Wednesday 24 August 2011

School Shadows

I wrote this for Kombai , my friend Prema's blog, but it fits here as well...

In between the two main sets of buildings that make up our school is the main staircase and the toilets. In a winding set of buildings full of loud girls and sunlight this is the only quiet shaded place - this windowless section where high school and junior connect.

The main staircase, the "Golden staircase" as it's called because of the pale golden tiles the nuns polish regularly, is out of bounds to small feet. It's for visitors only. No-one walks on the Golden staircase... or at least that's what the nuns think. Sometimes we sneak there in the early morning and slide down it when no-one can see us. Girls stifling giggles as they zoom down steps that gleam pale gold in the dawn sunlight. I'm sure the nuns would find it apt that we always used the staircase to descend.

In winter, when the staircase is all in shadows. We'll sit in a huddle in the dark near the doorway to the stairs and tell ghost stories of the half nun who is said to float through that section. Only half of her, from the waist up... Very strange, but we never bother to wonder why. Who cares! A ghost story is not meant to make sense. It's meant to be creepy and half a nun is definitely very creepy!

Problem is when you need to go to the toilet... alone. Then half nuns floating in the shadows doesn't seem so much fun. But I'm never afraid, I know I'm watched by other eyes. In the cool shadows beside the stairs there's a picture in a frame. I remember the first day of school, being rushed past it and wondering what the words were. It's a big picture, big as a movie poster. It's an angel painted in soft golds.

The words are a prayer I didn't know before I joined this different world of nuns and girls. This world of women can be overwhelming, noisy, emotionally charged. Girls becoming women are their own poltergeists. Girls becoming women taught by women who have given up being women... it's a strange place. A half world of fragments of being. No-one is whole. No wonder even the ghosts are in portions!

But the angel is whole. The angel in the cool shadows is complete and in time I will get to read all the words and remember them when I need to pass through the stairway in the dark on winter mornings. Over the years I've spoken them in my head on many a dark journey. Warm golden promises for those who walk in the cool shadows.

Today I stumbled upon the prayer on a website... an accident? I'm not so sure. One of the girls who used to fly down those stairs died last week of cancer. She was buried yesterday.

So one of us finally got to fly up the Golden Staircase...

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this day,
be at my side
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.



  1. Michelle. How aptly written. Certainly brings back the memories. Lovely for Jen's memory. Xxx

  2. My condolences for your friend's passing. LOVE this story and also the prayer...

  3. Thanks Amel

    Hope you have a great holiday - go hug your friends!!

  4. Very beautiful post, thank you for sharing



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