Modine's New Orleans: The Problem With Pins

LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION

I know women who can create a replica of the Blessed Mother out of Rice Krispies, dress their family in matching animal suits and go as endangered wildlife species for Mardi Gras and re-upholster their couch to match the curtains. Give them a glue gun and they can conquer the world.

Me, I can create breakfast out of Rice Krispies, dress my family in matching garbage bags and go as unrecyclables for Mardi Gras and throw a flowered blanket on my couch that don’t clash too bad with the striped sheets hanging over the curtain rods. That is as far as I go.

I get by on my wits, because my hands ain’t talented. If I had lived back when a woman had to spin thread and weave it into clothes for the household, we would’ve all been nudists.

But my mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, she got the gift. She can whip up a dress for herself out of the couch slipcover and vice versa. I have seen this with my own eyes. She likes big flowery prints both on herself and the furniture. Once she made a dress to match the couch, put it on, sat down and almost became invisible. It looked like her head was floating all by itself on top the couch. I told her the effect was very slimming.

And my daughter Gladiola has inherited this talent. Right now she’s creating a huge disco ball with sequins for the St. Patrick’s Day Dance at Celibacy Academy. The leprechaun is her class mascot, so St. Patrick’s is a big deal, even if it’s right in the middle of Lent. (Back in the day, if we ever had a dance during Lent – which would have been a mortal sin right there – we would have had to swathe the gym in penitential purple and dance on our knees.) Anyway, she needs my help. Not because I’m any good at this, but because I’m the only other person in the house.

I say we swab this ball with glue and dunk it into a bucket of green glitter. But noooo, that would be too easy.

 She wants every sequin pinned on individually with a green ball-headed pin, slightly overlapping the sequin to its right. My job is to stick a green ball-headed pin through the middle of each of a few thousand sequins, and she’ll place each one precisely on this disco ball. Just to complicate things, we got both red and green balls on these pins – they were on sale, left over from Christmas. So in addition to mounting the sequins, I got to sort out the red pins, which I guess we can save for Valentine’s Day in 11 months.

Naturally I don’t have a pincushion, so when I come across a red pin, I stick it into my bosom. Not all the way in, of course. I ain’t no masochist. And I got a lot of foam padding there. I figured out this trick years ago, in home ec class at Celibacy Academy, and my boobs haven’t got no bigger, so it still works. This is the one advantage of a small bust.

Then my phone rings. It is the walking tour agency I work for, and they got an emergency. A group of nuns from Ohio showed up unexpectedly and they want a good Catholic girl to lead them on a G-rated tour of the French Quarter.

I am just the girl for that. I had the historical facts about the French Quarter pounded into my head by Sister Mary Mephistophela in high school, and I can still spit them out, G-rated.

So I leave Gladiola to her ball, and I grab the new pashmina I got for Christmas to wear over there. A pashmina, in case you don’t know, is a little wrap that comes in handy if you can’t make up your mind about the weather. You can drape it over your arms as a shawl; or put it around your neck as a scarf; or bunch in up and throw it in your purse if it gets hot; or wear out your grandson by playing like it is a bullfighter cape and he’s the bull; or sling your baby in it, if you got a baby to sling.

It turns out to be hot, so I yank off the pashmina and stuff it in my purse.

I say “Good afternoon, Sisters,” and I start to talk about the dead bishops buried under the floor in St. Louis Cathedral and about the old Ursuline Convent. But I notice the nuns keep glancing at my bosom and looking away and then looking back. Now, I get these kinds of looks from men who’ve had a few drinks, especially if I have on my Miraculous Illusion Bra, but never from no nuns. I start to get suspicious. Maybe they ain’t nuns. Terrorists maybe, in disguise?

I forgot that I have roughly 25 red ball-headed pins sticking out my boobs.

Finally, I had enough. “Sisters, may I have your full attention!” I bellow, just like Sister Mephistophela. And I fold my arms. And I get their full attention all right, because I have pushed roughly 25 of those pins into me, and I let out a screech that could wake up them dead bishops under the cathedral. Without no further adieu, I pound off to the ladies’ room to unstick myself.

Thank God they weren’t very long pins, but I now know I never want acupuncture of the boobs.

When I come back, the nuns are gone and the tour company director tells me she located another good Catholic girl to lead them around. (Good Catholic girls are a dime a dozen in this town.)

Well, it’s Lent. Maybe they’ll assume I was doing penance.

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