Going to the Chapel and We’re Gonna get Mar-ar-ar-ied

I love weddings. I’m going to my nieces wedding this weekend.  I look forward to kicking up my heels and dancing the night away.  When I was a little girl, a wedding was for everyone, and it lasted all day long and late into the night.  I thought weddings were the most fun for kids.

When my Aunt Annie got married, I got a new Uncle Jim.  I already knew Jim ’cause he hung out at Grandma’s all the time, hugging and kissing Aunt Annie and making her giggle.  She just about never looked at me when he was over.  Sometimes she kicked him when they sat on the couch and pretended to watch TV.  .  I knew she was really just finding some excuse to touch.  Jim, who was going to be Uncle Jim, grabbed Aunt Annie’s big toe and tickled her foot.  That made her squeal and kick and cry out, “Ji-iiim, Ji-iim,”  just the same way Mom said, “De-ean,” when she was pretending to be mad, but was really proud and happy.  That’s the exact moment I knew Aunt Annie loved Jim more than anything.

Everybody got dressed in the best Sunday clothes for Aunt Annie’s and Uncle Jim’s wedding.  Aunt Annie looked just like a princess, with a tiara and everything, she even had Continue reading

Grown and Ready

I had three important milestones of faith when I was growing up:  Baptism, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation.  For Baptism, I was just a baby, so I had no conscious decision.  First Holy Communion came at the same time as Penance; that was a big deal for a first grader with six years of sinning behind her.  Next came Confirmation.  After Confirmation, I was a warrior for Christ, a defender of the faith, ready to be martyred.  It was a conscious decision; I would be an adult in the Catholic Church.  That was scary even for someone in the sixth grade and half-way to being a grown-up.

There were so many questions and answers to memorize:  Who made you?  Why did God make you?  Who are the three persons in one God?  What are the seven deadly sins?  What are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit?  What are the Ten Commandments?  Which is the most important Commandment?  Name the twelve Apostles?  Mom drilled me on the Catechism every morning before school, while she brushes my hair into a tight, high pony-tail.  I knew I was old enough to brush my own hair, but Mom brushing my hair was better than chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven.

The Bishop came all the way from the Cathedral in the City to our little church.  He asked all the questions.  He asked each kid as many questions as he wanted, in front of everyone. If I failed to answer Continue reading

Holy Holy Holy Communion

When I was a little girl, First Communion Day was in the spring, usually on, or very close to, Mother‘s Day.  First Confession and First Communion went hand in hand.  Back then this was a serious step in the lives of a first grader Catholics, and followed a year’s worth of catechism preparation, including stories about tasting blood if I bit into the host by mistake; Sister said I had to swallow the host whole.  I didn’t want to bite Jesus; he’d already been through enough.

To get my soul ready to receive the body of Christ, first I had to memorize a whole bunch catechism questions, and I had to answer Sister in the right way:  stand at attention, speak loud and clear, and always, always in complete sentences:

“Who made you?”

“God made me.” Sister says it’s a wrong answer if I just say, “God.”

“Why did God make you?”

“God made me to know, love, and serve him in this world and the next.”  I guessed this meant I should pray a lot, behave in church ’cause that’s God’s house, so I had to be polite; I had to clean the church, spiffy up the grave yard when it’s my families turn, and study the catechism, which meant getting all the questions right when Sisters asked me.   I guessed that also meant even after I got to heaven somebody like Sister would be telling me the rules up there, and what I had to do next to serve God.  Man-o-man, I was never going to get a chance to just goof off.

There were a whole lot more questions to know and answer, but I kind of forgot a lot of them.

Next was the first spring cleaning of my soul.  A Good Confession meant a sincere examination of conscience, confession of sins, and an act of contrition. That’s nun-talk for remember everything I did wrong throughout my entire life, be sorry for them, and promise to stop it.  That was a lot of work, ’cause I had to remember what I did wrong for seven whole years, and how many times, and then get it in the right category.  Sister said it would get easier after the first confession; then I only had to remember what I did wrong since the last time I went to confession. It wasn’t enough to say sorry, I had to say that in the exactly the right way:

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry, for having offended Thee; and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishment, but most of all because they offend Thee my God who art all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

Then Father mumbled bunch of Latin stuff and ended in English with, “Go and sin no more,” which everybody knew was next to impossible, that’s why Father heard confessions every Saturday after catechism and every single kid who made their first confession was back in line for their ump-teenth confession.  No one I knew could be good all the time, not even my sister Deanna, and she was next to perfect.

Every night, I knelt in front of Mom while she helped me memorize the Act of Contrition and the Hail Mary and the Our Father, and the Glory Be.  Those last three were for the rosary.  I found out after my first confession, that they are also priests’ favorite penances.  Oh, I forgot to tell you that part.

After confession I got a penance; that’s something I had to do to prove I’m sorry.  Penance was sort of like the glue, if I failed to do my penance, then the forgiveness came apart.  It seemed to me it would be a better penance to go fix some of those offenses, like go tell the truth after lying, instead of just kneeling down in church and saying a bunch of prayers. I didn’t bring that up to Sister ’cause for one thing, Sister said I asked too many questions.   Besides, I was a tinsy bit afraid of Sister’s pinched look, like she had a bad headache, every time I raised my hand; so I just kept my mouth shut. Let sleeping dogs lie, as Dad liked to say, and I kinda knew what that meant, ’cause I saw my cat Davey sink her claws into Nikki when Nikki was sleeping.  That was a really bad idea on Davey’s part.

