October 5, 2009


Me (out of step), Sr. Nancy, Sr. Kim, Sr. Bernadette
(2008 Christmas Concert Tour)

6 p.m.--It was a dark and stormy night. No, it wasn't. I'd like to start off thus dramatically, but, hey, I'm talking about a night in Los Angeles where it's never dark or stormy. They say New York is the "city that never sleeps," but judging from the lights and freeways in L.A. at 3 a.m., the distinction really should go to Tinseltown. And of course, it never even rains from April to October.

6 p.m.--It was a bright and peaceful night. Several visiting nuns and my residential self decided to go rollerblading on Venice Beach. We parked on a side street, split up in pairs according to speed and agility, and agreed to meet back at the van at 9 p.m. I teamed up with Sr. Bernadette, an inline skating neophyte (while I'm probably the equivalent of a brown belt). I felt sorry for her because no one wanted to be held back by her wobbly forays into the wild world of Venice Beach sports. Sr. Bernadette is actually a magnificent Irish step dancer, but wheels do change everything. I coped with her lagging problem by steaming out ahead and then elipsing back to join her.

A great time was had by all. The sun began to set right on cue at 9 p.m., and
Sr. Bernadette and I headed back to the Astro. We had covered quite a bit of boardwalk and couldn't remember exactly where we had parked on the parallel side street.
Sr. Bernadette was tired, so I offered to skate north while she waited at a streetlight for me. If the van wasn't there, it must be south. I skated several blocks north and then doubled back. As I sailed by Bernie under the streetlight I shouted: "It's this way!" The last words I heard from her were: "IN THE STREET??!!!" Obviously, she did not want her aura grazed by automobiles on the narrow thoroughfare (but those sidewalks were so goshdarn bumpy!) I sped ahead, assuming she was somewhere behind me, having her teeth rattled silly by the "surf's up!" wavy slabs of concrete that passed for sidewalk. After a few blocks I halted and spun around. No Bernadette. Hmm. She probably went back to the beach where the skating was easy, I figured.

I pumped on a few more blocks, looking down the roads perpendicular to the boardwalk. No trace. I reached the van. All the other nuns were sitting on the curb, skates off.
"Have you seen Sr. Bernadette?" Shrugs.
"You lost her?"
"Well, no. She left me."
We waited till 9:30. All census-accounted-for persons had left the Venice vicinity, and the denizens of the night had appeared. I was getting nervous.
"Maybe we'd better look for her."
"Does she even know the convent phone number or address?"
"Does she have any money or anything on her?"
"Just the clothes on her back and the transportation on her feet."
We paired off again. Two began cruising in the van, two skated the streets, two stayed where the van had been, and I took off for the boardwalk after calling home and learning Sr. B. hadn't phoned. Needless to say, my imagination was racing. Petite Sr. Bernadette has beautiful blonde hair, perfect teeth, and no street smarts. What if she had been abducted (and all that goes with that)? What if she was lost and was about to be abducted? Even though she's a big girl now and a former SoCal (Torrance) native, she was a visitor and I was her partner and that made me somehow responsible. I kept seeing images of her parents in front of me, and I kept trying to explain to them what happened, recounting her last words: "IN THE STREET??!!" That's all they would have to hold
on to.
--"Well, Mr. and Mrs. Reis, whatever happened, it happened within three blocks of where I left her."
--"I was trying to do her a favor--she was tired."
--"Everything will be all right--she can handle herself (yeah, right)."

