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Weekend in a Convent.

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I decided to take a theatre workshop a couple of weeks ago which required that I go to upstate New York for four days and three nights.  It just so happened that when we pulled in to where we would be staying and workshopping, my colleagues and I realized that it was a Convent.

Since I was not raised a Catholic I do not have any bad associations with it. In fact, I have GOOD associations with Catholicism.  I remember being envious of the fact that the Catholic kids in elementary school were allowed to have a first communion.  To me that translated to wearing a mini wedding dresses, having a giant party and receiving a pile of money as a gift.  Can you say JEALOUS?  I remember begging my mother for a stab at a first communion.  Needless to say, since my Father was a Protestant minister the answer was no.

I was also jealous of the sheer religiosity of the Catholics in my elementary school.  One friend’s house in particular was decorated almost exclusively with religious paraphernalia.  I mostly remember staring at a needlepoint that you could not read until you crossed your eyes.  With your eyes crossed you could then clearly see the word, JESUS.   I couldn’t imagine that Jesus would want you to fuck up your eyes like that, even if it was to read His name.  If your eyes were to stay like that, as my Mother often warned, could you blame Jesus?  In addition, one would have thought someone as devout as my friend would have been a nicer person.  She was the '˜friend’ who told me in the third grade, 'œNo offense, but your hair is really ugly.'  My response was, 'œNone taken.'

These are just some of the mysteries of Catholicism.


But I digress.

As we approached the entrance of the Convent we drove past the chapel, the statues and (believe it or not) the labyrinth. As we grew closer I realized my colleagues face was growing paler and more wan with the passing of every religious icon.  It turns out she was raised a Catholic.  Dum-da-dum-dum.  As a result, she spent the greater part of the trip attempting to pry the crucifix off the wall above her bed.  Though she did eventually free her bedroom from religious imagery, there were more numerous crosses waiting around every corner.  I think for her, it seemed like a small victory.

In stark contrast, I fell in love with the Convent.  The smell of the place was reminiscent of a Grandmother’s house. Now, I can understand that particular scent could be unpleasant for anyone who has never had a grandma.  I did have one, so I loved it.  As with my Grandma, at the Convent I was treated like a queen.  The nuns made us homemade meatballs, soup, coffee cake, and chocolate chip cookies. I feel that I became bonded with those ladies (as I do with most people who feed me).  How could I not grow to love them? They were so sweet, so generous and they were wearing jeans and sweatshirts just like me!  As I found myself gushing over the meals every day, I realized I wasn’t even lying.  This place was having a good effect on me already!

There were two nuns who took care of us during our stay, Sister Regina* and Sister Rachel*.  Sister Regina was a personal fave. She grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and seemed like an improbable choice for a nun.  She was a real spitfire who, when introducing herself to us, gave us some rules and then said, 'œAnd if you are getting into trouble, call me so I can come too.'

Can you say soul mate?

I also related to Sister Regina and Sister Rachel’s sarcastic tone to their relationship.  They didn’t seem like nuns at all.  They seemed more like'well'sisters.  If only I had more time to win those ladies over, I could picture our relationship blossoming. I could see myself and the sisters taking contemplative strolls through the labyrinth'hanging by the swimming pool'laughing over a game of boggle.

So, I made the move'I made a joke about staying longer'.just me and them'just to hang out.

It was met with a lukewarm reception.

So I left'with the others'on schedule.

I will never know what could have been.  I will never know if our friendship could have spanned our significant religious differences.  I can only wonder if I ruined our chance at friendship by getting shit-faced every night with the others and screaming till midnight.

Only God knows.

* names changed to protect the innocent

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Christine Witmer - Sparing Stringer

Christine Witmer - Sparing Stringer

Christine was born and raised in the land of the Pilgrims, Plymouth, Massachusetts. She turned in her buckled shoes when she moved to NYC to attend NYU. From that esteemed University she received her BFA in theatre as well as a Master's Degree in Performance Studies in 2004.
Now an actor, writer and broke ass day-jobber, Christine juggles her many personas with the elegance of a red panda. specifically the one in the Prospect Park Zoo . . . soooooo cute! She can be found most often in her own habitat on the Northside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.