December 19, 2005


This picture brings back many memories, whether fond or not I have to puzzle out. From first grade through high school, I was taught by the Dominican Sisters of Amityville. Richard was in St. Martha's first graduating class, and all my brothers graduated from St. Martha's; I was too old. I went to Holy Redeemer in Freeport for first and second grade and then Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Roosevelt for third through eighth grade. Richard and I both went to St. Agnes High School in Rockville Centre; Stephen went to St. Mary's in Manhasset. Peter, Michael, and Mark went to Maria Regina in Uniondale.

The tall nun on the right was Sister Miriam Francis; she was the principal at both Holy Redeember and the Queen. She died last year at age 93, having worked well into her 80's. I wasn't surprised; in retrospect she was an amazing educator. A tall, elegant woman, she effortlessly ruled her 800 students with a clicker; she never had to raise her voice. One click, and we were instantly silent and attentive. She knew the name and the history of every student in the school. We all both feared and admired her, were willing to work hard for her praise.

I was a very good girl. In seventh grade Sister Miriam Francis told me I could not have had a more perfect record. So I was never the victim of a nun's wrath, never had an eraser hurled at me, never was hit by a pointer, never had to stay after school to clean the blackboards. My innate shyness was reinforced, however. Good students only answered questions; they never asked them.

The nuns were very young; many had not yet been to college but were expected to teach classes of over sixty students. Everything I know about English grammar I learned from the nuns; we must have diagrammed a thousand sentences. As I get older, my memories get better; I had more good teachers than dismal ones.

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