Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Mother Went to Buy a Cow by Roseanne Dowell

One of my most memorable times growing up in a strict Catholic home during the fifties, with three older brothers, an older sister, and a younger sister, was the Catholic School we attended. It was across the street from our house and  my mother was very involved in both the church and school. She knew the nuns very well.  Our next door neighbor and Mom’s best friend, Rose, often drove them to the store, bank, or ran errands for them. Naturally, Rose knew a lot of what went on at school.
Two of my brothers were notorious for getting into trouble, always playing silly immature pranks. It wasn't unusual for them to receive a swat with a ruler.  Back then, corporal punishment was the normal manner of discipline. Mom wouldn't put up with disrespect or monkeyshines at home let alone in school. We were there to learn and we'd darn well better pay attention. 
So when she found out someone had gotten into trouble, and she always did, they paid for it at home, also.  We used to think she had eyes in the back of her head. Later we learned most of her information came directly from the nuns  themselves and sometimes from Rose.
We all knew it wouldn't take long for Mom to find out if we got into trouble.  It wasn't in my nature to misbehave – at least not much and seldom at school.  My brothers did plenty enough for all of us and I didn't care to be punished. Not that I was a perfect child, far from it, I got my share of spankings, but in school I tried to behave and do what was expected. Maybe because of a lesson I learned early on.
My dilemma began when I was in the first grade.  My teacher, Sister Roseanne, was a young and pretty nun. I loved her. Besides, she bore the same name as me, which made her extra special. I loved school and every morning I willingly followed my brothers and sister. Except for one day.
That day my sister, Mary, didn’t have to go to school. She had to stay home and baby-sit our younger sister. Not that this was normal, but whoever was supposed to watch my younger sister couldn't do it. At any rate, I wanted to stay home too. Naturally, Mom said no. I was angry and upset
So upset, in fact, I didn't even kiss Mom good-bye that morning, and off I went pouting, mumbling and grumbling about how unfair it was. My brothers laughed at me on the way to school, which made me feel worse.
 I’d never left without kissing my mother before, so, by time I got to school, I felt so bad that I sat at my desk and cried. Every time Sister asked me what was wrong I cried harder and refused to answer. Feeling worse by the minute my tears soon turned into sobs.  I couldn't even do my work and just refused to answer Sister. 
Finally, at wits end, she spanked me for my insolence. This, of course, made me cry harder, and my little heart was crushed. My beautiful sister, who bore my name, spanked me.
Since I still wouldn't stop crying, Sister Roseanne sent me for Mary, hoping I guess, to find out what had me so upset. By this time, I’d forgotten the reason for my anger and tears and completely forgot Mary stayed home. I stood outside Mary’s classroom, tears streaming down my face and knocked on the door. Sister Mary Francis answered my knock.
“Sister Roseanne wants to see Mary,” I said through my tears.
“Mary isn't in school today.” Sister Mary Francis gave me a quizzical look.  “Is she sick?”
“Oh, that’s right,” I wiped my tears, “I forgot she had to stay home to watch Gloria.”
“Oh and why is that?”
“Because my mama went to buy a cow.” I answered and hurried back to
my classroom, for some reason the tears forgotten. I made it through the rest of the day dry eyed, but I couldn't wait to get home to give Mom a kiss and hug.
Later that day I sat outside the window as Rose and Mom talked. I was worried, sure that Rose knew about the spanking. I hadn't told my mother, I didn't want her to know.
 “Wait until you hear what Sister Mary Francis said today.” Rose told my mother. “She said Rosi came to her classroom looking for Mary and told her the most fantastic tale. She could hardly stop laughing. Rosi told her that Mary was babysitting because you went to buy a cow.”
I held my breath, listening and waiting for her to get the part about the spanking as she told the story to my mother.
“But, Sister,I told her.” Rose continued, “ She didn't make that up. Her mother did go to buy a cow. Julia, you should have seen the look on her face when I explained about the freezer, it was priceless.”

I let out a sigh when my mother laughed. She never did ask me why Sister spanked me. Maybe she  thought I'd been punished enough. I never got in trouble or spanked in school again.

You can find Roseanne's books at Amazon  
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