Don Day’s mother wasn’t exactly fond of organized religion and this despite the fact that one of my father’s cushiest jobs ever was chauffering for a convent in a grand old Austin Princess (the sisters weren’t exactly out every night).
My mother used to say, “I dislike those nuns’ holier than thou attitude. But let me tell you their knickers may be navy blue (an exciting revelation when you’re eleven years old) but they still put them on one leg at a time. And their wind doesn’t smell any different than yours.”
I, on the other hand, was fascinated by organized religion. And especially nuns. I was already in my twenties when I went to see an Elvis film (no matter how awful the plots…and the music…became, I was still drawn like a fly to you know what) and I fell madly, deeply for a nun.
The movie was called “Change of Habit” and, if you’ve ever seen the film, I know what you’re thinking. That’s if you’re willing to admit that you went to see it as well. But you’re wrong, I did not fall in love with Sister Michelle. No, only women fell in love with Mary Tyler Moore characters. I fell in love with Sister Irene, as played by Barbara McNair.
Yes Barbara fell from grace a little by removing her habit in “Playboy”. But to me she would always be Sister Irene and when I saw her, I still couldn’t forget what my mother said to me: “And their wind doesn’t smell any different than yours.” You might say I was inflatulated.
Was it really true? It’s something that’s troubled me all of my life. I knew from childhood that there was a difference in people’s winds when I discovered that boys farted but girls tooted. And that men, like my father, blamed it on the dog. While women, like my mother, blamed it on stepping on frogs. As most of my life has obviously already passed, it was obviously time for investigative action. It was time to cut to the chase or, perhaps better said, cut to the cheese. And what better place than San Miguel de Allende. The place that seems, at least at one point in history, to have had more convents than cantinas.
I decided to do some research. On Saturday, I went to the Convent of Immaculate Concepcion. But as it’s cloistered, it should have been obvious that nun spotting (or smelling) was a difficult task.
On Sunday I went to mass at San Rafael. But the only woman that looked at all like a nun to me, I’d seen in Dino Martini’s on Friday night. And at Hank’s on Thursday. Otherwise there wasn’t a single sighting of anyone without make-up wearing wire rim glasses.
On Monday I went to see the shaman who sells the herbal medicines from his garage on Calzada de la Estacion. We went through his encyclopedia but found nothing that would give me the answer.
And then came a revelation. I was walking down Zacateros, right about where it becomes the Ancha (though I’m never quite sure where that is) when I spied into one of those shops with the words Dulces Regionales outside, the kind you never quite venture into because you know everything is so sickly sweet.
From a distance, I spotted a small package and let’s just say if this was a biblical story there would be a brightly shining star over the shop.
My prayers had been answered. Here was the solution to over half a century of wonderment. There they were locked inside a plastic bag.
I placed the bag under my more than adequate for smelling nose and sniffed. Nothing. I placed the bag even closer to my nose and inhaled deeply. Nothing. Well nothing but the faint odor of a cellophane bag.
Then I inspected the words on the bag again. Below the words Pedos de Monja were the words más vale adentro que afuera (better in than out). My hands were beginning to tremble.
I pried the sealed area apart and there was an explosion of aromas. I was suddenly at that tender age again when my mother first informed me of what went on under a nun’s garments. Only this time I was in a candy store. Or was it Mr. Wonka’s factory. There was not only chocolate. There was cream, sugar, almonds, vanilla. It was scentillating. Godly. Nasal nirvana.
My mother was wrong. And my mother was never wrong. And often reminded me of that. The wind of a nun is a gentle breeze as sweet as a Sweet Marie bar.
But if I couldn’t trust my own mother with that fact. How can I trust anything she ever told me? And how am I ever going to know if a nun’s knickers are really navy blue?