Boarding School Blues: Chapter 48
By Louise Peloquin
Ch. 48 “Venez, venez, venez!”
The two days after the honor roll unveiling seemed endless. Singing Christmas carols became the sole focus in class. Blanche and her friends no longer bothered to twist the lyrics. Every rubber-boot step on the crunchy snow made them wish away even the recreation periods. 1965 at SFA couldn’t end soon enough.
“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me” bellowed Andy to the evergreen limbs swaying in the glacial breeze.
“What are you talking about?” inquired Titi. “We all know you’re a pro at wasting time but I don’t get what you’re sayin’. Anyway, we’re stir crazy right now and we’ve gotta get out of this place. ”
The others chimed in “if it’s the last thing we ever do.” (1)
C added “I really like that song but my Mom always turns it off when it’s on the radio.”
Titi continued “I have my vacation all planned out, unless my parents insist on wasting time visiting every single relative in town. Anyway Andy, I wanna tell you I learned the Offenbach ‘give us your kisses’ song and I’m coming up with new socializing strategies to make Christmas merry and bright. So what’s the story with time wasting you anyway?”
“Titi, you’re a smart kid with unquestionable math skills but, alas, you lack a solid cultural background. I suppose you’ve heard of Shakespeare? Well, that was a well-known verse from ‘The Life and Death of King Richard the Second’, a history play written in the 1500’s. You gotta drop the romantic paperback novels and get up to snuff with the serious stuff. Besides, quoting Shakespeare could be part of your socializing strategies. Remember, once a guy gets past your cute little impish head, maybe he’ll wanna know what’s inside, right?”
“Though she be but little, she is fierce” retorted Titi.
“That, my dear Andy, is Helena talking about her friend Hermia in act 3, scene 2 of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ And right before that she says:
Oh, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd! She was a vixen when she went to school.
“Don’t try to push my buttons Andy. You’re not the only one who likes Will” she added.
“One Christmas, I got a kid’s book with illustrations of magical creatures and a few of ‘em came from that play so I read it. When I saw those lines, I thought ‘hey that’s me, I’m a modern-day Hermia!’ ”
C looked perplexed. “I’ve never read a Shakespeare play. Aren’t we gonna study him in English class?”
Blanche admitted, “I’m with ya C. I gotta read more Shakespeare too and I’m sure we’ll do it in Sister Anna’s class. But I remember my father reciting a Shakespeare poem to my mother.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Then it goes something like:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade (2)
I can’t remember the whole thing but it definitely hit a soft spot cuz Maman’s face turned red as a beet.“
“Yeah yeah” interrupted Andy, “everyone knows that sonnet PF. And it sure ain’t a summer’s day right now. It’s freezing out so let’s head inside. I could go for a hot chocolate with marshmallows floatin’ on top right now. That’s one of the best things about winter, having an excuse to drink hot chocolate every single day.”
Titi agreed. “Yup, my nose is turning into an icicle. Time to warm up. Inviting a guy over for a hot chocolate is a great idea. Who can say ‘no’ to that? Hey PF, I really like your poem. Can you find it for me? It’ll definitely come in handy.”
Andy wisecracked as she lifted her face to the glacier blue sky. “One-track-mind Titi. Never will she change.”
The day of the Noël exodus violated all of the orderliness rules Sister Gerald had worked so hard to enforce. The halls buzzed with giddy exchanges as indoor-voices pumped up the volume. Two-by-twos morphed into foursomes and fivesomes. The school uniform was discarded for red and green skirts and sweaters. The nuns pinned little sprigs of holly to their black habits. Novice Marieanne delighted the students when she appeared at dining hall with bright red wool stockings in lieu of the usual thick black hose. Even the headmistress exhibited a hint of a smile when Marieanne passed out slices of the yard-long bûche de Noël crafted by Sister Mérilda, the pastry chef visiting from Québec. The holiday spirit transfigured SFA and its austere inhabitants.
Talking with her mouth full of dark chocolate mousse, Andy commented. “Hey Titi, you told us a couple weeks ago that we’d have a whole Christmas meal before vacation. Pork pies and all that kind of stuff, remember? How come we only get bûche?”
Since receiving the freshman award for frog dissection, C no longer seemed reticent to speak her mind. “I’m sure you’ll have that at home Andy and anyway, didn’t you see how gigantic that log was? It looked like one of the huge trunks we sit on outside. It must have taken ages to put together. And it’s really good, especially the filling.”
Titi added “You always want more don’t you Andy. Just enjoy the cake already.”
