I am no longer Roman Catholic, non-RC Catholic, or any other Catholic, Lutheran, Pentecostal, or otherwise faith, but after moving from New Hampshire into upstate New York in the mid-to-late-sixties, I was enrolled into St. Bernard’s Catholic School. I was the eldest, oldest, and not the youngest, so I was first to go, with my three siblings following later—until we were all dis-enrolled while I was in my third year there. We (or at least I was) were then sent to Bloomingdale’s Fourth Grade (Eleanor Clark, my teacher). Just for the sake of completeness, we were then funneled through the Saranac Lake school system, which meant being sent to Petrova Middle, then Saranace Lake Central High School.
But let’s back up a few years, to First Grade, Catholic school.
My First Grade teacher had been Sister Electa (which means “chosen,” according to one online account, but also “mother” in another online account). I always loved that name, “Electa,” and she was my favorite nun ever. We got along quite well. This seems a strange thing to say for a lad of seven or so, but I mention this for a reason.
After I had gone on to third grade (Sister Geralaine and Mrs. Heald, in some capacity), I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to do a presentation to Sister Electa’s class.
Yes, me—a nine year old!
And what did I want to speak about?
Or, more specifically, dinosaur fossils.
I had previously sent away and received a medium-sized drawer-box that housed maybe twelve mini-cubbies of dinosaur fossils (you know, providing I hadn’t been swindled by some hack job that faked what I thought I had in some malicious mail fraud experience). Anyway, I had these fossils, see? And I wanted to talk about them.
I don’t know. Kid Logic doesn’t hold sway in adulthood. I just know that I wanted to, fossils are cool, and my targeted audience was Sister Electa’s First Grade class. Or maybe Sister Electa herself (had I a crush on her, or just, as I said, really liked her as a cool person)? So I went to see her, presented my case, and ever the dear, sweet soul that she’d been, she’d allowed for me to come to her class and give my presentation.
So I arrived on my presentation day and came to the head of the class and introduced myself. I can still remember seeing Sister Electa sitting at her desk to my right, smiling the entire time. I told them what I was there for, then I did the most insane thing ever: I told them I was going to come person-to-person to get everyone’s name!
Like I would remember them or something!
So I went up and down each row, pointing to each kid and asked their names! I think it occurred to me about half-way through (yes, it took that long to sink in) that this was a futile endeavor and that I’d never remember their names…but I had to continue on, since to abruptly stop would appear (in kid terms)…weird.
After all that, I went into my presentation, showing everyone my special fossils, and talked for however long it was I talked. I had fun, anyway, but it also looked as if Sister Electa also had fun.
Now, you really have to remember that none of this was directed by the school. Or my parents. It had all originated with me. I came up with the idea and I had executed it. On my own. At what—eight or nine years of age? No one had put this into my head, as far as I can remember.
I no longer know where those mini-fossils went, but I fear they are long, long gone…even for fossils. Over the years after graduating High School, I’d returned to St. Bernard’s to specifically visit Sister Electa, and many times I had run into her! We’d pleasantly chatted and laughed. It had always been fun to see her again.
Until I didn’t.
I wish I could remember the year, but, as we all do, she passed on. That was a bittersweet day for me…but I knew I’d done about all I could in keeping in good contact with her! She was truly my most favorite-ever Catholic Sister…and she is missed. And I have nothing but fun and fond memories of her!
By the way, that fossil image, above, was not part of my presentation. I had gotten it a few years later from a cliff on a family friend’s farm, in West Virginia. The kid I’d been friends with had taken us up to this huge gray cliff that overlooked part of their property. And he’d even let us chip out whatever we wanted. I have several pieces from that cliff, one piece is much larger, but this one better showed the fossils.
St. Bernard’s Catholic School
1st Grade: Sister Electa
2nd Grade: Sister Celeste (and Mrs Heald?)
3rd Grade Sister Geralaine