October 23, 2009
Yesterday, we delivered another fresh "kill and chill" hog to Jared Van Camp at Old Town Social Restaurant in Chicago. We appreciate Jareds business so much especially the time he spends with us showing us all the great things he makes out of our pork. Yesterday I learned all the herbs, spices and hang time that go into making Pancetta, a dried and cured product made from the belly of the pig. Some people refer to it as Italian bacon but it soooooo beyond bacon.
Afterwards I drove my husband father north on Ashland Ave. to see the neighborhood I grew up in as a child. I attended Our Lady of Lourdes School from 1964-1967, through kindergarten, first and second grade.
Next to the school was the convent where the sisters lived and next to the convent was our apartment building. My sister Mary and I were quite mobile at the time and we loved the city primarily because our father made it such an adventure. However, when he was at work Mary and I made our own adventures.
While mom was busy tending to all the babies she had in our dinky 4 room apartment (Bernie Jo, Tom and Peg), Mary and I would on occasion, scale the chain link fence that separated our concrete jungle backyard from the grassy patch in front of the convents grotto. A grotto is a place of worship, a cave like structure often build of stone where in the Catholic faith statures of saints would be placed and benches were built for prayer and reflection. Cubby holes were notched out of the stone work to hold candles, flowers or rosaries.
My sister and I viewed it as the coolest, biggest Barbie House EVER !
SO when the bell rang at the convent announcing indoor prayer time and the nuns would leave their yard duties to go inside, Mary and I would drag Barbie , Skipper, Madge and Ken over for some far out party time with Mother Mary and the Infant of Prague. Totally innocent, we played "house" with them. Sometimes the Mother Mary stature was boss of Ken, other times it was Skipper, just depended on our mood. I will tell you though, Ken was never boss at any time of any thing.
Then the inevitable. One day we were caught by Sister Mary Gerard who generally was a very loving and attractive nun with the exception of this large unibrow that extended pretty much from temple to temple, a caterpillar of doom it seemed on that particular day. She said nothing when she grasped our ears (capital punishment was very "in" with the sisters in the 1960's) and escorted us back to our 3rd floor apartment. She did not speak but you could FEEL her anger all the way thought the 12 layers of long brown skirts, slips and leggings and all other medieval garb. (If I had to wear that much clothing all the time I'd be irritable too.) She knew EXACTLY which apartment we lived in. She presented us to our mother throwing out that word we'd heard too often, "hooligans" and needless to say our mom was once again...not amused.
But yesterday, when I was able to see again that apartment building, those tired sidewalks, the convent (now turned into a private residence), and the school (converted into a heath care education facility) I was filled with happy memories for all of us involved in those times. And Sister Mary Gerard ? Like many of my religious teachers at that time, she was tough but she was fair. She taught me to read and write and do arithmetic. She taught me how to respect other peoples property. She taught me that a plastic Ken doll and the Infant of Prague really are not of the same social circle.