My career in show business ensured that we never had a dull moment in raising our family. After I went through twelve years of Catholic schools, we wanted to similarly curse our children so we sent our three kids to St. Norbert Elementary School in Orange, CA. It is a great school and we are so glad our kids went through it. I think the best part about the school was that it still had three nuns there: Sister Francis (the Principal), Sister Rose Mary (the First Grade teacher) and Sister Carmel (who I later heard our kids say was teaching them “Spirish” – that was Spanish in her Irish accent).
These were three of the really good nuns. None of them was taller than four foot six inches or weighed more than ninety pounds. But they really were lovely ladies who were GREAT with the kids. How Sister Rose Mary was able to teach thirty first graders with no assistant, and keep them engaged and learning without a ruler to the knuckles is still a mystery to me.
One day when Ryan was in fourth grade and Neal was in first grade, I was in my car in the pickup line for the kids after school. Well, Sister Rose Mary came hustling over to my passenger side window and very concerned told me in her Irish brogue “Mr. Stava, I need to talk with you.” After asking her what I could do for her she told me “Today Neal picked up a popsicle stick on the playground, rubbed it on the asphalt into a point and said ‘we’re going to have a rum-bull!!’” “What’s a rum-bull, Mr. Stava?”
I had to explain to her that I was producing a production of West Side Story and the kids had come to see it over the weekend and what a rumble was. I then assured her that Neal would NOT be starting a dance-off gang war with the other first graders on the playground at St. Norbert. To which she grudgingly replied “Well, alright then Mr. Stava; if you say so.” Sigh!!
A couple weeks later I am in the pickup line and Sister Rose Mary again came hustling over and said “Mr. Stava, I need to talk with you.” “Today Neal called someone a ‘mensch’.” “What’s a ‘mensch’ Mr. Stava?” I told her that ‘mensch’ was a Yiddish expression for a standup guy, a good guy. Then I had to explain to her what “Yiddish” meant. “Oh, alright then, Mr. Stava – if you say so.” I don’t think poor Sister Rose Mary quite knew what to do about the Stava kids.
But I loved those nuns! I don’t think I have ever met a priest who would pass up on a meal, but those nuns would go a week without eating if it was to help the kids.