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Friday, January 18, 2013

Boarding School (Part II)


Soon, friendships were built and we didn’t leave our beds for just our nightly pork fests.
Each girl had someone she adored and worshipped. The beloved one received goo-goo eyes, hot love letters and the worshipper’s puddings, Jell-O desserts, forbidden fruits from the home packages and all possible and impossible signs of boundless adoration.

Careful advances were made by day. At night one tiptoed to the chosen object of desire and knelt in front of her bed. That was grisly cold in winter but as soon one received an encouraging reaction, she disappeared under the warm blanket.

Our little ‘games’ were absolutely harmless. Our fondling and petting was totally naive and without getting really close. Sometimes we used a hairbrush; that tickled and made us giggle when brushed along the back, belly or the inside of the legs. Yet we felt mighty wicked and grown up and were perfectly happy when our prayers were answered.

Thankfully, I was never caught.
In the two-bed rooms of the senior classes though must have happened lots of hotter get-togethers. Three of those girls were expelled from school and we youngsters were anxious to learn more and had much to whisper about.

As it behooves for proper educated Catholics we frequently had to go to confession.
Timorously like a rabbit in front of a snake, I confessed all my ‘wickedness’ to ease my conscience. It’s that easy and
sounded something like this:
‘I lied. I stole. I was lazy. I had impure thoughts. I didn’t pay attention during holy mass. I was vein.’

The priest then would ask what I stole. I’d say ‘chocolate from my neighbor.’
Then he’d ask what this is about impure thoughts and deeds.
He must have grinned over our innocent games and fantasies.
Confessions were always an adventure and closely monitored by the nuns. They checked whether we went often enough and showed appropriate penitence.

Once in my life, much later, I really felt guilt and remorse and went to confession crying and trembling so dreadfully, that the entire confessional box shook. I was content that this institution existed; alas, it did not help much to reduce my pain.

To satisfy all this probity, we were never allowed to wear slacks, long pants, sleeveless blouses or dresses and an inch too low dropping décolleté was a big no-no.
The summers were unbearable hot back then, but we had to be covered up as it suits young ladies.


St. Ursula School

Pitiable were we girls when we had to deal with our menstruation. For one German Mark our ‘quail’, Mater Gabriele, gave us ten sanitary napkin pads as coarse as steel wool. Changing them was quite another venture. During afternoons we were always under supervision in class rooms, pouring over our home work. We had to ask to go to the bathroom and bad luck if we’d forgotten to bring fresh pads with us. Nobody was allowed to go back to the dormitory for personal reasons during the day.
The pinnacle of an utter torture was when we had to go on our daily airing, especially on Sundays because that would last for 3 hours.
My pad would be soaked and resolved into crumbs, ripping the skin off the inside of my legs. It took days to heal and be able to walk naturally again.

But funny were these excursions at any day.
Twenty girls marched through the vineyards in rows and formations of two abreast, followed by Mater 'Quail' with wafting veils.

Our uniform consisted of navy blue pleaded skirts, white blouses, navy blue blazers with our school’s emblem: St. Ursula, and a dark blue beret. Totally chic.
Coming back to school we had to wrestle and battle for one glass of lukewarm tea.
Lucky the ones who could take hold of a second glass. I will never understand why I didn’t die of thirst. Tap water was undrinkable because it was heavily chlorinated, filtered from the Rhein river.

Confessional-specific and Boarding School-special were our ‘rare’ trips to church.
There was: Monday ‘Mission’ Mass to pray for African Missionaries.
This was optional, but one better asked to be woken up to pretend to be a ‘good girl’.
Time to get up? 6 am because we had only 20 minutes to get ready.
I went often but I am certain that it helped neither African Missions nor me.

Tuesdays group mass was for only our floor – other groups had different days. This was mandatory. Rising time: 6 am.
On Wednesdays we had to attend school mass outside the convent when also the external studens had to be present.
On the evenings of Wednesdays we went to our chapel for the official church evening prayers, the Compline.
Nothing special was demanded on Thursdays, but whoever went to mass anyway earned an entrance into the nun’s good books. We call that ‘having a stone in one’s board’.
Friday is the day of the Lord’s crucifixion – a trip to our chapel compulsive. Rising time: 6 am.

Missing mass on Sundays of course was a mortal sin.
Assuming all this would have been enough for our salvation – far from it.
Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays we indulged ourselves in devotion and prayers in the evenings.

Saturday evenings were reserved for mediation and reflections headed by Mater Superior who preached contemplation to help us become more internalized.

I felt thoroughly submerged by never ending prayers, masses, additional rosary praying, mediations, and at noon ‘bim-bim-bim’, everybody rose and prayed the ‘Ave Maria’; 6 pm ‘bim-bim-bim’ again, the chapel’s bell calls for the evening’s ‘Ave Maria’.

Having clean laundry after our weekly bath required some somersaults.
To have washed socks and knee-highs was up to us. I laundered them in the bowl after my cat lick before bedtime. Forgetting it meant I had to search for the least stiff ones next morning. One gets used to. At least my socks got soft again after an hour of wearing.
Spotless underwear though was pure luxury. I often saved it for after my once-a-week deluxe bath ‘orgy’.

Actually I had a very practical way to obtain ‘new’, washed laundry.  I had a wooden container approx. 30 x 20 x 25 inches with a sliding lid that had my home address on one side and the convent address on the other. Mother had a key as well as I and it was always a holiday when I received my box with washed clothes and hopefully lots of candy in it too. I had to open my packages from home in front of the entire voracious group of girls and share everything. To find a loving letter in my laundry box I waited forever; the only words I got to read were admonitions.

