The Main Event

#WhereILivedWednesday: 440 9th Ave.

This post is part of #WhereILivedWednesday, started by Ann Imig of Ann’s Rants, and as such is a slight departure from my usual video first format. The song is below and you’d better press play, it’s so worth it.

In the summer of 1979, my parents sent my older sister and me to stay with my Aunt Linda for a few weeks. They had arranged for us to go to a day camp at a private girls’ school in her town, where I could do gymnastics and my sister, tennis, in addition to your usual camp activities like batik, pottery, swimming, and the like. I wasn’t quite 12 years old yet so I didn’t realize that they were actually trying to get us out of the way while their marriage was falling apart.

We loved Aunt Linda. She was my father’s only sibling and we didn’t see her that often since she lived three hours upstate from our house. My dad was pretty stressed out and yelled a lot but my aunt Linda never yelled, she mostly laughed. She was so much fun and staying with her was going to rule. We had our own room in the old tower part of the house that even had its own sink.

Of course, all the bedrooms had their own sink since it was a convent. I don’t know about you but every convent I’ve been in has sinks in the bedrooms, and as I had another aunt who used to be a nun, plus my Aunt Linda, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in convents. The convent was an old house on a dead-end one-way street (I swear I’m not making that up) that had had renovations (for all the sinks!) and additions built onto it over the years. We had to go up these almost circular stairs, past a larger than life-sized Infant Jesus of Prague statue to get to our room but it was cool because it was kind of our own little hangout.

The Sisters also ran a day camp for younger kids, right there on the grounds of the convent. When we got home from our day camp, we were allowed to hang out with the campers who hadn’t been picked up yet, swim in the pool, play ball or jump rope on the black top. The other nuns were just as good at arts and crafts as my Aunt Linda so we got to make whatever things they had done that day, or learn fun camp songs (they weren’t even religious!). There was also another building with a teen rec room that had a juke box and a foosball table and even a soda machine! This was living!

The secret to all of the fun wasn’t just the amenities, however. These women were a riot. If no one had told you that they were all nuns, you would never have guessed it. Well, except for Sister Josephine who was kind of old and crotchety and still wore a habit (the only one who did), even indoors when she would shush us all because she couldn’t hear the Merv Griffin show despite the tv volume being turned all the way up. My sister and I didn’t have to go into their prayer session in the evening after dinner, we were free to hit the rec room or watch something besides Merv on tv. It was a pretty sweet set up.

They had a PA system at the camp so they could announce when it was time for the groups to switch to a new activity or come into the main camp building for lunch. One time at the end of the day, when we were already back from our camp, my Aunt Linda was getting ready to make an announcement only she didn’t realize the PA was already on. It must have been a long day and they were a little punchy. The big movie that had just been released that summer was The Main Event, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal and the theme song was getting a lot of airplay on the radio. My Aunt Linda grabbed the mike and did her best Barbra Streisand imitation of that song, getting all the way through the slow-burn intro before someone had managed to clue her in that she was belting out a mildly racy disco hit to the whole camp.
Press play, you won’t regret it.

That was one of the last times we stayed up at the camp/convent with my Aunt Linda. My dad moved out at the end of the summer and Aunt Linda and some of the other nuns moved to the midwest about a year later. But my sister and I have our memories of that great summer of ’79 at 440 9th Ave.

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4 comments

  1. Wow. Not many people can say they stayed in a convent. I love it.
    And guess what? My mom went to the convent when she was young. She lasted three weeks.

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