Caught Red-Handed

Cricket provided a Slice Of Life prompt that really appealed to me this week –  a naughty moment of my youth. 

I thought of a few things initially, like the time I snogged Johnny James behind the chemistry lab when I was sixteen or when I was fourteen and had a crush (along with the rest of the girls in my class) on Mr. Wright, the economics teacher. We wrote Love You on our eyelids (just like in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the students are in love with Indiana Jones) and closed our eyes whenever he looked at us; but sadly, he chose not to notice.

The naughty moment I’d really like to talk about, however, occurred when I was much younger. I was eight years old. I was in Sister Felicita’s class. One thing I remember about her – apart from her kindness – was her striking red hair, tendrils of which used to slip from beneath her habit from time to time. It was a burnished orange, so striking against her pale skin. I imagined she was a nun by day, a heroine in a Medieval romance novel by night.

Sister Felicita had a garden near the music rooms. She grew the most amazing flowers and herbs, but the thing I remember the most were her redcurrant and blackberry bushes.

I am a berry fiend. Give me a berry, any type of berry, and I’m anyone’s. For those of you who also like berries you will know that nothing compares to a berry that is freshly-picked from the garden. It is succulent, sweet and juicy – and impossible to stop at one.

Sister Felicita liked me. She thought I was dependable. She awarded me the coveted role of watering the plants in her garden, letting me leave ten minutes before lunch to do so. I was delighted, taking the role and myself very seriously.

For an entire month I was the perfect little garden attendant. And then the blackberries began to bloom, bursting forth like little purple bubbles, filling the garden with the scent of summer pudding and just baked jam sponge.

I tried to resist, I really did. I watered the blackberry bushes first, barely looking at them, then rushed to the other side of the garden, trying to pretend there were no berries in sight.

A few bees gathered, dancing around the ripened fruit. Little birds pecked and nibbled. I didn’t want to eat the berries. I knew that Sister Felicita saved them to make jam for the people in the Retirement Home down the road. Her jams were famous. When she had a stall for Market Day people came from miles around, pushing and jostling. A Little Piece of Heaven in Every Jar was her slogan.

I didn’t want to eat the berries but I couldn’t help myself. Ever wondered what ambrosia tastes like? It is like the first mouthful of those berries – a lingering, luscious, uplifting sweetness.

For five days I gorged myself, saying extra prayers for all the orphans and sick children in the world in an attempt to absolve my sins. I thought I had got away with it but what I didn’t realise was that eating enormous handfuls of redcurrants and blackberries every day for five days leaves a slight tinge of purple shadow on your hands no matter how much you wash them.

At the end of the week Sister Felicita made an announcement. ‘Someone’s been eating my berries,’ she said with all the flourish the Three Bears must have had when they accused Goldilocks of eating their porridge. ‘Hold out your hands children.’ (Sister Felicita was obviously an old campaigner when it came to nailing berry thieves. She knew straight away the culprit’s hands would be stained purple).

We held out our hands. She walked around the room, pausing at every desk. She cleared her throat when she got to me, regarding me with a wry smile, but she said nothing. There I was caught red-handed, caught berry-handed, but she let me off.

I’ll never forget the sense of relief that swept over me, the thankfulness. Sister Felicita had every right to chastise me, to make an example of me, but she chose not to. Her kindness has stayed with me to this day. I tended her garden thereafter with the dedication of a botanist. Sister Felicita’s berries thrived, filling the garden with joy and colour. And I didn’t eat a single one ever again.

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26 thoughts on “Caught Red-Handed

  1. A wise woman indeed. Not sure I could have been as strong myself if someone noshed all my berries. But I guess that is why I would never make it as a nun!

    Raspberries are my weakness. Even now as an adult I just can’t stop eating them – if there is a bowl on the table I will eat the lot – each time I take one I tell myself it will be the last one but it never is.

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  2. The blackberries are just coming into season here and the smell is intoxicating. If I go picking berries for jam or pie or cobbler, I end up eating more than I bring home. It will take me a very long time to pick enough to save for a pie. Thankfully, there are lots of places with blackberries free for the taking. You just have to mind the stickers, spiders, bees, and the occasional goat or raccoon…or bear… or fiesty old woman with purple-stained lips, armed with a metal bucket… oh, wait… that’s me…

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  3. Those things supposedly make you live forever. Blueberries are my favorite. Your story reminds me of a time I went picking blackberries with a friend of mine who chastized me to eating the berries while we picked them, even though we were going to be paying for them. I thought it was all right but he thought I was stealing them.