Unfortunately it always took weeks to send and then get my heaps of laundry back.
Consequentially I never had enough tidy clothes and just like everybody did, I went downstairs to my used laundry bag on a fishing expedition for the least dirty underpants.

The worst experience was to learn how awful girls not only can be, but ARE. Girls, women in collective packages can be so appalling, it hurts.
Me being a bold rascal but very insecure and shy in front of others
(no, it does not cancel each other) I was not able to defend myself against those brats from big cities. I was raised in the security of our home and closed-in backyard. A country wench always being told that we are nothing and that I ‘can’t do it anyway’.
Often I just stroke out in a sweeping blow. A young lady!! Now THAT was shocking.

Females, whether big or small, kids or adults turn into a bunch of mean creatures when they are gathered in groups of more than two. I learned and suffered through it in boarding school, later as a member of Tennis Clubs and in my Fashion business.

Dealing with groups of women? Ugh! They are perfidious, sneaky and back-stabbing.
There were lies nonstop, networks of intrigues were spun, kicking under the table to provoke a scream and following punishment by the nuns.
I was at the mercy of a precise pecking order and totally powerless and helpless.
I did not have the gift of a quick tongue. 

Besides, I always had this feeling for an aura around people. I always can sense if someone is sad, distressed and grieving.
I thus can always feel on the spot when someone dislikes and rejects me. I feel and see when someone lies, talks false and dishonest. It’s an ugly and very tense feeling for me.
Often I am asked by friends and partners: ‘What do you think? Is he for real?’

I can tell then and there what a person is made of. I feel uneasy around people resenting me because I feel it. Consequently I am getting awkward and uncomfortable instantly uttering and do something brash, clearly improper. 
Meals were taken in the big refectory; sixty quacking individuals placed on two long tables at 1 and 7 pm. We rotated to attend and serve always for a week and in consequence barely got something to eat when it was my turn.
Mealtime was our opportunity to chat – IF we conducted ourselves properly leading up to it. Often I had the misfortune that one of those malicious kids pinched the inside of my upper arm to make me scream with pain.
The punishment?
We all are going to remain silent now until the end of dinner.’
And I was the devil who caused it, which triggered more kicks against my shins and nasty nips into my rips.

I was always boiling when I merely heard this “we” do this, “we” do that and “we” are silent now. The nuns didn’t do anything – and I never could grasp this: “How are we feeling today?”
WE?  I know you are not talking about yourself. Do you mean me? Then say so!

For all intents and purposes I am not clumsy at all. But these girls sometimes initiated mishaps that were grounds for more penalties.
Pancakes were delivered from the kitchen on huge platters. To keep them warm we would place them on huge radiators. What happened? The inevitable.
One lashed out at me, my hands flew under the platters, and all the pancake dishes with much clangor and clatter landed behind the heater.

That was it and my number was up once more. Dessert pudding is burnt; everybody clasps their noses – who is caught?
That would be me.

I recall - it was the time of anorexia Twiggy style. We would wear our vest backwards, the buttons in the back and paint our lips white; we felt beautifully ill, just as the scrawny English model.

‘The Quail’ asked me if I am feeling unwell.
‘Oh yes, Mater Gabriele’, I was totally excited to fetch some attention.
‘So’, she answered, ‘then we are cancelling our visit to the theater.’

That was a punsh down low. She knew exactly that I was fit like a fiddle.

My parents had invited my entire group to a ballet evening in the nearby Spa Resort
and Mother ‘Quail’ in a cruel stroke of her cranky, pettishly mood killed it in an instant.
She didn’t mind to snub my parents either.

On Sundays we had to write a letter home that, needless to say, was read by Mater
‘Oversight’. Once I asked Father to allow me to go to an Arts and Crafts College in the North-West part of Germany.

His characteristic answer came soon and was signed by the ‘ruler’ himself:

“Dear Johanna,
If someone can create a few squiggles and draw a little, it does not entail a special education in a continued School. Your parents only want the best for you and think you are too weak and not talented enough.
Your parents
(note: third person) are evidently concerned about your future and have decided that you are going further with your studies right here and in a Company that we are friends with. You always will be at home and go about with a train … etc. etc.

Your Father and your Mother"

That I was sad, insulted and terribly disappointed was of no interest to anybody.
I’d have loved to be creative, design, invent, become an architect and let my fantasy do cartwheels.
Father though was the one who paid and hence was the sovereign.

All told it was a harsh, cruel, merciless time full of humiliations and homesickness for me. I emerged with even less self-assuredness and was so timid that I had plainly problems crossing a street straight at home, always trying to hide – please!
Possibly nobody sees me!

After years of threats to be kicked out of school for unladylike conduct I left on my own. Brother Bernhard came into the vast quadrangle, loaded me and my belongings into our open Mercedes 300 Convertible and drove off, leaving the other girls behind with big google-eyes. Now, that felt good!

Please don't forget to hug your kids tonight! I missed out on that :(

In the meantime, Please, sign up, become a "fan", follow me? Leave a message? Tweet it, click on +1 ...?? I'd be grateful. Thank you!

And this is what I am doing now, trying to pay my bills :
This is my Store - Offering OLD Ivory and MUCH more
My personal Web

And I am selling part of my jewelry
Johanna (YooHUNNa)


  1. very Interesting reads.. following you from LinkedIn. Stop over and follow my blog back.

  2. You sucked me right in with your blogs and your stores. Following on LinkedIn and, I think, Facebook. Keep up the entertaining blogs. By the way, your mother and father were wrong. You are very talented.