Ah, childhood. A time of magic and mayhem. Most of this story actually happened. I used a little poetic license. Enjoy!
God Doesn’t Go to the Bathroom
Sister Norah (we called her Sister Gomorrah but never within earshot) was, like many nuns at St. Martha’s Grade School in Oldton, Ohio, a strict disciplinarian. Back in the 60s nuns had two options: teach or become nurses. Perhaps Sister Norah would have been a good nurse. All I can tell you is she was a terrible teacher. I say this for one simple reason: she hated us. She was a child-hater. Her demeanor showed this every day. Her mouth was set in a permanent scowl, more like a tear in her face. And it wasn’t just me who thought so. Virtually every child in my fourth grade class believed this, even the teacher’s pet—Priscilla Mason. When I went to school back in those days most of the teachers were nuns, and Sister Norah was the most feared nun on the faculty. Her classroom was a place of terror and she was the tyrannical queen, like the Queen of Hearts Alice has to contend with.
Alice wouldn’t have fared well in Sister Norah’s classroom. She would have been gobbled up and spit out like the rest of us. And Alice would never have awoken from her dream. It would have lasted an entire year and longer if she’d been held back. Sister Norah had many rules, which she posted in large block letters on the front wall. She had ten to be exact, much like The Ten Commandments:
- Sister Norah is the ruler of the classroom. Obey her.
- Be prompt. Any student who is tardy will be sent to the principal’s office for discipline.
- Be quiet. This includes before and after the bell rings. Never run in the classroom or in the hallways.
- Speak only when called upon by Sister Norah. Stand beside your desk when speaking.
- Raise your hand to be recognized by Sister Norah.
- Never make a joke. When speaking always be serious.
- Always pay attention. A wandering eye finds trouble.
- Boys and girls are to remain separate at all times. This applies in the classroom, in lines, on the playground, and in the cafeteria.
- Keep your eyes on your own work. Cheating will be dealt with most severely.
- Go to the bathroom only at designated times, never during class.
The last commandment was enforced with rigor. We were allowed to use the lavatory before and after recess, before and after lunch, and at the end of the day if we could manage it before boarding the bus. If a student felt an urge at other times he or she was expected to hold it until the next designated time. This, of course, presented problems. We were fourth-graders, nine and ten years old. We could not easily control our bodily functions, so there were infractions. It took great courage to raise your hand in Sister Norah’s class, and even more courage to raise it to ask to use the bathroom. One day in the winter I held my urine as long as possible and then in desperation I raised my hand. Sister Norah, as irritated as ever, called on me. “Yes, Malory?” she growled. I stood beside my desk as was our duty. “Sister, I have to go the bathroom, please.”
“Malory, please read the 10th commandment posted behind me!”
I looked up and read: “Go to the bathroom only at designated times, never during class.”
I squirmed while I waited. I was in great pain. “Is there anything about the 10th commandment you don’t understand?”
“No, but I really have to go.”
She pursed her lips. “When will you children learn? The commandments are absolute! There are no exceptions. God doesn’t go to the bathroom! And you should strive to be like God in all things. Sit down, Malory.”
“I don’t think I can hold it,” I said bravely.
“You can and you will! Now sit down!”
The next minutes were terribly painful. I thought my bladder would burst and the urine inside me would poison my innards. After crossing my legs and holding myself for many minutes, the pain eased somewhat. I still felt the need to go but it was not as insistent. As soon as the bell rang I dashed for the bathroom. “Malory Damper,” Sister scolded, “what does Commandment Number Three say.” I danced in discomfort. “Never run,” I said. “Right. I suggest you follow it.” I said I would. I walked awkwardly to the door and then dashed down the stairs to the lavatory. I threw down my books and stood in front of the urinal and relieved myself. It was like eating chocolate ice cream. Afterward I zipped up, grabbed my books, and ran for the bus.