“Mini-Marie-Antoinette tells us to eat cake” Andy responded.
Blanche understood Andy. “I’m like you. I always want something else. It’s like going to the ice cream stand knowing you can only choose two flavors, getting ‘em and enjoying ‘em, then looking at your brother’s cone and wanting his flavors too. As soon as you get what you want, you want somethin’ else. This bûche is really good. I wonder it we can get a second slice?”
Marieanne was cutting up the rapidly-shrinking log.
“Those pieces are for the novices I guess” Titi concluded. “At least we got a big share. That’s cuz we’re Marieanne’s favorites.”
Andy specified “yeah she knows we’re gonna work extra hard for the Spring fashion show put on by her auntie Madame Greenwood.”
The girls filled their mouths with the luscious dark mousse, smacked their lips and waved Marieanne a thumbs up for her generous ration.
Before departure, the student body gathered for advent prayer in the chapel. Whether they knew French or not, the girls all joined in for the traditional hymn:
Venez Divin Messie,
Nous rendre espoir et nous sauver!
Vous êtes notre vie.
Venez, venez, venez!
(Come Divine Messiah,
To give us hope and to save us!
You are our life.
Come, come, come!)
After the brief devotional, watery-eyed girls exchanged a series of happy holiday hugs.
“One for all, all for one” Blanche and her friends repeated to one another.
Titi shouted to C who was about to board the day hop bus. “We wanna know everything about your time outa this place, and not only the juicy details on scrumptious food.”
C responded with a thumbs up and turned to Blanche. “Remember PF, you’re gonna come over my house to bake cookies and listen to records. I’m supposed to get a couple new LP’s for Christmas. I’ll call you, OK?”
Blanche nodded and trooped up to the dorm with the other boarders to pack. No one was folding clothes neatly as requested by a distracted-looking Sister Gerald. Fresh blouses and clean pajamas were dumped into open suitcases with dirty underwear, soiled socks, damp towels and dirty sheets.
Blanche managed to snap shut her small, ivory-colored Samsonite, an eighth-grade graduation gift from her Pépère (3). She ignored the white nylon fabric protruding from the side. So what if a pair of bloomers got dirty. Anyway, she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing those things outside the SFA campus.
She lugged the heavy suitcase down the stairs to the hallway where Maman was silently waiting for her. There was no chit-chat with Sister Théophile this time; the headmistress was nowhere to be seen. She trotted towards her mother and noticed the dark circles under her chocolate-brown eyes.
- “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place”, The Animals single released on July 16th 1965.
- Sonnet 18.
Read Chapter 3: Readying
Read Chapter 4: Au revoir!
Read Chapter 5: Arrival
Read Chapter 6: Settling In
Read Chapter 7: Beginning to Belong
Read Chapter 8: Quick Showers
Read Chapter 9: Inside & Outside Study Hall
Read Chapter 10: Math Manoeuvres
Read Chapter 11: Cinephiles
Read Chapter 12: Camera, Action, Lights
Read Chapter 13: Reconnecting
Read Chapter 14: Back to the Fold
Read Chapter 15: In the Night
Read Chapter 16: Parlez-vous?
Read Chapter 17: On the Agenda
Read Chapter 18: Dress up, sit up, chin up
Read Chapter 19: Post Conference Assessment
Read Chapter 20: Orderliness
Read Chapter 21: Inspection
Read Chapter 22: The Inner Sanctum
Read Chapter 23: Going Home
Read Chapter 24: Merci Mon Oncle
Read Chapter 25: The Food Fairy
Read Chapter 26: Bon appetit!
Read Chapter 27: Friends
Read Chapter 28: A Grocery Stop
Read Chapter 29: Tempus Fugit
Read Chapter 30: The Chapel
Read Chapter 31: A Nice Kind of Weird
Read Chapter 32: Mnemonic Device
Read Chapter 33: Cuisses de grenouille
Read Chapter 34: Run along now
Read Chapter 35: Consequences of playing hooky
Read Chapter 36: Good Vibes
Read Chapter 37: Never too many, never too much
Read chapter 38: Dust Bunnies
Read Chapter 39: I’m into something good
Read Chapter 40: Wistful and Admiring
Read Chapter 41: “Anywhere Out of the World”
Read Chapter 42: “If you really want to hear about it”
Read Chapter 43: “Why don’t they go and create something”
Read Chapter 44: Squiggles, snowmen and angels
Read Chapter 45: A Measure of Mirth
Read Chapter 46: Advienne que pourra
Read Chapter 47: Smile upon our joys