By Bryan Nolan
The summer I was six my family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I spent most of my days playing around the house or hanging around my mother. But finally fall arrived and I began school in the second grade. I went to St. Eugene’s and was introduced to my new teacher, Sister Monda. I was a bit taken aback by this kind woman with robust features. She was nothing like I imagined a nun would be. She had a loud voice, walked briskly about, and always wore a smile.
School days carried the normal activity of classes, lunch, and recess. Recess was always the toughest time for me to handle. Being rather shy, it was difficult for me to make friends. On the playground I would sit with my back to the other kids, crying. I not only missed my mother, but I also feared the belittlement of having the other kids see me crying. This went on day after day and seemed like it would never end. Then one day my mother stopped at the gas station across the street from the playground. Noticing her, I bolted across the road, oblivious to the traffic and car brakes screeching, and made it to her side safely. By this point, I was crying hysterically and pleading with my mother to take me home.
And get busy we did. When recess rolled around, Sister Monda was the full-time quarterback for both teams. She made sure every kid got an opportunity to catch the football, to hike it, and even defend against her awesome passing ability. She got everyone involved in games of dodge ball. In reality, she set herself up to be the main target of all the balls the other kids and I tossed, but I don’t think she minded that one bit. She was the best (and tallest) basketball player, but she always made certain everyone got a chance to shoot for the basket and dribble the ball down court.
That was long ago and I now have two boys and a loving wife, but I carry the torch Sister Monda once held. One day my older son came to me during his first year in school, explaining how much he missed his momma and me when he was in school. My advice: “Get busy. Don’t let the longing thoughts invade your mind. Find something to do. Make friends with others. Make friends with any and all of the new kids at school. Help prevent them from having those longing thoughts.” The very next day he thanked me for the advice, saying that it really helped him make it through the day.
Thank you, Sister Monda. You will always be a great inspiration in my life.