Shanghai story

About once a month, Sister Maureen, the Loretto School principal, would take me out of class to accompany her downtown on her errands. I was always glad to oblige – as if I had a choice – especially if she interrupted a class on English grammar.

Carrying her umbrella, I went with her on the tram up Avenue Joffre in the French settlement to the International settlement where all the businesses bided. First, we went to the utility company to pay a bill, then on to shopping. Added to the umbrella were parcels and I juggled them all very nicely, except once, when the crook of the umbrella caught itself onto the boarding rail of the tram. Fortunately the tram was not moving though it was about to. Exhibiting swift, sleight of hand while dropping all the parcels, I unhooked before I was carried away. Sister Maureen was only amused and said something about my providing constant entertainment. Perhaps that was why she maintained her monthly dates with me and not with any other student.

I think now that taking a student with her held another purpose. It must not have been seemly for a nun to be seen traveling alone, although as I recall, Sister Maureen would have dispelled any notions of impropriety because she was tough looking and well along middle age. She had a gruff manner that did not in the least intimidate one. Getting her to laugh was rewarding. It was hard giving up school when the commies took over Shanghai. Is it any wonder I wrote those novels about it all?


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