March 16th, 2009

The Outlaws of St. Casimir's

From WITNESS, a memoir in progress


One morning grandma, somewhat recovered from her most recent illness, announced it was time for my first day of school. “You’re going to St. Casimir’s,” she said, “where you stayed for a while when you were sick, remember? Remember?”

I said I didn’t want to go, I wanted to just stay there. She said no, come on, get ready, and she dressed me, and took my hand and walked me down Superior Street, then over to Jefferson. I resisted. She got angry, and pulled me along until I walked fast to keep up with her grim, purposeful stride.

The Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union looked weird in their starched white linen head and breast covers, and the black cloth of their hoods and floor-length habits. The long rosaries hanging from their belts clicked faintly when they walked. One of them, Sister Regina, clapped her hands to get our attention, and ordered us to sit at a big table with lots of brand new stuff on it, like Crayolas, and colored chalk, and jars of paint and brushes, and building blocks and lots and lots of modeling clay.

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