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  • Kristan Higgins

Sainted Mother vs. Authority

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

In OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY, Lillie’s mother is chilly, judgmental, stylish, exceedingly well educated and wields her criticism like bowie knife. Not like my own mom, that is. Not at all.

Sainted Mother was a rebel back in her day. By this, I mean, she’s been trouble since birth on. She was the first of nine children, so I imagine her parents were simply too busy and exhausted to know what she was getting into.

“Kristan, tell us more!” you say, enraptured. I shall, dear readers. I shall.

She once set fire to a vacant lot. She'd convinced four or five of her siblings and friends that pretending to be hobos would be a great way to pass the afternoon. Hence, they stole matches and carrots, and Mom successfully made a fire to cook the carrots, as she thought hobos might. She underestimated the dry grass of that vacant lot. As the fire department dragged their hoses and tried to figure out how the fire was started, Mom hid. She didn't want to get into trouble, not stopping to wonder if her parents, now aged 80 or 90 extra years, might be worried about her. Sixty-some years later, my poor grandfather's hands still shook when he told me the story of looking for her. "I was so relieved," he said, "that I didn't even punish her." Well played, Mother. Well played.

When Mom was a high school student, she and her bestie would ride the train to their Catholic girls school. If a handsome man was on the train, preferably wearing a military uniform, she would pretend to fall asleep so she could rest her head on his shoulder. Not so bad, right?

Then came the Yale man she met. She lived not far from the university, so that’s not the biggest surprise. What did surprise him (and her poor parents) was that she stowed away on a train to go visit him in Philadelphia at the age of sixteen. He was horrified (and definitely not interested in a teenage girl, thank God), so he walked her to the police station and left her there. She gave the cops her grandmother’s phone number. “Don’t tell my parents,” she whispered, and my great-grandmother wired her the money to get home. That, or my grandfather took the train down and dragged her home. The story varies.

She didn’t go to her prom, because the good Sisters didn’t approve of her slutty dress. So, in order not to be outshone by her peers, she faked a marriage certificate and told everyone she’d eloped with her high school sweetheart, Johnny. When the nun discovered the ruse and threatened to call my grandmother, my mom pulled out the oft-used (and always appropriate) excuse: “Please, Sister Mary Magdelena of the Crown of Holy Thorns! Don't call her! She’s pregnant, and I don’t want her to get upset!” Worked every time, since my grandmother was doing the Lord’s work and popping out another baby for Rome.

Has Sainted Mother’s behavior improved over the years? You already know the answer to that. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Will I blog about her shenanigans again? Absolutely yes. For you, gang, anything.


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