Friday, February 19, 2010

How sharper than a serpent's tooth . . .

Yesterday at Lunch Buddies, my kindergarten buddy said, "My friends would like us to play with them." So instead of eating lunch first and drawing afterwards, we played "Scary Monster." In this game, which we have played before, I am the scary monster (or the grizzly bear) and try to catch the various bats and werewolves who attack from all angles on the playground equipment. My little pink-and-white, ruffledy-puffledy buddy informed me, "I'm the mom werewolf." In that capacity she gets to make up the rules.

The little folks got all wound up, and I had kids leaping onto my back, grabbing my arms, and tugging at my jacket. I had to remonstrate with a couple kids for head-butts. There was also a little fellow on his tummy with his hands around my ankle; I dragged him around for a bit.

In the midst of the scrum, however, I felt a sharp pain in my calf. "Hey!" I yelled. "Who's biting?" I looked down, and two werewolves had their mouths full of my pant legs. "No biting!" I said. The lunch cop came over and said that my buddy had to go to the nurse's office to get her blood sugar checked, and the game was over.

After lunch I detoured to the house to inspect my calf. My jeans weren't torn, but when I examined my leg, I found that although the werewolf didn't break the skin, but he did pinch a dandy blood blister into my calf. I cleaned it up with alcohol, put antibiotic ointment on it, and covered it with a Band-Aid. I'm watching it closely. And I'm going to keep my eye on those werewolves and bats.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

On Ash Wednesday, the nuns would herd their catechism classes in double file--boys in one line and girls in the other, with at least a foot of space in between for the Holy Spirit--from the parish hall to the church so that we could get ashes daubed on our foreheads. "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return," Father Shuler would mutter as he made the Sign of the Cross on our foreheads with his thumb. After a few minutes of prayer and reflection--preferably an Act of Contrition but more likely "Oh, man, I am so happy I don't have to spend 40 days fasting in the desert"--we'd hit the road and go back to class.

Back at the parish hall, one of the smart-ass boys would invariably ask Sister Mary Europeandasia, "Is it true what Father Shuler said? That we are dust and to dust we shall return?" And Sister Mary Europeandasia would say that it was true. Then the smart-ass would say, "Well, there's somebody under my bed either comin' or goin'!"

To the sound of muffled but moist and explosive nose laughs, Sister would escort the offender to sit with the girls, leaving a foot of space for the Holy Spirit between the perp and the girl next to him.

Then we'd have to stand up and tell what we were giving up or doing for Lent, what we were sacrificing to make up for the other 325 days of sinfulness. "I'm giving up homework!" one of the boys would say, and, without being told, we girls would scoot down the row so the little felon and the Holy Spirit could sit with us.

The lamest sacrifices were things like "I'm going to say extra prayers for the poor souls in Purgatory" or "I'm going to study my catechism harder." How will people know when you've slipped up? Saying that you're giving up watermelon or persimmons was just asking for it. And, of course, Sister's pets would say things like, "I'm going to go to daily Mass" or "I'm going to visit the elderly neighbor with the colostomy bag every day after school."

When I was a freshman in college, my friend Kris and I did indeed go to daily Mass during Lent at the St. Paul Newman Center (that is, the Newman Center dedicated to St. Paul, not the center dedicated to the star of Hud and Cool Hand Luke, who really is a saint, if you ask me). Every day Kris would push me through the swinging doors so that I hurtled into the sanctuary and looked more eager to attend Mass than I actually was.

We kept it up, though, and didn't miss a day, and on Easter Sunday, we could feel those halos just a-shinin' on our heads.