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My Galley Rogues’ Gallery

Galley Rogues' Gallery
I don’t have a lot of kitchen wall space. Actually I don’t have a lot of kitchen space of any sort. But I do have one wall, and on that one wall, I have three framed photographs. I call it my Galley Rogues’ Gallery.

The three framed photographs are as follows:

My family, circa 19951) A professional portrait of all my mother’s descendants as of ~1995. After my mom fell in love with the Norwegian in Swaziland and moved to Norway, my brother and sisters and I thought she might like to have a memento of us, so we all got together for our first and only family portrait.

This was no small undertaking. Rob had to come all the way from California. Deb and all her kids came from Southern Ontario. Kerry came from Sandy Hill. I didn’t have to come from anywhere, but I did have to coordinate things and do laundry. (We kept it simple though, by going with the denim theme, which I think worked really well.) Anyway, that’s Deb and me in the centre, Kerry holding Tyren behind us, Rob standing beside Kerry, and all our kids gathered around.

We should do it again sometime. (Damn, we should have done it when we were all together in May for Deb’s wedding.)

Adopted ancestors2) An antique photograph of somebody else’s family. I don’t know who they are. I found them in an antique shop in Nova Scotia, I think. I generally collect images older than this one, but I thought it was kind of sad that this family got separated from its own descendants, and kind of sad too that I don’t have any photographs of my own ancestors, so I adopted them. Some of them look a little inbred, but I love them anyway. Nobody’s perfect.

Nun in a casket
3) A dead nun in a casket. I have more than the average number of nuns, including dead ones. It’s hard to explain why I like them so much. I’m not religious. I just think there’s something intriguing about women who consider themselves ‘married to God.’ Death must be nice for them, don’t you think? They finally get reunited with their husband. But doesn’t it bother them that their husband has so many wives? I don’t really get nuns; I admit it.

I remember a friend, who would now be about 65, telling me that when he was growing up in his very Roman Catholic French-Canadian family in Penetanguishene, Ontario, it was the tradition that the second son would become a priest and the second daughter a nun. His family only had boys, and he was the second son. His parents were deeply disappointed that he chose instead to get a PhD in philosophy. (But the things he did with it! He taught, he drove a taxi, he wrote speeches for a Liberal cabinet minister, and he became an MP for the Bloc. I don’t know what he’s doing now. Last I heard, he’d married a humour therapist.)

So maybe there were young girls who entered the convent not because they were passionate about God, but simply because it was expected of them. Maybe they felt they had no choice, because they had the misfortune of being born the second daughter. Maybe getting a PhD in philosophy wasn’t an option.

Somehow becoming a nun for the wrong reasons seems so much worse than other faulty career choices. Maybe it’s because it’s more than a career, it’s a whole lifestyle. And maybe it’s because it eliminates so many other lifestyle options, like having your own place and having sex and having whatever you want for dinner and having a dog and picking out your own clothes. You’d end up with all the responsibilities of adulthood, but none of the privileges.

It was even worse in the Middle Ages, when some nuns spent all their waking hours engaged in self-flagellation. Can you imagine kneeling for 16 hours a day while whipping yourself? And this was your career?

I imagine there would have been a lot of dark secrets in convents, a lot of tears and whispers, a lot of practical choices and hidden evidence.

It must be better now. Very few women become nuns these days, and I assume those who do have other options, so it’s a conscious and heartfelt choice. And nuns now can have interesting careers that take them far beyond the walls of the convent. I don’t think they’re as isolated as they used to be, or as powerless.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tour of my kitchen wall.

5 comments to My Galley Rogues’ Gallery

  • I heard once that in Ireland, any son who showed homosexual tendencies was ‘encouraged’ to become a priest or a religious brother. it let them off the hook of getting married and having lots of catholic children.

  • Deb

    That would explain a lot

  • Interesting. It wouldn’t explain the high rates of pedophelia in the church though.

    I wonder if daughters displaying signs of lesbianism were also ‘encouraged’ into the sisterhood?

  • Deb

    I could see us doing a new family portrait…maybe Mom could be in it as the Matriarch…a few more additions though…Rob, Tara, Maurice, Arrow, Max, Sam, Scott, Johnnie, Nick, Chad…I think that’s all.

  • I knew, as a child, I was born to the wrong century.

    Some women entered a convent as the only option for a life of literacy and learning and guaranteed away from home and endless stream of kids from uterine waters.

    Fascinating wall of yr kitchen.