Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sister Rose Brendan - Blessing #8

Of all the teachers I have had through years of education, Sister Rose Brendan stands out above the rest.  She was a Dominican nun at Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida.  I started kindergarten there and graduated in 1959.  I was a boarder for several years, and she was my 7th grade teacher as well as my home economics teacher when I got to high school.  Sister was short and chubby in appearance, firm and demanding of me in the classroom, but always loving and compassionate. If I turned in work or a project which was not done as she expected and demanded, I would do it again with NO exceptions. Her expectations of me were pretty hard because I, like most of my pals, didn’t want to redo anything  Trust me, we might have thought we were “right,”, but that wasn’t ever the case. Giving up in her classes was not an option, and it isn’t an option for me to this day. The old saying...”If at once you don’t succeed, try, try again”  was her motto then and mine now. It was definitely Sister Rose Brendan that instilled in me my desire to do whatever I do well. She planted the seeds for my love of children , my becoming a teacher, my always challenging myself to try something no matter how difficult it might seem. and to see it through to the end never failing to redo if necessary. I adored her then as I do now.  I can still see her walking about the campus with her Missal in one hand and her Rosary in the other. It always looked to me as if she was twirling it as she charged from place to place.  She always walked at a steady clip! I always wondered what she really looked like, as back in the 40’s and 50’s nuns were completely covered except for their faces, necks, and hands.  They all wore the same identical, rimless, rectangular glasses with white habits that went down to the top of their plain, black, laced up shoes with the stubby flat heels, and long black veils. I always wondered if there was any hair under those veils. The myth was they all had shaved heads, but that, of course, turned out to be false. Many years later while on a visit to my parents in Palm Beach, I went over to Rosarian to tell Sister about how much I loved her, how much I appreciated all the effort she had put into her work with me, the value she had placed upon my education, and how very influential she had been in my development. Well, I got the shock of my life.  There she was standing in front of me in a simple street dress, stockings on her exposed legs, little flat “normal” street shoes, and she had short curly graying hair.  She was well into the process of losing her vision, but to me she was the most beautiful sight in the world. Her face and her little glasses were the same, she had lost a lot of the weight, but her voice sounded exactly as I remembered it.  Her wit was as sharp as ever, and she remembered me as if I were back in her classroom.  She even made a reference to the “ripping” incident from home ec class which I, too, continue to reflect upon each time I sew, knit, quilt, or make anything in any manner.   It was the old “ripping incident” that sticks out from all the rest of our “discussions" about my work.  I was sitting at my sewing machine stitching the seams of a skirt I was making when Sister walked over, looked down at my sewing, and did not like the way it looked. She kindly but firmly told me to rip it all out and resew it....and I couldn’t just rip any my way. Rather, I had to do it her way by pulling out the thread from one side and then pulling the loosened ones from the other...back and forth, and back and forth  There were no sharp plastic rippers back in those days.  We used our little scissors and fingernails.  I can still hear her as if it were yesterday saying, “Eugenia, if something is worth creating, then it is worth ripping and redoing to make it the best we can.  If you don’t feel this way about your skirt, then you need to rethink the assignment. If it is worth doing, then it is worth doing correctly and to the best of your ability.”  I ripped it out, sewed the seams again, and that skirt I proudly wore and wore as one of my most prized possessions. In the end, I was so proud of it. Sister, you are now in your Heavenly home, but you are at my side day in and day out as I sew, knit, and quilt.  My husband feels like he knows you, too. I rip with a smile on my face however many times it takes.  I write and rewrite until I get my words just so. I always try to do the best I can. You and your guidance got me through college and grad school.  Your words gave me hope and inspiration when I needed them the most, and  I now share them with my students. Without you I would not be the person I am today.  Rest in peace my dear, Sister Rose Brendan.  One day we will be together again, and it is my prayer you will put your hand in mine and say, “Eugenia, you did well, and I am proud of you.”  Sister, you are my Blessing #8.

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called "truth.” 
~Dan Rather


creation said...

Dear Genie,
your stories are just AWESOME.they always touch me deep with in a very special way.I was getting late for work and gulping down my breakfast and still could't stop myself to read and tell you so.I guess you must be one of the sweetest of person I came along.
I wish I could meet you one day.
teachers are given respect next to God in my country and culture.
have good day .

Paula said...

Your post brought to mind those teachers who inspired me and whom I saw in my classroom every day for 34 years. It came to pass that my style was buts and pieces of theirs all wrapped up into a not to neatly put together package called Miss Gaumer.

Beansieleigh said...

Oh Genie.. This was a beautiful post!.. and it has me reaching for the tissues, it does!! Yes, a good teacher is a hero, I always say! God bless these heroes, because we can NOT thank them enough! ~tina

Genie Robinson said... all are so sweet and gracious with your comments. I have followed though with Sister and now know that she is buried at the Mother House of the Domincan SIsters in Adrian, Michigan, from where her career in education and the ministry began.

Hey Jude said...

Thank so much for sharing the story of your relationship with Sister Rose Brendan. I know she is smiling down and proud. I have fond memories of the nuns who taught me for 9 years. I love the way you chose to portray her in the square; so creative and pretty.

Genie Robinson said...

Jude.....It is so nice to hear from someone with positive things to say about the nuns because so often I only hear the negative. Certainly, there were ones that were a bit gruff who made their lasting impressions upon us, but I truly believe they all meant well. Rosarian Academy was one of the best things that ever happened to me thanks to Sister Rose Brendan.