On occasion, I see a bumper sticker or recall something that triggers the stories, adventures, and experiences I encountered as a public school kid in a Bay Area parish serving over two thousand families.
For instance, during every Lent, I gave up chocolate chip cookies. After a few years, I stopped. The odds of Big Sis baking her out-of-this-world chocolate chip cookies during Lent to my mother’s serving her perfectly edible, liver and onions with the piquant gravy over mashed potatoes were 7 to 1! Statistics aside, I got tired of the Brat giving up the liver, her angelic countenance supporting the sham that she alone could pull off in front of Mom. And my parents were surprised when this daughter excelled as a Thespian in her senior year?
In all fairness and upon examination, most any child who was fortunate to survive parochial instruction was indeed well-educated and well-rounded. Penmanship, Latin lessons, and some fantastic art graced the walls in the church school halls. Parochial childhood friends even received sex education; it was similar to the well-accepted course content for fifth and sixth grade level students we received in our public elementary school.
Of course, we neighborhood girls compared notes, and I realized my instruction was lacking some of the specifics she’d learned; for example, the dangers of wearing patent leather shoes with skirts. Obviously, my sister and I were at a slight disadvantage, only attending Saturday Catechism or Friday afternoon instructions. Some practices were never fully discussed or explained. For example,
- Why Catholics didn’t believe in Evolution. The Brat made the mistake of asking this during one Friday afternoon session; Mrs. G, the lay teacher, was not pleased, and my sister realized too late she would not be excused on time; not a good note for the coming weekend.
- There was the time that Brat and Peebody found a wounded animal in the church property drive. When asked by the church staff what they were doing, Brat explained they were administering the Last Rites. Again, she found out that it didn’t pay to be candid.
- Typical Sunday morning conversation with Daddy:
Can we go to the dumps with you today?
Go to church with your mother. It’s good for you.
Will you drive us?
You can walk; it’s good for you.
Yes, Daddy. But the next Sunday you go to the dumps, can we ride in the truck with you?
No response; Daddy knew better. The decision would be dependent on Mom’s affirmative response the next time a Sunday dumps run came around.
Where does the Church find ashes for Ash Wednesday? Why must the statues be covered each Lenten season? Would church ceilings really collapse if wayward parishioners attended Easter Mass? Didn’t anyone else find the closed confinement of a confessional scary? An inquiring mind wanted to know.
I was serious enough; often, too much so. Finding a creative slant or imagining the manmade link to an otherwise, very solemn religious subject remains an impetuous flaw of mine. It is both delightful and therapeutic to have been blessed with the gift to think quickly; to find the irony and humor in child-like assumptions of innocent, misguided thoughts. This gift calms my soul and lightens my normally serious heart.
So, I confess to taking full advantage of any opportunity to reap a giggle or two…and I’ll play to audiences from one to one hundred (those are individuals, not ages).
It is for good reason that I gave up confession long ago…