I bladed my thighs skinny up and down at least two miles of ever-more abandoned pathway. What if she got turned around and headed to Malibu? The same "interesting" people watched me go back and forth. I had to keep my cool--they couldn't know anything was wrong. I couldn't look like I was looking for someone, and I certainly couldn't describe Sr. Bernadette to them and ask them if they'd seen her. I couldn't make them think I was lost!
10 p.m.--The God Squad regrouped. We called home. Nothing. Suddenly, the nose of a black-and-white car tilted around the corner (the way only creeping police cars pitch from side to side. Good shocks, I guess). A sight for sore eyes! I flailed them down atop my worn eight wheels--black leggings, safety pads, oversized Our Lady of Guadalupe T-shirt and all. I was quite rattled at this point, but had the presence of mind to make a long story short by using policespeak.
"We're looking for a 26-year-old, white Caucasian male!" I spluttered.
"I mean female! Blonde, rollerblades, green T-shirt!"
"Name?" asked one of the vallium-calm cops that looked like he had just graduated from high school.
"Sis--, um, Bernadette Reis (didn’t want to blow our cover). She's from the East Coast and she's really naive! She's been missing for over an hour now!"
"We'd love to help you," (hearty nods from his partner) "but there's a disturbance in Hollywood, and all units have been called over there."
"So what am I supposed to do??"
"Weeeellllll...," (if police wore suspenders, he'd have had his thumbs under them) "we could take a spin around the block for you" (more hearty nods).
"Oh thank you--anything would help."
"And if she doesn't turn up, you can fill out a Missing Persons Report at the station on
Culver and Centinela" (reassuring smile).
My stomach did a triple somersault. (Or to use an in-line skating metaphor: My stomach did a Japan Air and landed fakie).
Thankfully, Officers Skip and Biff did more than one revolution. They joined our cruise nuns for a good fifteen minutes. I continued speed skating Venice Beach.
10:30 p.m.--Another phone call home: same results. Mother Superior was now fit to be tied. My feet were numb stumps, but I sallied forth one more time. I found myself about two miles away from our field headquarters, and I just couldn't glide another inch to get back. Once again, the black-and-white nose leaned around the corner toward me.
I flagged them down.
"Could I possibly get a ride?"
"Hop in."
I decimated the styrofoam cups on the floor of the back seat with my smoking rubber tires. Evidently the disturbance in Hollywood (probably a crowded premiere) could wait, because the squad car was going 3 mph down the boardwalk (I know because I looked). I could have crawled on my hands and knees faster. Then the squad car began making stops as Skip and Biff chatted up their favorite homeless beachfolk friends. My heart was going 103 mph in grief and panic. I was just ready to get out of the cruiser and skate the rest of the way when the nuns showed up, all in the van now. Sr. Nancy shook her head at me. I transferred vehicles."Good luck!" grinned Officers S & B.
11 p.m.--We cruised in silence. Suddenly, under a streetlight--actually, the same streetlight I had left Sr. Bernadette under--a blonde mane toussled a few times. Yup, she hadn't moved a wit. She had removed her skates and sat on the curb--never intending to follow me south. She was blocked by a mailbox, so we never saw her. Her understanding was that I was getting the van and would come pick her up. An attitude my mother would describe as: "Peel me a grape." A tsunami of relief washed over me, and the image of Mama and Papa Reis--now contented--faded to black. I slid the van door open.
Sr. Bernadette flashed a perfect smile: "Hi!" She was a placid as Skip and Biff.
"Where were you??!!" I feigned anger for the sake of the livid search party.
"Right here! Where were you is the question!" Bernadette heaved her well-rested carcass next to me on the seat. No one in the van would look at either one of us. We headed back to the ranch. I positioned my bare feet in Bernadette's face.
"Kiss my blisters."
The two of us laughed to hilarity, but contrary to the song: Laugh and the world does not laugh with you. Our stone-faced fellow passengers were gritting their teeth in unison. To this day, it's a touchy issue with them. Soreheads! So we lost a few hours and shortened our lives with worry! All's well that ends well. It was an adventure. Venice Beach after dark.

Evidently Sr. Bernadette has a charism of invisibility. Not a month later, her parents (the real ones, not the phantoms) were unable to find her in plain view at an airport and had to resort to airport security to locate her.

The weird, wasted time we spend spinning our wheels (literally) are those scraps of life that are "in betweens," "interims" that defy categorization. They are completely unproductive, absurd and are best dealt with by giggling. When God's divine economy is revealed in heaven, we will understand what the heck they really were. Until then, how do I spell RELIEF?

© Sr. Helena Burns, fsp

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  1. I love this story! So glad for the happy ending. And I think you Sisters are very cool!

  2. I enjoyed reading this here as much as I did the first time on your website. What a story! And what a spirit of sistership!!

  3. This is Love-- www.john1429.org <--if you don't want to read please watch the free videos. We only do this because we love you. This will prepare you for what is to come that the so called Christian world is not telling you. This is truth in its fullness. Please take a moment of your life to read or watch.

    Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee... seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Many reject truth and follow after the ways of the world where they mix paganism with Christianity and such. This is open compromising with the Law of God. It is written in the book of Matthew 7:14 “Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Jesus loves you. www.cregen.wordpress.com www.remnantofgod.org www.lightministries.com www.sdaapostasy.org This is your opportunity to receive truth.