I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume the majority of you reading this didn't spend your vacation every year in a large convent full of nuns. I have to say I feel a bit sorry for you, because we did and it was fantastic.
Every fall my mom, Grandma Rita and all six of us kids would load up into the station wagon and make the long trek across the state to Dubuque, where the Mother House (Mt. Loretto) is located. My dad and my Grandpa Gerald would be following in the pickup hauling behind it a hog roaster and a freshly butchered hog to feed the nuns.
I can hear you laughing in disbelief... but I'm serious. And I have the photos to prove it.
My Aunt Janella was a PBVM (Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and she was living at Mt. Loretto at the time, so this was our chance to visit her and spend some time with all of the Sisters. And let me tell you, we had the run of the place. When I was little one of the nuns would offer to take me for my nap (usually Sr. Raeleen), and instead of laying down we'd sneak to the craft room and paint figurines or sculpt clay or make all sorts of fun little art projects. We'd play hide and seek and ride the elevators and have sing-along sessions. I like to think of it as my own little version of sleep away camp, only my parents were there, too.
Me at age 3, just trying to be helpful...
Back: Grandma Rita, Sr. Joy (I think that's her name), Laura, Mom
Front: Steve, Janella, Me, Jim, Janette (Honestly, I mainly included this photo because I think it shows that Steve totally fits his nickname, Hoody. Doesn't he look like a "Hoody" in this photo?)
The facilities at Mt. Loretto were so much fun. They had a gymnasium where we could run around and play volleyball or basketball, and it's where I first learned of wolleyball, which is like volleyball but the ball remains in play off the wall.
One of my favorite things to do during the week was hang out with Sr. Stephen. I would help her clean the chapel and dust the pews, and then we would go into a separate room where they made their own hosts. The communion host would come in a large, flat sheet and we would have little hand punchers that would punch out the hosts into little circles with a cross pressed into the middle. (Much like scrapbook punches, now that I think about it.)
After we would finish making the hosts we would put the leftover scraps into a bag and walk down to the lake, get in the rowboat and feed the ducks. It was always so quiet and peaceful out on the water, and we were always there during the fall of the year so the air was crisp and the trees would have turned their mighty colors. It was a perfect example of work and reward... showing me that at the end of the day, the scraps we're left with can become something that can still nourish.
And the main event of the week: the hog roast.
During one night of our stay, there would be a celebration with all of the nuns... we'd roast a hog and gather in the dining hall for a feast. And for entertainment? The six of us kids would at some point get up to the microphone and sing for everyone. Yes, we were the Von Trapp family without the fear of German invasion.
Our best song was, "O Lord, It's Hard to be Humble" and we sang it with enthusiasm. Because the microphone was raised up higher on the stand and I was so much shorter than everyone else, Sr. Martin would take the microphone after we sang and bring it to my level to see if there was anything I would like to say since I couldn't reach.
Foolish woman. Of course I had something to say. It was usually my standard joke that I told at my grandparents' card parties about the Lazy Family that was too tired to go out and see what was wrong with the dog (you have to hear it to fully appreciate it)... and since then I've never met a microphone I didn't like.
So, we were unorthodox. We didn't go to Disneyland. But we had more fun, more life experiences and more fulfilling moments on our trips to Mt. Loretto than most people could hope for. And I wouldn't trade a moment of it for the world.