Just in time for Halloween, Baltimore-born playwright/actor/director and fiction writer Kimberley Lynne recounts the evening she and her mother gallivanted in most conspicuous costumes.
In 1976, my mother and I portrayed nuns in The Sound of Music at Baltimore Actors Theatre at St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson. During tech week, or the week before opening, we had to wash our habits at home, and after one late rehearsal, we decided we were too tired to take off our costumes and climbed into the orange Volkswagen bus in full nun regalia.
On the way home, a woman in a Buick beeped at us, and we were confused until we remembered that our bus bumper stickers read: Sailors Have More Fun and Have You Hugged Your Kid Today? We laughed and waved back.
Mom decided that she needed a Coca-Cola for the morning and pulled into the Pantry Pride parking lot on Seminary Avenue in Lutherville. My anxious, teenage self was a bit daunted, but I reluctantly adjusted my wimple and joined her. Maybe no one would recognize me.
A young man with long hair and bell bottoms ran into us in the soda aisle and practically cried as he apologized, wringing his hands. “Oh, sisters! I am so sorry!”
We nodded and tried not to pee our pants. Mom even made the sign of the cross as a blessing. I was sure we were headed to hell.
The cashier counted out our change like we were somehow impaired.
“One,” she said solemnly and paused, placing the dollar in my mother’s hand. She noticed that Mom was wearing her wedding ring and Dad’s Naval Academy engagement ring. The cashier frowned and then cautiously counted out the coins. I bit my lip and wondered if I was wearing too much lipstick for a nun.
We clambered back into the bus, and Mom turned to me with a mad glint in her eyes.
“Let’s visit the Bozels.” Mrs. Bozel was one of her Catholic PTA friends.
“What?” I yapped. “No. Absolutely not.”
“Come on,” she cajoled. “It’ll be fun.”
“What would Reverend Gearhart say?” I asked about our rather reserved Episcopal minister.
Mom shrugged. “You only live once.”
She drove to the Bozel house in our neighborhood and slid the bus into a space in front of their lawn. One of the Bozel boys was in my grade, so I refused to leave the bus and slumped down in my habit.
When Mom rang the bell, Maury answered. He cast a nonplused look and called over his shoulder, “Mom! Mrs. Lynne’s here!”
Mom and Mrs. Bozel giggled like school girls.
Mom passed away this year on D-Day, and we haven’t been able to schedule a memorial. Whenever that happens, I will tell this story, because it shows how she lived to the fullest. When she had the chance to pretend to be a nun at the Pantry Pride, she took it.
Kimberley Lynne reports that her family was finally able to gather for her mother’s memorial service this past weekend. Rest in peace, Susan Nancy Schuck Lynne–1935-2020.