Life Without Chuckie
Part IV – The First Communion
2013 Copyright Barbara Celeste McCloskey
The winter months went by slowly in 1958. Chuckie and Barbie could only play on the weekends, which actually meant Saturday. They spent their one day a week building snowmen when the snow would stick together, skating on the ice rink that was flooded in the village park, and building snow forts and tunnels behind the grocery store where the snow was piled as high as the roof. But, as much fun as the winter brought, both children waited patiently for Spring, when they didn’t have to be cold to have a good time outside.
One warm day in April, the children were able to play in Chuckie’s sandbox again after the long Winter. Barbie liked playing there because a chain-link fence kept out her little brother, John Robert. Nowadays, whenever she wanted to play with Chuckie, her little four-year old brother tagged along and butted into the her fun. Worst of all, if she didn’t willingly bring along the little pest, her mother would scold her and then tell her father how bad she was when he came home from work.
“Where’s John Robert?” Chuckie asked Barbie.
“He’s at home, taking a nap. Thank God.” Barbie replied as he carefully honed out a tall spire on her sand castle.
“Why do you say that? He’s not bad.” Chuck didn’t mind having John Robert around because he always wanted a little brother, but instead he was the youngest in his family.
“He’s such a pest. He gets into my stuff, even when Mom tells him to stay out of my room. But he never gets a spanking. Man, if I would disobey like that, I’d get a whack on my butt and then have to tell the priest in confession, too.”
“What are you talking about? What the heck is “confession?” Chuckie screwed up his face when he said the word.
“Well, I’m just learning about it right now. When you do bad stuff, you have to go to church and be really, really sorry for your sins. Then go into this little dark closet and tell the priest all the bad stuff you did, and he gives you a penance.”
“You’re kidding?” Chuckie thought she was making it up. “That’s crazy! I thought you said God saw everything.”
“Well, he does. He knows everything, too, Chuckie. We talked about this before.”
The whole concept of confession confused Chuckie. “So, why do you have to tell some other guy about what you did when God knows already?”
“I don’t know. But that’s the way it is. If I don’t tell, I can’t make my First Communion.”
“Communion? What’s that?”
Barbie looked at Chuckie like a teacher. “Communion is when you get to eat the body and blood of Jesus.”
Chuckie stood up and looked at her with fear in his eyes. “You can’t do it, Barbie. That’s just wrong. You’ll get sick and die!”
“What are you talking about?” Barbie looked up at him.
“You can’t eat somebody. That’s being a cannibal like on Tarzan! Only guys living in a jungle do that kind of icky stuff!’
Barbie looked at Chuckie like he was stupid. “It’s not real a body, Chuckie. It’s just a little piece of fake bread the priest puts on your tongue as he says, “Body of Christ.”
Now Chuckie was really intrigued. He sat down again. “So, this communion thing is just make believe?”
“I guess.” Barbie pondered. “I really don’t know how it all works, and I’m afraid to ask because good ol’ Mrs. Pink gets mad when we ask questions. She thinks we’re not paying attention if we have a question.”
Chuckie’s lowered his voice. “So you’re going through with this communion thing?”
“I’ve got no choice. Everybody in the whole second grade is doing it on May 10th. Mom’s even making me a pretty white dress and a bride veil to wear for the ceremony.”
Chuckie looked at Barbie with new eyes. Going to Catholic school certainly required her to do a lot of weird stuff, and she never complained. “Can I come?” Chuckie was curious about this whole concept of eating another person.
“I’m afraid not, Chuckie, ‘cause you’re not Catholic. There’s only enough room in our little church for Catholics.”
“Do you have to have a special decoder ring or something to get in?”
Barbie laughed. “No, silly. I guess the guy at the door just knows.”
“Oh.” Chuckie wasn’t convinced and felt a little hurt he was excluded from such a big deal in his friend’s life.
Barbie said. “And besides, you wouldn’t like it anyhow because everything is in Latin.” Barbie said with authority, and then quickly added, “But I want you to come to my party, after all the church stuff is done.”
“Gee, thanks.” Chuckie was happy to finally be included. “What kind of present do you get for going through this communion stuff?”
“You don’t have to get me a present. Just come over and eat with us.” Barbie smiled at him.
“Oh, okay.” Chuckie paused for a few seconds and then asked. “What’s Latin?”
Barbie had to think hard on how to explain something she didn’t understand either. “Well, it’s this secret way the priest talks and sings in church. I think he wants to keep what he’s saying a secret because nobody is supposed to know what he’s saying ’cause he’s talking to God.”
“That’s pretty weird.” Chuckie wondered why anybody would want to such a church if they couldn’t understand what was going on.
“Yeah, I know. It makes sitting still for an hour really hard.” Barbie confessed. “And we have to sit through Mass everyday.”
“It sure is hard going to that Catholic school.” Chuckie felt sorry for her.
“Tell me about it!” Barbie said. “You know, I still ask Daddy if he would switch me over to your school every once in a while when I can’t take it any more.”
Chuckie nodded. “Can you say something is this Latin?”
“I know this: In nomine Patris et Filli, et Spirtus Sancti.”
“What’s it mean?”
“I don’t know.It must have something to do with the sign of the cross because he always does this when he says the words.” Barbie said as she crossed her chest.
“I’m sorry, Barbie, all this Catholic stuff seems pretty nuts-o.” Chuckie started to laugh.
“You take that back, Chuckie. It’s not nuts-o! It’s Jesus talk, that’s all. You don’t understand because you’re a PUBLIC!”
“I’m a what?”
“A PUBLIC. You go to the public school.” Barbie said with confidence.
“I am not a PUBLIC. That’s dumb.”
Barbie got extremely irritated with her friend. “You are too a public. Teacher says there’s Catholics and everybody else. And Chuckie, you’re going to HELL! I didn’t want to tell you, but you are!” The little girl put down her sand tools and stomped toward the gate.
Chuckie chased after her. “Take it back, Barbie. If you weren’t a girl, I’d pound you! I’m not going to HELL! I’m not going anywhere! I live right here on 97th Street, and I’m staying here with my Mom, Dad, Ronnie and Carol forever!”
Barbie could see he was really upset and she calmed down. She stared at her best friend. “I guess Jesus wouldn’t want us to fight like this, Chuckie. I’m sorry.” Barbie took a deep breath. Knowing her best friend would have to go to hell just because he didn’t go to her church weighed heavy on her. “Maybe you won’t have to go to hell because you’re such a good friend.” Barbie crossed her fingers behind her back as she felt like she just lied to her best friend. Now she had a big sin to confess to the priest on May 8th.
“Let’s not talk about Catholic stuff again. Okay?” Chuckie spit in his hand and offered it for Barbie to shake. She spit in her hand and the two friends sealed their deal with a strong handshake as they smiled at each other.
“Let’s get our bikes and ride to the park.” Chuckie said as his bright blue eyes lit up.
“Good idea. I’ll push you on the merry-go-round.” Barbie smiled.
“Deal.” Chuckie ran to the garage to get his two-wheeler out, while Barbie did the same.
They never talked about religion again.