I’ve often mentioned that I enjoy Dianne Gray’s blog. Well today, she put out a challenge that resonated with me. She presented writers with a photo, and in 1,000 words or so, we were to write an account about the picture below. Here’s my entry. Enjoy. Or better yet, give it a try yourself. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/weekly-writing-challenge-a-picture-is-worth-1000-words/
I remember this day so clearly. This photo was taken by my mother. It was Easter morning. My father, brother and I are dressed up in our new Spring finery. We’re are standing outside the doors of St. Rita’s Catholic Church. I guess my mother thought we were looking pretty spiffy. She took this photo right before we darkened the door before Easter’s celebration Mass.
I think you can tell from the expression on my face that I’m not looking forward to what would happen next.
You see, going to church on Sunday was required in my family. There was no excuse that was good enough to miss. Even a fever and a cold that would keep me out of school wasn’t good enough to skip church. The problem was, my mother “converted” to Catholicism when she married my father, and she took her conversion seriously. Like all devoted Catholics, she believed if we missed Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day, and she died before confessing her wrongdoing to the priest, she would surely go to hell. From what I understood at the time of this picture, HELL was the worst place in the world!
Clearly, I wasn’t happy on this particular day. I hated this pink girly coat and matching hat. I even had to endure the stinky process of my mother putting a “Toni” home permanent to make my straight locks become curly just for Easter. To make matters even worse, my mother insisted I carry an empty little purse that matched my shiny shoes. It didn’t matter there was nothing in the purse, but heaven forbid if I would lose the stupid thing. Then I would go to HELL.
In addition to having to wear “girly” Sunday clothes, I hated church because I had to sit still and stay quiet for a VERY LONG time. Sitting still was not one of my best virtues. I was an active child who liked to run, jump, and climb trees. I played with boys on my street and I got dirty enough to be one of them. I was more comfortable in corduroy pants and PF fliers than I was in this outfit.
To make matters even worse, I also a curious child. I wanted to learn about what was happening around me. So watching a pageant of men dressed in long, bright colored robes, carrying candles and reading words I didn’t understand from a big book, brought a lot of questions into my little head. Unfortunately those questions would never be answered because I couldn’t ask them.
The best thing I could do to survive this time of penance was to pretend I was playing “Statues” like we did on the playground, knowing that only when my mother touched me, I would be released from my pose and could go home to find my Easter basket that the bunny left me. It was my best defense because I knew if I wiggled or spoke up, I would get scolded at best, slapped for worst. God, I hated church.
As you can see from the photo, my brother was the complete opposite of me. He was the exceptional child. He looked forward to the blessed event every Sunday. He relished getting dressed up in a white shirt and red bow tie. Damn, he was a serious boy! You can see by his expression that he knew he was “the chosen one.” He knew he was considered a perfect child from the day he was born. You see, my parents saw him as a miracle because my brother almost died when he was a baby. See that sweet, innocent face? See that perfect posture? He even looks like a cherub. I never did understand him.
From my father’s expression, you can tell he wasn’t nuts about having to go to church, either. He worked all week in a factory, and Sunday was the one day of the week he had to dress in a white shirt, tie and suit. I know he didn’t like wearing “Sunday” clothes as much as I did. They just weren’t comfortable or even natural. I once heard my father complain to my mother that wearing a tie around his neck felt like a noose. He especially hated having to shine his shoes every Saturday night because my mother would yell at him for getting that black stuff all over the cupboard.
The only one who is not in the picture is my mother because she’s behind the camera. I can tell you that she always looked forward to Sundays and she especially got excited over days like Easter and Christmas because she said the church was so beautiful on those special occasions. And she was right about that part. The people who decorated the church did a really nice job. On Easter they always had angels with long trumpets flying above the altar. And even though I didn’t understand the words, the music was always prettier on the special days, too. On Easter the choir sang with not only the organ, but they had people playing trumpets, too. I guess Jesus liked good music a couple of times per year.
So here we are—my father and I dreading having to sit through Mass in uncomfortable clothes; my brother chomping at the bit to started. My mother documented us for life. Everyone will know that we did our sacred Sunday duty. My mother wouldn’t have to confess a mortal sin. And Father O’Malley, who kept tabs on people who attended Mass and those who didn’t, would know that at the very least, my family wasn’t going to HELL any time soon.