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St. James Catholic Community: Fr. Jack Sweeley, D.D., Pastor


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The Saga of the Nose Mitten

The Saga of the Nose Mitten


It has been said that God must have a good sense of humor or he wouldnt have created us.  If this is correct a sense of humor and the whimsical must be at the core or what it means to be a priest.  Here is a recent thread between Frs. George Hendrics and Jack Sweeley on the Antioch list serve that I hope will tickle your funny bone.  The thread started with Fr. Jacks post regarding New England winters and the custom of nose mittens.


Fr. George: Your words ring out like a peeling bell on a snow crunched wintry night whose melody is warm and inviting.  Yours are the kindest and leave no need for foot warmers or nose mittens, but pray tell me Jack, what is a nose mitten?  Is it something people wear in Baltimore?  It is fashionable to own one?  Where can I buy one now that Monkey Wards has gone bust? 


Fr. Jack: Poor George!  You never had a nose mitten?  Oh, you  are  so  

deprived.  No, people in Baltimore dont wear them.  Baltimore society is still ruled by the descendents of noble Virginians who fled to the wicked North to avoid the sting of Grant's martial law during Reconstruction imposed on the South after the Civil War.  They are lacking in so many social graces.  Sniff, sniff from my patrician New England nose.


However, for the genteel stock of Boston from whence my ancestors came a nose mitten was consider the epitome of civility.  One wore them, especially boys like me who slept in the unheated attics of old Victorian homes, during those winter nights when it was 17 below zero and the wind whipped through the clapboards.  On those night ones nose was all that inched above the blanket like a periscope connected to the outside world.


As you might surmise those who scoffed at wearing a nose mitten woke to find a frost bitten nose that  was  not only unsightly in  mottled red and yellow blotches but also very painful.  In extreme cases the nose had to be amputated which led to the well known expression, getting your nose out of joint.


As to where you can purchase a nose mitten my recommendation is Abercrombie & Finch.  From what I understand they now have scantily clad Santas Helpers who if they do not ask if you dress on the right or left side do make fitting you with a nose mitten a  memorable experience.


Fr. George: What a delight!  Since you seem to be so well versed in the matter of probiscuity, does all of this have anything to do with keeping your nose out of someone elses commerce?  Here in the West we know nothing of attics and clapboards and 17 degrees below temperatures.  Most people from the East think we still cuddle up near the fire, which is always in the center of our teepees.  St. Paul must have had a keen sense of smell since he does refer to the  Aroma. 


Did he ever wear a nose mitten?


Fr. Jack: My specialty is probiscuity.  I never met a proboscis I didn't like and as no two are exactly alike I have spent many pleasure filled hours deeply absorbed in study of their characteristics.  While some are purely utilitarian others are works of art but like all art beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Yet others are designed to impress the other senses by their form and substance.  I classify these as weighty probs in the same manner as a Quaker well steeped in his faith is considered a Weighty Friend.  There are some I even classify as Pontifex Maximus pro Deo et Ecclesia!


Getting one's nose out of joint and keeping your nose out of someone elses commerce are cousins.  You see, George, it all comes back to nose mitten.  If one is wearing a properly fitted nose mitten one is secure, to say nothing of warm, in oneself.  There is no reason for ones nose  to go poking around where it neither belongs or is wanted in search of a nose mitten.  You see we New Englanders are very protective of our nose mittens and do not appreciate others pushing their noses into our nose mittens.  A nose mitten is a very personal item of apparel.  In fact, it is so personal it is considered quite rude to stare at another person's nose mitten.


In fact a  nose mitten is so personal one cannot consider it without considering another of our revered traditions: bundling boards.  What is a bundling board you ask?  A bundling board is a device used on particularly blustery nights that allows two people to sleep in the same bed that may or may not be related regardless of gender.  In short, a bundling board is a wooden plank a foot wide and an inch thick that fits into slots on the head and foot boards of the bed.  Now you may think this defeats the purpose of two people in the same bed on these blustery nights but that would be a mistake.  The purpose of  a

bundling board is not to prevent hanky panky or deny the warmth produced by two bodies sharing the same bed.  The purpose of a bundling board is to protect the sanctity of one's nose mitten.  Whereas the Inuit may consider rubbing noses in the middle of the night a cultural ritual my New England ancestors would see this as a gross violation of the Code of Conduct for the Wearing of a Nose Mitten.


Of course, St. Paul wore a nose mitten.  However, there are two differences between his and the one I wore growing up.  Pauls was the basic no frills model made by fine Christian women waiting for their husbands to tell them what to do.  Unionized women who had thrown off the shackles of their male bosses made mine.  Thus, by using female ingenuity they added filters for dust and scent as well as tiny electric heaters to keep the nose warm regardless of the frigidity of the temperature.


Of course I can now see why you don't wear nose mittens out West. Cuddling up in teepees would make it very difficult if not impossible to use bundling boards and without using a bundling board you couldn't insure the sanctity of your nose mitten.


Fr. George: Do nose mittens come in sizes?  When God was passing out roses I though he said noses so I asked for a big red one.


Fr. Jack: Yes, nose mittens do come in sizes: small, medium, large and extra large.  There is also a special order mitten where you use graph paper and plot the terrain of the nose to be mittened. This option includes many different fabrics and colors and comes in three styles. Styles are traditional, contemporary and the new NASCAR model complete with racing stripes,  advertisements and a jack to quickly raise the nose for applying the nose mitten.  For an additional fee this model also comes with sound effects to drown out the sound of snoring.  According   to  the  most recent Gallop Poll 78% of spouses credit this model with saving their marriage.  Most importantly, it comes with an inner lining guaranteed to block the Rudolph Effect for those blessed with a Santas Helper nose.


Fr. George:


  Nose Warmers Unite

       An Ode to Jack


Oh, I once was a ball of yarn

but now I am a nose mitten.

I used to roll all over

but with a needle I got smitten.


Oh, you can drink your gin from me

with a garnish of olive or onion.

And I can be a tootsie warmer

and even sooth your bunion.


Oh, I can be the go-between

if any two should want to bundle.

To keep their noses warm, of course

and I can spoil their fun(dle). 


Oh, but now they want to clone me

so I can be a double.

But theyll never find the yarn

it's rolled off amid the rubble.


Oh, but do not shed a tear for me

for all that I am disclosing.

There will always be a memory

and once again we can all go nosing.