My older brother, Nathan, was named after a nun my Irish grandmother knew. Nathan seemed the perfect name for a nun. There were no Sister Cindy’s, Scarlett’s, or Barbara’s for a very specific reason. Sister Garrett was the first nun I met. She had shoulders like a linebacker and was more than capable of kicking my ass or anyone else’s that dared to cross her path. She was my first grade teacher. They didn’t get less brutal as you moved up the grade school ladder. Sister Bernard was my second grade teacher. She weighed at least 200 pounds, had jowls and sometimes drooled. We called her Saint Bernard behind her back.
Nathan was one of those child geniuses. He had taught himself to read when he was three and now read encyclopedias and dictionaries for pure entertainment. He was crammed with miscellaneous facts and elongated words that nobody understood, including the nuns who supposedly taught him. He became an altar boy when he was seven or eight. He could recite the entire mass in Latin after only a few months on the job. Of course, this didn’t surprise anyone in our family, including Nathan. There were six of us kids, which was barely a spit of a Catholic family. Most Catholics grouped eight to twelve kids in their brood, but there was a family a few blocks down with twenty-two kids. It took two houses to house the entire dynasty. Nathan was the only one who could name all of them, in chronological order, in less than a minute. My mom always said their parents won, hands down, first prize for dumbfounding faith in the rhythm method–the only Catholic birth control in existence. Continue reading