Dear Sister Agnes Joesph,

2 08 2011

You were right.

Sister Agnes Joesph was a science teacher at my all girls Catholic high school.  In a conservative suburb, during a conservative time (the Reagan Era), our high school  was actually a bastion of female empowered, liberal-leaning women.

And then there was  Sister Agnes Joesph (or Aggie Jo as we called her behind her back).  Aggie Jo possessed the no-nonsense demeanor of an old-school nun.  Of all the teachers in the school, the rumors about Aggie Jo were probably the most interesting because they were not about her lesbian tendencies, but rather her amazing education.  Who knows? maybe they were truths.   If so, I appreciate her putting her PhDs from Ivy League schools to good use in our school.

No one messed with the Sister and it was widely assumed she was humorless.  But the day I accidentally hosed the ceiling with water in chemistry class and it rained down upon both my and her head, she just laughed.

In general there was not a lot of wasted time in Sister’s class.  We sat down, we said a Hail Mary, and we got to work learning chemistry or physics.  Sure a few times a year something riled Sister up and the teaching of science would temporarily be halted for the teaching of another important life lesson.  Usually the theme was “boys only want one thing.”  These lectures seemed to come out of nowhere and were rambling and imprecise – the polar opposite of her normal teaching style.

When I was a senior in high school the Vanessa Williams nude photos scandal broke.  This  was a topic that warranted Sister’s attention.  She put the laws of physics on hold to lecture us about what we put in our brains.  It took me a minute or two to catch on to what she was talking about, but eventually I got up to speed.  The photos were about to be released in Penthouse Magazine and Sister did not want us looking at them.

What I took home from the lecture was not so much about pornography, but a much bigger life lesson.  According to Sister, once you put something in your head, you can never take it out again.  And therefore you owe it to yourself to think carefully about what you are going to expose yourself too.  Sister, you were so right.

This morning I read a terrible story about the death of a child at the hands of her parents.  The child happened to be adopted from Ethiopia, but it could have been any child.  I read this story with very few details, but my imagination filled in the blanks.  I had to ask SAG to delay departing for work while I regrouped and got myself in the mind frame necessary to take care of my own children.

I wish I never read this story.  I wish I didn’t know things like this could even happen in this world.  I put this story in my brain and I can never get it out.  I will not be a better person because of this story.  The world will not be a better place because of the new images I have stored in my head.

Sister, I will say it again, you were so right.  As for the matter of what boys want, the jury is still out on that one.



2 responses

2 08 2011

Absolutely beautiful post.
For sure.
No doubt.
I want to keep my brain clean and be mindful of what I put in it.

***and BTW- I love your blog. you’ve got heart, girl- and you let it shine.*** I rarely comment because there’s some weird issue with your blog and my comments (it doesn’t wanna let me comment usually) but I read along and dig what you say. You’ve got a really great perspective.

3 08 2011
Sandy Shaw

What a wonderful tribute to SAJ. It never ceases to amaze me the details you remember.

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