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  4. Sister Felicita was wise. She knew you well enough to know that kindness would stop your behaviour (i.e berry pilfering.) Chastisement propably would have just made you sneakier about it.

    DavidM

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  5. LINDA – it means to have a little smooch. Nothing more, of course. I was a good Catholic girl. 😉

    RELUCTANT BLOGGER – you’re back. YAY. Oh, I know what you mean. If some snotty-nosed kid had stolen all my berries, I would not be happy at all. Raspberries – mhmmmmm- food of the gods!

    KAREN – Hahaha. Sounds like it’s a full-scale military operation to get to those berries, what with all the goats, raccoons and feisty women with buckets. You crack me up! 😀

    RICHARD – oh, blueberries are to die for. I have done that too. Gone berry-picking and done the ‘one for me, one for the basket’ game. I think most people do. Seems perfectly normal to me. Ha ha.

    DAVID – you are completely right. She made me feel so guilty. When I think of it now it must have been hard for her to keep a straight face. I also remember how good those berries were. Things seemed to taste much better in our youth, didn’t they?

    CRAFTY GREEN – I was taught mostly by nuns in primary school. I had a few nasty ones along the way, but mostly, they were lovely. I have always wondered if they stayed with the church and if they were happy.

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  6. Oh, I love blackberries! I would have been all over those bushes.

    Still haven’t figured out why my comments are doing a disappearing act, but I noticed they were there today. I feel dizzy.

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  7. HEATHER – I have just retrieved your comments from the spam queue. I have no idea why they were there. WordPress has gremlins in the system again, I suspect. So great to hear from you. XXXOOOXX

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  8. Oh berries! Oh yum, yum, yum! Blueberries especially. And strawberries. And blueberry muffins. And… all berries. Now the word “berries” doesn’t look likes it’s spelt right anymore :/

    I used to do a pork stirfry in summer berry sauce. But my hubby is one of those bizarre people who doesn’t eat berries at all. So I don’t get to cook that dish anymore. (But he doesn’t get to cook with mushrooms, so there!)

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  9. and i am betting sister felicita is herself recanting this story year after year to all those that will hear… you can know in your heart that you touched her…

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  10. I am a berry lover also and completely understand how the temptation got the better of you. Sister Felicita was indeed very wise – you can catch more flies (in this case, berry-snatchers) with honey as they say. Wonderful story – thank you so much for sharing it in time to be included before I send off with the first two chapters to the publisher.

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  11. Oh, I got the chils at the end. What a wonderful story. Its stories/experiences like that that remind us that the world is filled with marvelous souls. …and yummy treats!

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  12. Stolen berries taste better.

    I got caught only once too… after which berry stealing went hand in glove with… well with gardening gloves in fact and I never got caught again.

    Cheers.

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  13. *GASP*

    Oh my gosh – I swear Selma, I didn’t read this before writing mine. We must be kindred spirits! I wrote about my being the strawberry bandit.. my Sister Felicita’s name was Mrs. Anderson! :O

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  14. CHRIS – that’s happened to me a few times – the reprieve. I haven’t forgotten it. I think it has changed me. Well, I, er, hope.

    DAOINE – pork stir fry? In a summer berry sauce? I’m on the next plane down to Melbourne. Fire up the wok!

    PAISLEY – awww, you are a sweetie. I would be so touched if she had because really, I adored her!

    GYPSY – Amen. If it had been me I would have banished the berry stealer. To toilet duty. LOL.

    CRICKET – well, it is my pleasure, indeed. I should be thanking you. XX

    MELEAH – I should just have hung a sign round my neck that said:’It’s me. I’m the berry stealer. Berry stealer right here.’ I looked and felt so guilty!

    BEAR – a berry stealing Bear, eh? Well, I never!

    TEXASBLU – NO! Great minds. That’s what we are. Coming over to read it right now!

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  15. EPIPHANY – your comment was lost for a bit. WordPress keeps doing this to me. I don’t know what’s going on…..
    Anyhoo, there really are some good people out there, that’s for sure. But nothing can compare to a handful of freshly-picked berries. Mhmmmmm.

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  16. Sister Felicita was a wise and wonderful red-headed nun! She knew that love and loyalty win more obedience than embarrassment and retribution. I have done the same type of thing in my classroom — love, compassion, humor and patience are very effective behavior management tools.

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  17. QUILLY – thanks so much for visiting. I totally agree with you about your behaviour management tools. Much more effective than humiliation. Sister Felicita’s memory probably wouldn’t have stayed with me for as long as it has if she’d been cranky with me. She provided me with my first example of acting with good grace!

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