Smash Mouth Sister

Convent School

When I was 10 years old I was punched in the face by Sister Mercy, a nun at St Joseph’s Convent School in Picton. I had been talking to Rosemary and Maria, and Sister Mercy (yes, we used to make fun of her married name behind her back; “have mercy, Sister Mercy…”) stared directly at me, glared, pointed her index finger straight at me and summoned me saying nothing. I went to the front of the class and faced her. She turned me to face the front of the class, stood behind me, holding onto both my shoulders and shouted very loudly and plainly, “you were talking in class”. I was a nervous boy and I looked down at my feet.  She turned me around to face her, still in front of the class she lifted my chin with her left hand and clenched her right first and punched me hard in the right side of my face – on my right cheek. I immediately burst into tears and became dazed; she immediately apologized, grabbed my face, pushed my face into her chest and put her arms around me, stroking my head and wiping my tears with her hands. She held onto me for what seemed like several minutes during which time I only recognized her and me in a classroom of about twenty other children.  The memory of that violence and coercion remains with me. The juxtaposition of the abrupt assault alongside the abrupt and loving embrace fascinates me to this day.

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