On the day of my First Communion I had another step to getting my soul ready, no eating or drinking:  Nothing to eat after midnight, nothing to drink except water for three hours before Mass, and no water for one hour before mass.  That’s so Jesus didn’t have to swim around in Cherrios and Tang trying to find His way to my soul.  I got all dressed up in a brand new, white dress, with a white veil, almost like a bride’s veil.  My friends Connie and Annette had on the exact same things, with white shoes, and pretty lacy socks; we had a tiny white missalette, a rosary, and a scapula, which is kinda like a necklace but made of cloth that a Catholic wears so the whole world knows she’s Catholic.  My friends Frankie and Mike had all the same stuff, but all in black, I guessed ‘cause boys get dirty easy. Mom said I was a dirt magnet, so that was a one-time dress.

When I walked up to First Communion, Frankie’s mom was up in the choir-loft playing the organ singing just like she was singing a lullaby right to Frankie:

No more by sin to grieve thee,
Or fly thy sweet control,
And humbly I’ll receive thee,
The Bridegroom of my soul,

Father put that host on my tongue and I swallowed hard, with Frankie’s mom singing so sweet up there like an angel, seemed like those words just sank right into my soul and I felt as holy as I ever would feel.

Maybe if everyone, including those who preach and teach, would pay a little more attention to the words of the Act of Contrition and really commit to undoing their wrongs, and avoiding the very things that tempt them, just maybe the world could be a better place.  I’m not asking for perfection, just a major spring cleaning, and a true Act of Contrition.

My grandson receives his First Communion this weekend.  He and his dad worked hard for this special day.  I wonder if my grandson will remember it when he gets to be a grandpa.

Do you remember your First Communion?  How about another time when you felt close to God?  Please tell me what it was like for you.

Connie and I did everything together. We are blood-sisters.

Secrets in the Boys’ Room

Statue of Scouts at the Cockrell Scouting Cent...

Statue of Scouts at the Cockrell Scouting Center of the Boy Scouts of America in Houston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never heard of Girl Scouts when I was a little girl.  We had 4-H instead.  I did know about Boy Scouts, because Dad’s friend Hal King was a Troop Leader.  He had a uniform and everything, just like he was still in the army.  Loren Dee-dee-bopper was still in diapers and my other brothers were just twinkles in Dad’s eye when he took me and Bonita and Deanna to the Boy Scout Camp.  That’s why we knew next to nothing about boys.  Deanna’s best friend Nancy from across the street went along, plus her dad.  Probably all the moms and Dougie and probably little Vickie and Loren Dee-dee-bopper, but this story is about an eye-opening discovery made by little girls.

Hal King’s Boy Scout Camp was way far away in the wood, full of tall pine trees all growing close together.  I loved to climb trees Continue reading

Stuck in the Mud Santa

Just like any little girl, I could hardly wait for Christmas.  I studied the Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Wards catalogs daily and made up my list for Santa.  The things I wanted could fill Santa’s sleigh up all by itself, so I knew only some of the gifts I asked for would arrive.   I marked a star by the most important ones:  A cowboy hat and a derringer just like Bat Masterson’s.  One year it was too warm for snow, and almost no presents arrived.  That was one of the most memorable Christmases of my child-life.

I prayed for snow, ’cause how was Santa going to get to my house without snow?  The grey clouds only spilled down raindrops and the heavy frost in the morning would never do.  I knew, ’cause when I took my sled out on the frost, Mom yelled at me, “That’s going to dull the blades.  Take your sled back in the garage.”  I dragged my sled back over the grass and down the little sidewalk to the garage.

“Good Lord, that sets my teeth on edge,” Mom said covering up her ears.  How could a sound hurt her teeth? I thought, Guess that’s what happens when you get old.

I was probably selfish praying for snow, ’cause I just wanted Santa to come.  Anyways, it didn’t snow; it just got warmer, until there not even frost was on the ground.  Mud was everywhere.

“When I was a little girl, Grandpa told me Santa came to houses alphabetically, and our house was last because our last name was Zyber,” Mom told me.  “That’s why some years there were just a couple of toys left in Santa’s bag.”  Holy Makerel:  at least my last name started with C.  There I was being selfish again.  All that selfishness might land me on the naughty list.

In bed at night, I heard Mom’s sewing machine whirring away like mad.  In the morning, everything was closed up tight, the sewing machine tucked down into the cabinet and not a thread in sight.  Hmm… that was super-strange.

Christmas Eve, Deanna, Bonita, and I got the biggest knee-high stocking we could find out of the odd-sock bag and hung them over a chair.  Santa came in the keyhole at our house, ’cause we didn’t have a fireplace and the chimney landed Santa in the furnace with no way out.  Mom wanted a fireplace like nobody’s business, ’cause she said our house was the draftiest thing she ever lived in and when she died she was gonna be cremated ’cause then at last she would be warm.

Just like always, I got down on my knees and said my prayers out loud so Mom could check me.   I was memorizing the Our Father ’cause I had to know that for First Confession along with all my sins;  Our Fathers got assigned for penance after Confession scrubbed my soul clean.  Catholics only said memorized prayers; we never made up prayers on our own, like they did over at my friend Betty’s house.

Up the stairs to bed, we went, ‘slap the bear’, just like always on the way up; brushed our teeth, and climbed into bed.  It was Bonita’s turn to sleep on the cot, so I cuddled up tight to Deanna to keep warm.  “Get your hair out of my face,” she said.  She hated my hair, so she drew a line down the middle of the bed with her hand, and told me to stay on my side.

“We forgot the cookies and milk,” Bonita sprung up like a jack-in-the-box, looked out the window, just in case Santa was out there on the lawn, like in that poem. Continue reading