Nine Ladies Dancing

Catholic school was good for something. Christmas time! Christmas time at a Catholic school was fun. We sang songs, had parties and went to church three times a week each week from Thanksgiving up to Christmas break. It was time out of class and away from those mean ass nuns. I was all for it.

In the fifth grade, we were going to sing the 12 Days of Christmas for our class song in the Christmas program. I need you to know that I didn’t just become curious as an adult, but I think when I was born I probably asked the doctor who he was and what were his credentials. This is just who I am. I liked the song well enough, but one particular part held my curiosity captive. What nine ladies were dancing, why and where did they come from?

One day during rehearsal I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally asked Sister Genorah what the nine ladies dancing meant. Now, Sister Genorah was one of the meanest nuns in the entire school, and rumor had it that she ate boogers. I hated having her for my homeroom teacher, and I tried never to have a conversation with her about anything. I just had to know the answer to my question though. I asked her about these nine dancing ladies, and she got mad. I don’t think she knew the answer and instead of just saying that she sent me to the office.

Well, I was no stranger to the office or Ms. Kathleen, the office secretary, and we had become pretty good friends as far as children and adults go. When I got to the office, Ms. Kathleen tried not to snicker and asked me what I’d done this time. I really didn’t know how to answer that question because I hadn’t done anything but asked a question, so I said I didn’t know. Ms. Kathleen probed and probed until I finally told her the question I had asked. “You were sent to the office because you asked about the nine dancing ladies in the song?” I nodded. Ms. Kathleen looked confused, and this gave me hope. Maybe I wasn’t going to be in trouble after all. “How did you ask the question?” I repeated it exactly how I had asked it. “What did Sister Genorah say?” I told her she sent me to the office with a note. I then produced the note. I don’t know what the note said because back then they stapled the note so that if you opened it the person receiving it would know. I just know that Ms. Kathleen could no longer contain her laughter. I was confused and scared to laugh and scared not to laugh. What the hell is wrong with these adults in this school?

“Jacquelynn, I don’t know what I am going to do with you. Sit down. I’m going to answer your question and send you right back to class. I will give you a note to take back to Sister Genorah. I nodded with half suspicion and half delight. We get in trouble for passing notes, but they did it all day long uses us as the delivery service.


“The nine dancing ladies represent the fruits of the spirit. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, faithfulness, kindness, self-control, forgiveness and gentleness. The song uses them as a metaphor.” It would be years later when I would finally be able to Google her response and find that she was on to something.

Now when I hear that song, I think about both Ms. Kathleen and Sister Genorah who have both passed on. I was a different child, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for all the dancing ladies in the world.

Merry Christmas! The Writer

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