**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.