a very honorable thing to do.
(We don’t see too many young priests anymore…The church has to figure this out…Things are different…But then, oh then, what a thing to be a priest.)
Father Mike has long passed now, but stories from those holiday tables come around this time of year. One Christmas he brought me a beautiful statue from Rome of Santa Claus kneeling at the Baby Jesus. From an art standpoint, it is truly special, even just to hold its weight in your hand…
Remember the time, the stories go…and we laugh, Nanny smiles.
Aunt Krissy gives me a dig, “yeah, remember the time in college when dad wouldn’t get me a car and I drove Father Mike’s car around loaded with rosary beads and a license plate that said ‘clergy?'”
“Not my fault you chose to stay home and I went away,” I’ll say…
My Nan and Pop do have one friend of theirs who is still alive: Sister Rita. She was my mother’s first grade school teacher. She is ninety-something years old and lives up in a convent in Boston.
Nanny doesn’t see her or speak to her often, but her name, too, often comes up around the holidays.
(This time of year makes you so nostalgic, you’ll see.)
Recently my uncle went up to visit her and he recorded his conversation on his phone to play for my mother. He asked Sister Rita about the past, about my grandparents, about Nanny as a student.
As you could imagine, Nanny was so excited to listen to it. To hear this dear, revered voice and her memories, a link to my mother’s past…Say what you want about technology (YOU: “Actually, mom, we don’t say anything about technology, we were born with it, it’s you who grew up with the Encyclopedia Britannica and had to embrace all this change”), but what a magnificent thing to be able to bridge the past and the present.
“And what about Ellen? How was she in school” my uncle asked…
Nanny waited with bated breath.
“Ellen?” the old voice on the recording said. “Ellen, she didn’t talk much. In fact, I wasn’t sure if she was a moron.”
Don’t diss members clergy, babies. They’re still people. Even a ninety-year-old nun is not a saint.