Guest Post: My Second Grade Valentine by Esmeralda O. Lyn


The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) of the Roman Catholic Church allowed nuns to discard their traditional religious garb called “habit.” The most distinctive feature of the habit was the head-gear called “white coif.”

This post is in response to the Daily Challenge, Teacher’s Pet. I have chosen to write about an unforgettable teacher.

I hated the uniform in my new school. It was a starched long-sleeved white blouse with a stiff navy pleated skirt that could stand on its own. The uniform seemed to be just a little bit less constricting than what my Belgian second grade teacher, Sister Valentine, was wearing. At least I did not have a veil and a black rigid pointy cap that looked like it was hiding two horns.

“Line up right there in two’s, according to height,” Sister Valentine barked with her stern masculine voice, as she pointed to the narrow concrete hallway overlooking the smelly murky Pasig River.  I ended up the tallest of the bunch and was paired with Maria Lourdes.  She was a white mestiza with a pale face that seemed to be always on the verge of a snarl. She was the girl everyone feared. There were even rumors that teachers were afraid of her.

I followed Maria Lourdes around like an obedient loyal puppy ever since she took me under her wings after two of Sister Valentine’s pets giggled maliciously when they discovered I could barely speak English. This must be why Sister Valentine picked on me – I was the non-English speaking disciple of the amazon bully, Maria Lourdes.

One sleepy morning in class, a slap landed on my cheek while I was distracted by the scrawny black cat curled up sleeping at the back of the room. Startled, I looked up, and Sister Valentine’s long hooked nose was not even an inch from my face. Through her clenched teeth and thin lips, she gratingly screamed at me, “You pay attention or you will sit on the waste can in front of the class.”  Not two weeks passed, I was sitting on a waste can.

Medusa by the painter Caravaggio (1595)

The night of the waste can shame, I had a bad dream.  My aunt, Tia Idad, was shaking me vigorously to wake up.  Sister Valentine’s cap had fallen off in my dream and a head full of venomous snakes was revealed. When Tia Idad heard what the nightmare was about, she whispered knowingly, “You were dreaming of Medusa, the monster who could turn you into stone if you look at her long enough.”  Tia Idad then warned me authoritatively,  “You have to go to confession or you will go to hell if you think of Sister Valentine as Medusa ever again.”  For a girl of seven who never heard of Greek mythology, Medusa and her powers were impossible to comprehend.  All I knew was that I did not want to go to hell.

Sacrament of Reconciliation a.k.a. Confession

Thank god, every Thursday morning was confession day for second graders.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned. My last confession was seven days ago. I had bad thoughts, seven times. That’s all, Father.”

Maria Lourdes continued to be my protector and confidence builder throughout second grade.  Sister Valentine was my bad thought for which I asked absolution in confession every Thursday that year, and occasionally beyond.

Sister Valentine … Sister Medusa — I survived you.  I have not turned to stone yet!  And I still love nuns!!!


August 10, 2012 meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

This entry was posted in Catholicism, Childhood Memories, education, Teacher, Teacher's Peeve and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Guest Post: My Second Grade Valentine by Esmeralda O. Lyn

  1. Writerlious says:

    Oh, nuns. I went to Catholic school too, LOL. Fortunately, I never had to sit on a waste can! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger though…right?


  2. I met a lot of nuns that inspired me but I also met a few that kind of gave me a negative vibe of the profession. I guess bottom line is, they are just humans and sometimes that takes over the divine. God does have his ways in convincing us to give people a chance. Nobody’s perfect. Great post!


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