My Worst Year Ever

Grandma Kc wrote this on August 15th, 2014 24 Replies

This is a special memory from my own childhood.

Before my parents finally got divorced, my mother would always threaten my Dad that she would divorce him and take us girls to California. She finally sold the farm and she packed the backseat and trunk with everything we would take. She had hired a company to come in and handle auctioning off everything else. My sister and I sat in the front seat and our dog Pete sat in the back on top of the suitcases. It took us 5 days to drive cross-country and we arrived in California on Admissions Day, September 9, 1963. All of the flags were flying and my mother said it was to welcome us. I was completely overwhelmed by the freeways and the palm trees. School would start in a week and the worst year of my life would begin.

8th grade really was the worst. We were staying with my aunt, uncle and two cousins. They had a beautiful home “south of the boulevard”. They had a swimming pool. Anyway, anyone who has ever lived in the San Fernando Valley will tell you that “south of the boulevard” is where all of the really wealthy people live! My mom enrolled us in the local Catholic school. My sister got lucky — there were no openings in the 7th grade. I didn’t get so lucky. I was entering a class with very wealthy kids who had gone to school together for the last 7 years and I was a little country bumpkin, completely out of place. Even the nuns were very snobbish and made it abundantly clear that I did not belong at their school!

The new school wasn’t the only thing that made it the worst year. I missed all of my friends and my skating buddies. Most of all I missed my Dad and all of my relatives. Before we moved my mother made sure I didn’t get to see them anymore than was required by the court. Being 2500 miles away, I wouldn’t see any of them again until I turned 20 – eight long years later! That will be next week’s story! Meanwhile back to 8th grade…

I will never forget the first time Sister embarrassed me in front of the class. It must have been the very first week. We were going to go to Mass and I had made the terrible mistake of putting a scarf on my head. All of the other girls in the class were carefully bobby pinning their lace doilies to the tops of their heads. Sister asked me if, I was planning to wear that disgusting rag into God’s house? I may have had tears as I nodded yes. In my old church, we had been discouraged from wearing doilies, as they didn’t really cover our head. My old Mother Superior had said doilies were for furniture! I wanted to go home.

Sometime that first month I made a complete fool out of myself by admitting that I was a Girl Scout, worse yet I was proud of it. The school didn’t even have a troop so I had joined the one at my sister’s school. It would have been OK but I made the mistake of wearing my Girl Scout uniform to school on the day of our first meeting just as I had done at my old school. I got in so much trouble but the worst part was the other students laughing. I wanted to go home.

Then there was that first chilly day when I wore my team skating jacket to school. I was sent to Mother Superior’s office. I was not to wear my team jacket or anything with a logo embroidered on the back! It was 1963 but you would have thought I was wearing gang colors! I wanted to go home.

Then came Confirmation. In the Los Angeles diocese, students received their Confirmation in the 8th grade. At my old church Confirmation was only done every 4 years – and so I had been Confirmed in 4th grade! Once again, I was an outsider. I had to sit in the back of the church, as they would practice for the ceremony. I wanted to go home.

I will admit that I may have gloated just a little because as part of their ceremony they had to promise not to drink alcohol until they were 21. I made no such vow!

One of the worst things the nuns did to me at that school was to ridicule my name! I was born Kathryn Sue. Well, neither of those is a saints’ name and so could not possibly be put on my 8th grade diploma. My diploma reads Catherine Susan. By then I had stopped crying every night and knew I couldn’t go home. Now all I wanted was out of that school!

Kc on Valentine's Day 1964 holding the box of candy Uncle Walt gave me

My Uncle Walt bought me candy on Valentine’s Day to cheer me up.

9th grade was so much better! I went to a Catholic high school with students from at least five other Catholic elementary schools. It was 7.5 miles away and I would have to take three public buses to get there. No one from my 8th grade would be going to school there! No one knew me or that I had once been a country bumpkin. With students from so many schools, everyone was new! It was nice to finally fit in.

24 thoughts on “My Worst Year Ever

  1. sarah christian

    Ohhhhh such a difficult time in your precious life…..so much loss, and so much newness, and so much ridicule…..the emotional pain of moving and family breakup and rejection and ridicule was almost overwhelming for you…..I am glad you are not there anymore, but only in the words and memories, which are deeply painful I am sure. Little do we know how often a child has gone through such a devastating time. Thank you for sharing…..almost makes me cry I am so sad for you.

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      Thank you, Sarah. It was not an easy time to get through but I do think that it made me less judgmental of other people so something good came out of it.

      Reply
  2. Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

    Again I read this with a flood of memories rolling around in my head. I’ll stick to one – country bumpkin. I went to a St. Peter’s Academy, the local Catholic grade school K-8, except I was the scholarship student who wore uniforms that her mother made because we couldn’t afford the store bought ones. Even though academically I could fill the bill, I never came close to being one of ‘them.’ And, 8th grade – oh now there’s a memory of a nun so mad at the class all we did for the last six weeks was copy text from the books hour after hour. I read the pain in the post and I really can feel it friend. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      I like it better when I post happy crazy memories that bring back happy crazy memories for everyone. It is amazing how few of us really had happy childhoods. Sure can read the pain in your response, too. Hugs all around.

      Reply
  3. Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow

    Oh what an awful time !! πŸ™ I feel so badly for you…bad enough to have to deal with missing friends and family and the social middle school aspects of being an outside with one’s peers but to have the nuns make it worse, just awful πŸ™

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      She really was the worst nun I ever had. There were actually two 8th grade classes and the other teacher was a lay teacher but equally as nasty and mean.

