Saturday, November 3, 2018

Losing My Religion (Part One)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Who The Hell Is This Guy?

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse 
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader

"Religion consists of a set of things which the average man thinks he believes, and wishes he was certain." -Mark Twain

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

When I was a kid, specifically during my Sister Mary McGillicuddy period (first through seventh grade) it was made clear to me that to succeed in life and in death (go to heaven) it was necessary that I follow a number of specific rules to the best of my ability.

I was assured by (and reinforcement was provided by) my parents, Sister M., Father Fitzgibbon, the Catholic Church, American culture in general, and the culture of the Sou'Side a Pittsburgh (with an h) specifically -- that this was true.

Turns out that life is slightly more complicated than that and...

[No kidding, Einstein. I'll bet when you found out Santa Claus wasn't real you wound up in therapy.]

Dana! you're back! I was beginning to think you guys moved to some other would-be writers subconsciousness.

[Nope, we're still here. The Cancer thing was just too depressing for me to deal with so I took some time off. Nothing personal. Between dealing with school, adolescence, and band practice Iggy's totally preoccupied.]

What about Marie-Louise?

[She's still here but she's gone part-time. She asked me to tell you she's still doing her best to keep you inspired but she's had to take on another client, who actually makes money from their writing, because she's fallen behind on her rent. Nothing personal. She's quite busy.]


Now, when I was 13, my parents moved part two of their brood of seven to the burbs. Group one had moved on but group two, whose first member, me, incarnated after a five-year gap still had to be dealt with. My parents purchased their first and only house. It was too small, and they couldn't really afford it, but it got us out of the city.

This was a step up from a series of too small houses and apartments that they had rented in the city (Pittsburgh, with an h). Life changing stuff. We lived in what was a very modest enclave of a very rich suburb and I spent my last year of Catholic grade school, eighth grade, going to school with kids that lived in a different world than I did.

These were the children of people that had graduated from college but had not majored in things like psychology or fine arts (unlike many of their kids, my buds, were about to do). They were the offspring of doctors and lawyers and um, pharmacists (you thought I was going say Indian chiefs, admit it). Mike C_____'s dad was a VP at Pepsi. Much to my surprise, I was not shunned.

There was music in the Cafes at night, -- and although we were too young for that, the church hall a really cool jukebox -- revolution in the air (dated boomer cultural reference). I was secretly in love with a girl named Cindy whose last name I can't remember; I was over my failed summer romance with Monica T.

It was 1966 and the revolution referenced above was primarily a cultural one that went too far but that's another story. My personal revolution, the one that occurred in my relatively naive and sheltered little world, was centered around the Catholic church.

See, this was year eight of wearing a tie, endless rules & regs, marching to the bathroom like a little soldier (or convict), every-one getting a smack on the palm with a wooden ruler if no-one would confess to talking while Sister Mary McGillicuddy was out of the room (less painful than getting shunned by the other prisoners), regularly scheduled elaborate church rituals/endurance contests, the occasional psycho-nun...

[Psycho nun?]

I could tell ya stories, Dana. For example, Sister Egg Noodle (not her real name) praying to a picture of the founder of her order that our schools CYO basketball team would beat the team of our arch-rival, St. Emerentiana. Those poor bastards had to start every school day by attending mass so of course, most of 'em were not quite right.

They did have very cool varsity jackets, however.

Where was I... oh yeah, eighth grade. Same sort of nuns (mostly, there were notable exceptions), changing church (the mass is going to be in English?!?).
Father Fitzgibbon v. Father Bing O'Malley. 

Most importantly, traditional mostly blue-collar kids replaced by mostly white-collar kids. Poppa loves you. To be continued...

Have an OK day. 
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©2018 Mark Mehlmauer

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