My mother named me Summer (1) and I grew up under minimal rules. She had her tubes tied (2) and abandoned the Catholic Church after my birth. My siblings exalted in their Saint’s Days and regaled me with tales of schooling under strict nun regimes (3). I, on the other hand, rode the public school bus, didn’t wear plaid, and never raked in dough after First Communion (4).
Ten years younger than Theresa, I rejoiced in having mother to myself. By the time I was eight, everyone was out of the house (5), so I was the center of her world (Dad included). She baked my favorite cakes, indulged me with books and long walks. We even vacationed after my father died (years of toil, his heart wore out) and I graduated high school. “We’re celebrating his life, Summer,” she said as we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway. (6)
Shortly after that trip, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I cancelled college plans, and remained home to nurse her. (7) She faded quickly. One day she croaked my name and then whispered, “Summon Father Michael.”
Last rites were administered and she succumbed quietly. Funeral proceedings and clean-ups – everyone cooperated united in sorrow. A month later, Easter dinner, the family watched kids (8) seek colored eggs. Mary Elizabeth asked, “What now, Summer? Time for college?”
“No, I’m joining the order of Mary Magdalene.” I gave a beatific smile. “I’ve got a lot of studying to do, along with making up for lost communion time.”
There was a babble of shocked exclamations and questions. I raised my hand, “It’s done. It was mother’s wish and I shall fulfill it. She ultimately found her way home in peace, and that’s what I seek – to be Sister Bernadette, Mother’s favorite.” (9) (10)
1.She ran out of saint’s names after eight kids.
2.Sssh! Don’t tell Father Michael.
3.Sister Mary Maleficent could wield a ruler in either hand.
4.My sister, Theresa, earned over five hundred dollars on hers.
5. Three in college, three employed, one priest (what else was Ignatius going to do stuck with that name?), and sadly one in jail (poor Jude, more like Judas unfortunately).
6.This was her first vacation. Ever. She and Dad barely honeymooned--one night stay at Best Western. That’s when she conceived Thomas.
7.I was also the doorman, keeping squabbling siblings at bay. Everyone had an opinion, but I had my mother’s wishes in writing.
8.Only six kids. My siblings have been restrained in childbearing.
9.Plus I like the song sung by Aaron Neville. That’s a good reason, along with Jennifer Jones’ 1943 Oscar performance.