      Reply
  4. Launna

    I don’t understand why your mother did all that she could to drive a wedge between you and your dad. I also had to switch schools in junior high… I think because I went through schools, I do all that I can not to do that to my daughters… junior high is tough enough…

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      There is no other way to say it than my mother wasn’t a very nice person. I did learn from it though and tried never to talk badly about Jenna’s Dad to her. He is her Dad. My mother didn’t share this philosophy. I do know that Jenna has always appreciated it. She had to change schools a lot because of my job and she and Justin really hope Amara can grow up living her entire childhood in the same house, going to school with the same friends!

      Reply
  5. Olga

    As if 8th grade was not hard enough just being 8th grade!
    Mike has bad memories about being the dark italian boy in a school filled with fair skinned Irish kids and run by Irish nuns. I always thought he exaggerated for effect, but maybe not.

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      I graduated from Catholic high school and for me it wasn’t bad. But Catholic elementary school was a nightmare. I doubt that Mike exaggerated.

      Reply
  6. Joy @ Yesterfood

    Aw, poor little Katherine Sue and her awful year. πŸ™ Wish I could give her a hug. My husband had gone to Catholic school and had awful stories of beatings and being tied to his chair.

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      I never had a nun lay a hand on me, although my first grade (lay) teacher at Catholic school DID use a ruler. But worse than that was how verbally abusive some of them were. I remember my 6th grade nun, it was her first year teaching and she had graduated with a minor in psychology. Anytime we would raise our hand she would respond with “What’s your major maladjustment?” We dreaded raising our hand!

      Reply
  7. Rhonda

    My heart is breaking for you. Mean girls and mean nuns. So glad I sent my child to public school and my grandchildren. I have heard nothing but horror stories about Catholic schools, what happens in the church is bad enough. My best friend attended Catholic school, so this is not my first time hearing about ill-treatment. Sending a big hug your way.

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      Thank you, Rhonda. I will say that I think I got a better education (in high school) than my sister did. She attended public school for all but one year and I don’t think they demanded as much from the students. I also think it helped that the Catholic high school I went to was in a poorer part of town. The nuns were much nicer and not the least bit stuck up!

      Reply
  8. KImberly

    This is a heart breaking story for a lot of reasons. I teach in a Catholic School, though I am not Catholic and know, in many respects, I’ll always be regarded as an outsider. I am however, very protective of my brood, the poor ones and the rich ones and I doubt there is a person who doesn’t know that about me. Do not mess with one of my kids. I sadly have had to come to the rescue a time or two, when something inappropriate has been said to one of mine. Over all though, we’re a loving bunch. I also attended school as a have not with many haves. I still think I carry some of that “not fitting in” in my soul. Ugh. I thought eighth grade was horrible without all that drama- poor thing. I surely hope your Mama was happy after all of that. Though I wish it had been different, I wonder at how it impacted your compassion on others as an adult.

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      I truly think all of that drama, plus life with my mother made me a much more compassionate person. I do not judge. As for her being happy, I’m not sure it was in her to be happy. She really enjoyed causing turmoil and pain.

      Reply
  9. Sarah ~ Magnolia Surprise

    Oh my, I guess the stories about nuns rapping your knuckles with a ruler are true! Bad enough to move in the 8th grade, but to also be treated like that… apparently neither the nun nor the students read the New Testament… I’m sure it was a terrible year for you — I’m glad you made it through! And that you finally got to see your other family members!

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      It really was difficult. Now a days you would call it culture shock. I had grown up in such a small town and on a farm. These were kids whose parents all worked in the film industry and who had money — lots of it and egos! Somehow so did the nuns! But it did get better!

      Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      In Jonesville there wasn’t much difference either but recently I’ve been reading on FB where a number of girls there felt bullied.

      Reply
  10. Joyce

    I’m just glad it’s over for you. I wish kids having a bad time in school had the maturity to see ahead and realize that will happen one day. Still, why “in the name of God” – literally! – are such atmospheres fostered by religious institutions?
    In my Catholic elementary school it was boys who were bullied by the nuns. I wish I had spoken up for them at the time, but, being a child, I was just glad it wasn’t me they went after. My mother was confided in by my first grade nun who became her friend. Seems the sisters fought like cats and dogs back at the convent too!

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      It really was amazing the difference between the Catholic elementary in Michigan and the one in Sherman Oaks and then again the one in PC where I went to high school. Those nuns in Sherman Oaks really could only be described as snobs! Really glad I don’t ever have to do that year over again!

      Reply
  11. Sandy Siegel

    (I just found this post! I think it was overlooked as we were leaving for vacation the next day.)

    This makes me sad to read this memory. What a horrible experience for you! I also changed schools in junior high & didn’t fit in & hated every day of school. Fortunately I didn’t have angry, frustrated nuns to deal with. I’m so sorry you had to go thru such an unfair childhood, especially the fact that your mother stole so many years of time with family who loved you very much. I’m so happy you came home again, & we were able to start a new blended family with your dad & my mom. They were awesome together & gave us all a family we’d all dreamed of.

    I have often wondered how you turned out to be such a loving & compassionate person. I don’t think your mom can take any credit, but your dad & grandma sure can! You are so much like both of them. I’m blessed to love all 3 of you, & to be loved in return!

    Reply
    1. Grandma Kc Post author

      When she used to talk about moving to California it seemed surreal and I thought it would be wonderful. That first year sure wasn’t but things did get better, at least at school. Certainly not at home!

      I do think my mother is part of why I turned out like I did. I wanted so much not to be anything like her. And I really do think I took after Dad and Grandma. As we both know my sister took after my mother in every possible way. It is really sad for her that she never had what I have. You.

      Reply

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