Monday, June 24, 2013

Nuns and Non-Dairy Creamer

On the Tohono O'odham Nation, there is a huge Catholic presence.  In the village I'm from, Pisin' Mo'o, there has always been a couple nuns living in the village.  When I was a little girl, they used to be the only people in the village with a telephone.  If you wanted to use their phone you would have to write your name and the phone number you were calling on a pad of paper and you had to give them a bit of money.  Everything back then was long distance, so you didn't do it very often.  If you did, sometimes the whole family would go.  I remember waiting outside on the stairs that led into the carpeted, air-conditioned trailer that the nuns lived in while my mom was inside, heavily supervised by the nun as she made her phone call. 

I remember thinking that they were rich, to live in such a nice place with carpeting, A/C and their own telephone.  Of course, I didn't know until I was older (and had seen it discussed in several movies) that nuns take a vow of poverty. 

The nuns have always been somewhat of an interest to me, I want to know what they're really like when they're not being nuns.  I want to know how they grew up, what were they like in grade school? Where they mean to their brothers and sisters? Do they have embarassing moments?  Do they get angry? What about? I think and over think these things not because I'm particularly interested in religion, but because it seems like such an odd profession.  I have similar questions for my dentist. 

I think I must have this fascination with nuns (and dentists) mainly because they deal so intimately with our lives, but we rarely get to see into theirs.  The nuns in my village would come to family gatherings and community feast days.  They of course, living in a community of under 300 people, know everyone's names, and family lineage.  They've been with us during our hard moments and our celebrations.

The nuns of my mother's childhood, the ones who wore head to toe, angry, black robes and beat her for speaking O'odham in the village school are now gone.  They have been replaced with smiling ladies wearing black skirts and immaculate, white, starched, short-sleeved shirts and modern veils. 

I grew up knowing a nun very well (as well as you can know a nun), but she retired and went back to the mysterious place where she was from.  We've since had other nuns come in and out of the community, but now that I don't live there, I don't really know them or know their names, which is fine, because they all go by, "Sister" anyway.  They, of course, know me and my family.  Although my Mom has been living in Tucson for the past year, when she's home in Pisin' Mo'o, she's very active in the church and she never misses a moment to brag about her kids.  "Are you the daughter who works at the casino?" "No, I'm the daughter works at the college... and I'm the one with the twins."

A number of years ago my Mom and Grandmother hosted the Las Posada procession.  The Las Posada Procession is a small group of people walking from house to house with a small statue of Jesus and Mary, reenacting the pilgrimage back to Nazareth, before Jesus was born.  The nuns usually organize and lead the procession, but anyone can join. They begin at the church and every day the statues spend the night at a community member's house.  The next day the procession begins at that house, and goes to another, until they return to the church for Midnight Mas on Christmas Eve.  The host family at first denies Joseph and Mary a place to stay, then finally lets them in.  They usually feed the pilgrims (the participants), sometimes a meal, sometimes Christmas cookies or other goodies.  There would be readings from the bible, then we'd sing religious songs and end with Christmas Carols.  Then they return the next day to escort Joseph and Mary to the next house.  It's considered a blessing for the statues to spend the night.  My grandmother and I used to go every year, multiple days in a row.  I loved it.   

My Hu'uli-bat used to host every year on her birthday.  It was nice to have her friends with us for cake and coffee.  Sometimes they would give her cards and presents, and we'd always sing happy birthday. 

One year, after we had sung happy birthday to Hu'uli we were serving coffee and hot cocoa to the pilgrims.  My Mom was asking what everyone took in their coffee.  I heard the nun say to my Mom, "I'll take some coffee with non-dairy creamer." and my Mom went back into the kitchen to fetch the coffee. 

My Mom realized that we were completley out of non-dairy creamer, so instead, she scoops in a couple of spoonfuls of powdered milk (a common staple in Hu'uli's house) and heads back to the living room, where everyone is sitting.  "Mom! Sister asked for non-dairy creamer.  You can't give her that!" "We don't have any non-dairy creamer. This is the same anyway!" "No it's not.  She asked for non-diary for a reason... What if she's allergic?" "Aggh! She's not! She just wants it!" "Well, you should tell can't just pretend that non-dairy, Mom." My Mom huffed at me and walked out of the kitchen with the cup of coffee with powdered milk already mixed in.

She turns to the nun and with a nice, big smile and hands her the cup of coffee.  The nun says, "Is this with non-dairy creamer?" my Mom immediately responds with, "Of course."

I choked back a laugh and ran to the kitchen.  "You guys... Mom just lied to a nun!"

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