Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What I'm NOT giving up for Lent

**Disclaimer: This post is about religion.  It is a silly story, mainly because I am silly.  I do not intend to offend anyone, nor do I wish to get into a situation where I have to defend writing silly stories.  It is meant as an anecdote from my childhood, when I was silly.  I do not want to appear disrespectful, nor do I want to be called names.  It's just a silly story.**


This photo is courtesy of Catholics in the UK, which is another story entirely.


Today, I thought I would tell you an Ash Wednesday story, because one doesn't hear those very often. 

I grew up in the northeast...central New York.  (We used to call this 'upstate,' but then Albany decided THEY were upstate, so we are now central.) We were located on the banks of Lake Ontario, roughly halfway between Rochester and Syracuse.  My village was very small and everyone knew one another. (We were all village people.) This is both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because your neighbors were there in times of trouble, and a curse because your neighbors were there to report you if you were causing trouble.

My mother is a dyed-in-the-wool Protestant. Her parents were very "old school" (her mom was a war bride from Scotland, where everyone is supposed to be Presbyterian, even if they're not). As a child, she was not allowed to be friends with Catholic kids. (Where do you people think you are...Northern Ireland?)  She is an elder in the Presbyterian Church and has been on a hundred different committees, which is pretty amazing, since there are only about 30 members of said church.  She intends to leave them all her money, which is fine because it's her money.  I was brought up in the Presbyterian Church and went to a Presbyterian college, where I was supposed to meet a nice Presbyterian boy and get married in the Presbyterian church.

(The fact that I ONLY DATED CATHOLIC BOYS is another story for another day.)

So all of this Presbyterianism was fine, except the kids in the neighborhood were Catholic.  And every Tuesday and Wednesday before school, they would go to confirmation class and then come to the bus stop.  They would arrive laughing and joking (and from this, I formed the idea that the Catholic religion was a lot more fun than mine), and I always felt a little left out. And on Ash Wednesday?  They had ASHES.

And I didn't.

(You are seeing where this is going, right?)

Now, my dad smoked a pipe forever (which is what killed him, but that's also another story for another day) and the ashtray was always full.  I caught on to this Ash Wednesday thing after a couple of years, and I decided I wasn't going to be the only kid at the bus stop without a smudge.  It was a no-brainer to put a few ashes in a Baggie (because they were all Baggies then), walk halfway to the bus stop, and smear some on my forehead.  When everyone else arrived with their smudges, I fit right in. (I hadn't read The Star-Bellied Sneetches for nothing.) We got on the bus and headed off to school, where I proudly displayed my forehead...and was busted.

My teacher, Mrs. Crane, sat on many of the same Presbyterian committees as my mother.  Her husband was somehow loosely related to my dad.  By the time I got home from school (carefully washing off any remnants of ash), my mother had heard all about my "conversion."  I'm not sure what the punishment was (maybe "I will not pretend to be Catholic" 100 times?), but I'm sure I got the message. 

It didn't stop me from dating the Catholic boys.



16 comments:

Andrea said...

I love this! (even the Baggie reference cracked me up)

Andrea said...

p.s. I have heard Poughkeepsie referred to as upstate these days...seriously?

Danni@SiloHillFarm said...

You are so funny! I remember being intrigued by the ashes thing as well. Then I married a Catholic and the intrigue was gone. Love The Sneetches reference and read it to my kids a bajillion times.

Rita C. said...

That story is so funny, and so much of it resonates with me and growing up (Catholic). I totally get it - all of it. I think our parents, begrudgingly, let us play with the non-Catholic neighborhood kids (for heaven's sake, there was a Methodist church just two doors down from our home, and we used their parking lot in back for the neighborhood wiffle ball games - they were part of the team!), but preferred us to stick with our own, lol. And the dating Catholic boys/girls thing.....I get that too, after all, I was one of them, bahahaha. Today on FB, I noticed one of our local churches (Methodist) is having a drive-by Ash Wednesday blessing, which I find humorous. And do all the churches today practice the ashes blessing? What about no fish on Fridays? The times, they are changin'....

Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

this is hysterical!!!!!!!!!! i grew up lutheran in massachusetts where almost everyone is irish catholic and catholic churches are HUGE and all over. luckily, my mom had grown up catholic but had converted when my parents married. (she did this for my grandfather and also because she didn't have a good catholic experience AT ALL.) because of her background she was always pretty openminded (as long as it was christianity, anyhow!) and i had the experience of going to church with catholic friends as well as even attending ccd a couple of times. i discovered that while many of my friends were catholic, it was not the church for me. and ps i married a boy who grew up a catholic. ;)

andi filante said...

Love it! I grew up Catholic and NEVER dated Catholic boys! But thanks for the reminder that I skipped out on Ash Wednesday mass this morning. I'm sad you had to put in a disclaimer though...I found nothing whatsoever offensive with this story...there are actually people who would be bothered by it? Ppptthhht. Stuff and nonsense.

-andi

Art and Sand said...

Thanks for the good laugh!

NanaDiana said...

That is hysterical, Kirby. I went to a small 3 room school house The Presbyterians came in on Friday afternoon and gave felt board lessons. The Catholics (there was only one family of them) got to go to a different room and do a fun project We LIVED right next door to a Catholic church but did not attend there I told my teacher that my family turned Catholic and I wasn't supposed to go to the religious "class" anymore I went two weeks before my teacher called my mother (unheard of) and I got busted, too lol It was fun while it lasted. xoi Diana
ps-Anybody that is upset/disturbed by your story needs a total life adjustment. lol

Bliss said...

I dated all the boys. Period.

Junkchiccottage said...

Hi Kirby,
You are too funny. I grew up Catholic and went to all girl Catholic schools. Ohhhhh the stories I could tell lol!
Kris

Heidi @ Decor & More said...

LOL - you can't get anything by those Presbyterians! I'm Episcopalian and we do get ashes but I always have fun explaining that to my students. :-)
Stay warm today!
xo Heidi

Linda @ it all started with paint said...

I'm not sure why those kids were laughing after confirmation class. Or catechism class, as we called it. I found it absolutely frightening. And the nuns were brutal with their caning sticks. Seriously. Oh, and as someone who grew up in New Jersey, anything north of the state border was considered 'upstate.' :)

AnnMarie aka Vintage Junkie aka NaNa said...

I grew up Catholic and dreaded Ash Wednesday and all the other man-made traditions the Catholics made us do. I felt silly having a smudge on my head and when it came time to take communion I had no idea what I was supposed to say! Confession was the worse. Strange how you wanted to fit in with the Catholics and I wanted out!!

karen@somewhatquirky said...

I always thought upstate was anything that wasn't nyc. And even if that is wrong, II think that half-way up qualifies as upstate Sorry but ashes do not a Catholic make. Since I was raised in the anti-Catholic south I don't remember having a Catholic friend until 6th grade. I honestly don't remember seeing the forehead ashes until I went to work for a Jesuit university in my 40's. So I cannot relate to ash-envy. Bra envy was my problem.

Feral Turtle said...

LOL Too funny. Kept waiting for something offensive.....maybe the dirty ashtray? Anyways a great story Kirby of trying to fit in! Cheers.

laura@notatrophywife.com said...

Hilarious! I grew up Catholic and was obsessed with dating Jewish boys.. and ended up with a Lutheran! The ashes in the baggy hilarious! laura

01 09 10