It didn’t take long before I was singled out to be required to attend Mass every morning. BM had this deep down feeling that I was a great sinner and badly in need of repenting and reform.
Once she decided that I needed to attend Mass every morning, she had a unique way of waking me up. All of the other girls would be asleep (prior to the bright lights and bell ringing). She would come to my bed in the dark, grab my foot by the toes and (painfully) bend my toes backward. This technique woke me up instantly! Then, she would stand over me while I said my morning prayers.
Once, I was very sick with a really bad cold. I coughed and coughed during Mass and she punished me afterward because in her opinion, I was “just trying to get attention”. She told me the next day that I had “better not cough in church if I knew what was good for me”. I tried so hard not to cough in the chapel the next morning that I actually passed out from holding it back (try sometime not to cough when you have a cold and you will understand what I was up against). She was so extremely furious at me, her face turned red. She said she was sick of me trying to make people feel sorry for me and that I had done it on purpose to make her look bad. I was campused for a month for that one.
There were other ways BM was relentless in her treatment of me. She would call me into her office, and the conversation would go something like this:
BM: (arms folded) “Do you want to tell me what it was you did two days ago that you didn’t want me to find out about?”
Sharon: “I have no idea what you are talking about”.
BM: “Well, is that so! I’ll give you some time to think about it until you are ready to tell me what you did”.
Sharon: “You can give me all the time you want, I didn’t do anything”.
BM: “Until you tell me, you are campused, so it would be wise if you would just admit it”.
Being ‘campused’ meant that you were not allowed to leave the building or the school grounds at any time. She had to know where you were at all times. She even made us ask permission to go to the restroom – and we were given 5 minutes maximum to do that. Only one of us at a time was ever allowed to go to the bathroom, lest we try to make it into a social event.
She always seemed to find a reason to campus me when she knew I had plans to do something on the weekend. She would know when I was planning to spend the weekend with my sister and brothers, or with another boarder at her house. She would make sure I had to spend it at the boarding school instead. Many times I was the only boarder at the school over the weekend (which ironically, meant that she was also punishing herself because she had to constantly be with me to monitor everything I did). Then, she would carry out the punishment for what I had done. Most often this would consist of making me clean the decorative rod-iron grate-work on the sides of the multitude of desks in the dozens of classrooms throughout the school. I would spend all day Saturday performing that task. Luckily, Sunday was a day we were not allowed to do any extra tasks other than our basic routine (Sunday was a day of “rest”).
She would find a way to keep me busy anyway. She would make me write a letter to my father. She would read it and mark any mistakes in red ink. I would have to keep re-writing it until everything was perfect. This task took up most of my Sundays. Of course, I couldn’t write what I really wanted to – because she was reading it and editing it. Our incoming mail was also opened and read before it was given to us.
Whenever I would ask her what it was that I had done, she would invariably answer: “you know what you did; I don’t need to tell you”. Needless to say, never did I ever learn what any of the awful things I had done were. She also told me – many times: “you are on the wrong path. Somehow you slid off the track heading to heaven, and you are sliding into hell”.
Don’t misunderstand, I seemed to be at the top of her “hate” list, but she inflicted the same kind of treatment upon all of the boarders under her charge. Of the myriad of horrendous things she did to me and others over the years, there was one particular incident that was by far the worst - ever. It was one that would have a lasting effect on me for the rest of my life...