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Happy Nuns
by Grace Mattioli

Not all the nuns in our school were like Sr. Rose, who’d turn into a red version of the Incredible Hulk every time she’d get angry. Her stiff, haughty voice rising out of her fat, square body and making the classroom walls vibrate. Or Sr. Jacinta whose fire hydrant ankles would shake when she’d lecture us in broken English on the wrongs of school boys wearing earrings: “In this school, we have boys and girls but not boy- girls!” Or premarital sex: “Would you give a pearl to a pig!?”

There was Sr. Angelina, whose eyes always twinkled, and who was so filled with the spirit of the lord that every time she saw a lower case letter “T”, she took it as a sign that Jesus was with her. She’d play her guitar every Friday in class and sing out her praises. I’d get embarrassed at the way her rock and roll version of the “Our Father” would send shivers down my spine. After lunch, she’d lead us in prayer. She sat straight as a breadstick and her eyes stayed devout despite the sweat dripping down her cheeks. 

And Sr. Armanda who shone like a newly canonized saint beneath her bony, crinkled self. She’d stand in the center of our fenced in, concrete playground, her stance half broken, peering out behind her big black plastic frames. She seemed to see everything that was happening at all times, like there were eyes on the back of her bonnet, and if she ever sensed a child in danger, she’d shout out in her strong low voice. Her voice was never shrill or shrieking, just strong. She rarely smiled, but when she did, she meant it and her smiles always had a glimmer of compassion in them.

I can’t recall any other happy nuns from my childhood, but I know they’re out there somewhere, singing and smiling.