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1 + 1 = Syracuse

There are times when one plus one equals two. But now and then, you look at one, you look at the other one and when you add those together you get five.

When one and one equal five, there are usually logical reasons to think that’s the answer. Once, when I was very young, I added one plus one.

And the answer was Syracuse.

The Hazy Flashback Part

Even this drawing makes me uncomfortable (public domain, wikimedia)

I’ve no idea why I remember this because it happened when I was in first grade. Given that I can cross a room, open a drawer and forget what I was looking for, it feels odd that this matter sticks in my mind years decades later.

When I was a kindergartener, it seemed to me that the first graders had it tough. Whenever my class walked by the first grade classroom the nun/teacher was tearing into someone. A lesser man would say she seemed to make a habit of abusing her class. It’s a darned good thing I’m not that lesser man.

Anyhow, the word got to us from the big kids that the first grade nun was as bad as we thought. I dreaded the idea of moving up to her classroom. I knew that I inevitably would.

And the next fall, when I walked in to that classroom, she wasn’t there. A new nun, or at least a new to me nun, was there to teach my class.

When the new (to me) nun introduced herself she said Sister Mary Brutality had grown too old to teach so she’d retired and gone to Syracuse. As I walked home after school, the second grader next door told me that there was a new nun in her classroom too. Surprisingly, the nun from that classroom had also gone to Syracuse.

Do The Math. 1+1= Syracuse

Syracuse, a few years before I was in first grade. A city even then. Who knew? (public domain via wikimedia)

I never realized before that day that there was anyplace on the planet named Syracuse. My mother fleshed out the developing picture I was creating of the place by telling me it was in New York. My mind wandered off to create my vision of what Syracuse was. Based on what I knew, it became a place in New York where nuns were sent after they were too old to teach. One plus one equals Syracuse.

I imagined Syracuse as a very plain, severe place. It wasn’t a city; it was just a place. I imagined it like a walled fort. It was populated entirely by elderly nuns. It was a very orderly place since everyone there was a disciplinarian armed with a yard stick. Just as in the classroom, anyone (anynun?) who dared stray from the norm in Syracuse felt the wooden sting of justice.

Later in elementary school I learned that the Erie Canal passed through Syracuse. I began to realize that it really was a city that elderly nuns were perhaps only one part of. Decades have passed since I created my terrifying, imaginary Syracuse. I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the real city that I’ve been told it is.

I think if I had the chance to go, I’d probably pass on Syracuse. You can’t argue with math.

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13 Comments on “1 + 1 = Syracuse”

  1. robincoyle says:

    So that is where old nuns go to die. Syracuse. Who knew? I always thought they went to the Vatican.

  2. lbwoodgate says:

    I had my own version of Sister Mary Brutality in the 3rd grade who whacked my palms with a wooden yard stick for questioning the existence of hell. Then there was the principle, Sister Bonita Frances, who could put you on the floor with a single dig and a twist to the ear lobe.

    A place like Syracuse is where they all go after having to confront all of us little demons engaging in multiple venial and mortal sins for years.

  3. Betty says:

    Maybe that was code, like when little kids are told that their beloved dog went to go live on a farm and chase bunnies.

  4. I’m pretty sure they went to Syracuse for the shopping. To get some flashy new nun outfits and all. Speaking of which, I’ll have to check that out next time I go.

  5. We Found Him Captain! says:

    I was told that nuns were retired male or female navy petty officers who still enjoy being petty, love wearing a wimple and black graduation robes with huge rosary beads around their waist.
    Did you know that in order to be ordained as nuns they must take a vow to never again wear shoes and always carry an oak yardstick. No shoes allows them to sneak up on little boys and whack the crap out of the little guy’s knuckles. I have never seen a nun touch a female student. Raise your swollen right hand if you have. Nuns also all must have two first names, but no last name. Like, Sister Mary Frances, Sister Veronica Harmonica, Sister Gumma Novella, Sister Novena Nina, Sister Patricia Pasquali. I’m just saying!…..

  6. I’ve been to Syracuse once during the winter. There was a lot of snow there, yet, I didn’t see a single nun and I’m sure they’d have been noticeable dressed in black. I’ll be that there’s a home for nuns there. A nunnery.

  7. I’ve been to Syracuse frequently. I have nothing memorable to say about it. It is one of those places I have to go through to get where I am headed. If you go to Syracuse’s travel guide and hit the “Things to do” tab it says, “No Results”.

  8. List of X says:

    To me, Syracuse is always a place where Archimedes burned down a Roman fleet with mirrors, at least as the legend has it. Of course, that’s a different Syracuse than the one in upstate New York, which is, apparently, a retiment community for nuns


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