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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, October 20, 2006

So there I was at the fabric store, sitting with that poor woman who had thought I was in a costume, looking through the pattern books. For the uninitiated, which I'll assume is just about everyone since no one makes their own clothes anymore, even the children chained to sewing machines in China for Wal Mart, the pattern books are huge and there are tables full of them.

At this point I had spent about an hour in the parking lot of the fabric store and a good forty minutes roaming in unfamiliar territory. They don't just sell fabric at the fabric store. They sell: ready-made costumes, holiday decorations which already include Thanksgiving and Christmas (I remember a time when no Christmas items were sold until after Thanksgiving, but then you can wear white after Labor Day now, too), baskets, craft paint, yarn, books, fake flowers, scrap booking items which take up three aisles, clay, wood, already made wooden items to paint or decoupage, batting, pillows, lamps, special lamps that mimic daylight, buttons, ribbon, purse handles in case you make the rest of the purse yourself, quilt making paraphenalia, emboidery hoops, thread, floss, three more aisles of jewelry making goo gaw, beads and what not. And 'notions'.

The pattern books are in the middle of the store like an oasis -- an oasis because there are chairs there. You can sit. But if it's really crowded there is a line for a chair and maybe one of the books. You look in the book for the pattern and when you find something you like you get the number and find the pattern in giant file drawers which surround the oasis. There wer a lot of peole looking at patterns. It was like being at a Starbucks inside a Barnes and Noble, minus the coffee.

The woman who thought I was wearing a costume, we'll call her Miss Gourd, was buzzing around me making sure I had a chair and grabbing books to bring over. She never stopped talking. I was trying to listen politely, but I was on a mission to find a pirate. I was nervously thinking ahead at how difficult it was going to be to figure out how much fabric to buy, which I must have spoken out loud because it seemed to have tripped a tape recording in Miss Gourd's brain that caused her mouth to broadcast an oration about why she is not good at math. During this I overheard the woman next to me telling her daughter that they could find her costume here.

The tired whiney child sat on her lap as they looked through the big book, a little angel of maybe four years who was about to smear chocolate everywhere.

I am a nun. I am NEVER without a hankie. I keep it up my sleeve. I sprang to action.

I really did spring.

I had forgotten that children are terrified of me.

I get that I'm a little scarey looking. I would be a little scarey looking if it were still 1950. I think I might be in the same category as Santa and clowns to a four year old even back then.

But these days when no one ever really sees a nun in a habit, when the only people in long robes you see are on TV pumping uzis over there heads, to have some old lady dressed in black with only her face and hands showing.........an old gnarly face and hands at that.... leap at you. I was all red in the face from the last two hours of fabric store shock and awe. I was sweating. I must have looked like some demon that had arisen right up out of the floor ready to snatch her from her mother's lap and pull her down into one of the books never to be seen or heard from again.

The child shrieked. The whole store stopped.

It could have ended there if I had just not tried to fix it. I was apologizing but the woman would have none of it. She gave me quite an earful. When I said, "I'm sorry", she said,"What did you think you were you doing!?" When I tried to explain, she said I should mind my own business. (How many times did I say just that to the second graders?) How dare I scare her child. "I wasn't trying to scare her, I was trying to wipe her!" I think the manager started heading our way right about then. Miss Gourd was trying to tell Mrs. Mommy that I wasn't in a costume which caused Mrs. Mommy to let Miss Gourd have it with both barrels.

"I'm not stupid!" Mrs. Mommy screamed. Miss Gourd, dim bulb that she was, understood the implication that meant that she was stupid.

"I'm not stupid enough to let my kid wipe chocolate on the whole store!" squealed Miss Gourd. When in doubt, accuse and exaggerate.

I gave up on the mother and tried to console the screaming child that I was not an ancient monster dropped from a lightening cloud. "What are you going to be for Halloween, dear?" I asked. I probably sounded like Margaret Hamilton after the green paint she was wearing for make-up caught fire as she dropped through the trapdoor. I certainly felt like Margaret Hamilton after the green paint caught fire. At least for her, production stopped. No such luck for me.

As Miss Gourd and Mrs. Mommy continued their argument, my eye fell upon the pattern book with a picture of the child's choice for her costume. The Little Mermaid.

"Oh my goodness!" I gasped. I must have sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. "You're not going to let her wear that?!"

"What?" snapped Mrs. Mommy. "It's warm outside and it's not really flippers...she can walk in it...."

I think since I had sucked all of the air out of the room everyone was a little dizzy.

"She'll look like a harlot with fins!" I sputtered. "Her arms are bare and it's a brassiere top made of garish flowers and her middle is bare..."

From waaaaayyy across the store I could see the manager speaking to some sort of security person whose hand was already on his giant flashlight in the doorway. I thought I'd better make a run for it.

"Don't you want to be St. Cecilia?" I asked the child. "She's very pretty and she plays the harp. She likes water, too. She died in her own bath tub...."

I heard her mother calling me crazy from across the store as I left. I distinctly heard her say, "That crazy nun!!!!" I'll bet she was pointing at me while she said it.

As horrible as that was, we now face the horror of not having the supplies we need to do the sewing Sister St. Aloysius has promised. Guess everyone will have to go as ghosts. Even I can make a hole in a sheet.


seeking_something said...


It's sad when people would default to thinking ill of others, and sad when they are unable to accept an apology.
Truthfully, children these days must be taught to be wary of strangers--dressed in strange garbs or not--for their own protection. Even if the child were not afraid of you, your generosity may not have been well received. Being that you are used to an environment of trust and love and that you are a teacher of little ones, it was only natural that sprung into action. I'm sorry that your intentions were not well received. I, for one, appreciate all the good work that our religious do and people like you give me hope. Perhaps next time you can gently offer Mama Bear the tissue for her pup. As for your opinion of what is appropriate, preach it Sister!

Tracy said...

"She'll look like a harlot with fins!"

Ahaha! Add that to my favotite quotes list. But seriously, as something of a knitwit myself, I know that craft stores can be dangerous and terrifying places, especially to those who are not, ah, familiar with their particular workings.

That lady needs to take a serious chill-pill. So her kid got scared! If you ask me, children *need* to have the wits scared out of them once in a while. It's good for them.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Well, it IS Halloween afterall.

Tim said...

Ditto here with the whooping laughter...

"That crazy nun!"

Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

I just had a little rant on my blog about that very thing - my pet peeve is "Jasmine" from Aladdin.
It amazes me, with all the weirdos and pedophiles, why mothers would dress their children like their "open for business".

My kids always like to be St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She has a crown and flowers. A close second is St. Agnes, because she has a lamb. The boys, of course, like St. Sebastian so they can have fake blood and arrows.

Yeah, it's good for kids to be scared by nuns. Makes 'em behave in church, gives 'em something to talk about on Letterman, should they have the misfortune of being a celebrity.

dutch said...

Halloween IS my birthday. It is also REFORMATION DAY, I just find the need to remind you.

I love you sistah mary martha.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Perhaps then Duchess, you will reform on your birthday.

dutch said...


The Crescat said...

A harlot with fin! Priceless!

Kasia said...

Hm. That mother sounded strikingly like a co-worker of mine, but her daughter is only two, so it can't be the same person. I could readily see her berating a nun for accidentally frightening her child...and I could even more readily see her dressing a four-year-old up as the Little Mermaid...ahem. She and I have had repeated, vocal disagreements about appropriate attire for both children and adults.

Harlot with fins...that's classic. God bless you, Sister!