The nuns have very strong feelings… about a lot of things. One might not know this by the way they sometimes keep their lips sealed as tightly as caskets. But between those tight lips is a globe of emotion just dying to explode. When the masks come off, which they inevitably do (every sixteen minutes) at the abbey, the flood of emotion is quite a thing to witness. My high strung sistrrrs and I are particularly sky strung (like, I’m talking: up into the firmament) when it comes to ritualized festivities. Parties make us giddy. So we try to have as many as possible.
Some might even say that we, being the poor and sorry lot that we are, try to cope with the voids and absences in our drab lives by celebrating with prodigious hysteria ‘any old occasion,’ every chance we get. This means, Sistrrr Felicity has a hangnail: party!; Sistrrr Agatha wins Bingo for the eighteenth time in a row: party!; Sistrrr Humboldt severs ties with her life-insurance agency: party!
Not to get off my subject, Readrrr, but if you’ve caught on that these names sound a bit ancient, I want to commend you; the nuns are becoming extinct, and revivalist-modern names, like Penelope, are now so very rare. Consider that Sistrrr Grim stands for Sistrrr Grimelda Grimmmest Grim Grimké Grimifying Grimreaper, and that I am sixteen hundred going on seventeen hundred, in nun years! No dig at the popularization of Penelope, either; we do have one around here, still hanging on for dear sistrrrly life after eight hundred years, and our Pen, Dear Readrrr, is a real keeper.
Names aside, while it may not look like a party to you, I assure you that we party like it’s 1999 every chance we get. What do we do? Oh, extravagant things, things we must confess about to Fathrrr later; like watching Fraulein Maria fleeing from the abbey in the Sound of Music on VHS, tying each other up, with string, like brown paper packages. One time we even braided each other’s leg hair but (oops) Fathrrr told me never to tell. Anyway, exciting sorts of things, like that.
Even the small things (not like any of the exciting things I’ve just mentioned) are reasons to celebrate, for the nuns. We do follow some celebrities, other than Julie Andrews, too. Oh, yes, we nuns, even the probationless ones, do know how to branch out. As a matter of fact, today marks the birth of one of our favorite iconic personalities (one who could have been a nun had she not traded in her virginity at the ripe age of 31 for, Dear Readrrr, the I’m sure very worthy, Paul)– none other than the vivacious party-girl with a bun in the oven (literally: like the nuns!): our very own, Julia Child.
The nuns celebrate the birthday of Julia Child religiously and with flare; they say she, Dear Readrrr, should have been canonized. When they say this, I think to myself, “If they canonize that woman, then why am I not a nun already?!” But I just keep this to myself. After all, I cannot bake a chocolate cake like she can (and we all know about what happens when you get between a nun and her chocolate cake: it ain’t pretty).
Only Christmas and Easter top Julia Child Eve at the abbey, and I’m not even kid(!)ding. It is insane. The nuns are vampiricly attached to Julia Child; the eve of her birth is the only night a year they drink wine (and admit to it). I hasten to mention that they drink the wine out of sauce pans, using ladles, and that they have a rule about having to pour it into one another’s mouths. They think, they actually think, this is something Julia would have applauded (well, Readrrr, don’t you find yourself in complete agreement with them?).
They can be so Child-like! And, oh, the other thing they do, and I have captured this on film, as I always have all my spy gear ready to go on Julia Child Eve, is force me to find ladies like my former (current-ish) self off the street who are willing to join me in a rousing re-enactment of the famous “wish you were here” bathtub photograph of Julia and Paul (they always make me play the part of Child– fancy that!). One year I had to hand them over my spy gear so they could photograph me. They didn’t know it but they were spying on the spy. How confusing. And perfect. I felt I had done some of my most excellent work at that moment.
The nuns will spare no expense (in their two dollar a month budget) when it comes to Julia Child, so we always manage to have a feast made up of sad replications of her best dishes. Because we are dirt poor, we have to use “alternative ingredients” (you know the kind: those donated by the “generous” grocery stores that give away their rotten leftovers). This has made for some interesting substitutions, but every year it, Dear Readrrr, tastes more and more delicious. I’m convinced that with a little help from my cauldron, one of these eves, we’ll get it just right and do our Sistrrr Child proud.
A couple of my favorite J-Child Eve traditions, aside from what I have already mentioned, are Sistrrr Yolanda’s infamous butter Childs (like butter lambs, but taller, wearing aprons, and holding very large fish, or, alternatively, petite meat gavels), Sistrrr Unice’s pan circle (a drum circle, with pans and wooden spoons– unexpectedly enough, they’ve become quite good over the years), and my own appearance at dinner as the Queen of Sheba (I am carried out on a platter, and all!), in honor of Child’s classic Reine de Saba cake. I am elected to play the Queen each year; not surprisingly. And I love it. These are priceless traditions to the nuns, Dear Readrrr, and to me.
Of course, nothing beats eating chocolate cake for the next six months, which is how long we make it last.