Recently, a friend and former schoolmate of mine posted our 8th grade photo on Face Book. I remember thinking how cool I thought I was back then for having such bad-ass feathered hair, super-glossed lips courtesy of Bonne Bell’s/Lip Smackers and getting ready to graduate Junior High. After a while the photo started me thinking about my years at DACS (yes, I know it’s been renamed now, but it’ll always be DACS to me) and I realized something—I’m probably going to hell.
Along with tuition parents also had the privilege of volunteering their time in whatever capacity the school deemed necessary. My family’s particular job was setting up for mass at the Immaculate Conception Church a stone’s throw from our house. This also included dusting off pews, wrangling hymnals back into their holders and clearing up any detritus (Cheerios, action figures, gum and wrappers) left behind by people who, were unwilling and or unable to exert the minimal amount of parental authority over their hyper, under-disciplined, bestial off-spring long enough to sit still for 45 minutes. Although back then a priest had little compunction about stopping mass to ‘suggest’ a parent take their screaming toddler to the vestibule and preferably keep going until they were in the parking lot.
Ahh, the good old days.
Anyway, one of our main responsibilities involved ironing ridiculously wrinkled alter linens (no doubt the Nuns balled them up right out of the dryer) that took more time and muscle than I was willing to give. Thankfully my sister took on this tedious chore, albeit with a long-suffering expression. She did a good job of it too. At least by my standards if not by those of Sister Mary-Martyr. Besides Mary-Martyr’s lousy attitude she also brought over the communion wafer allotment, which she stored in a cupboard in the sacristy. Another of our tasks included pouring wine and water into crystal cruets then placing them on the credence table. Lucky for me, this duty was closely monitored by Father M., the parish priest at the time.
Now, when I say 'closely monitored’ it’s not that Father M. didn’t trust me to do my job, it’s that he knew Sister M-M. had given strict instructions to water-down the wine, as in a thimbleful of red to a liter of water. So, when Sister M-M. went about her other duties Father M. would materialize by my side just as I began to pour, peer at me over half-glasses until he held me in thrall (not unlike a vampire). He stared me down until I poured out five fingers of wine into the alter chalice. As far as I was concerned if the man wanted to float away on a sea of Chianti more power to him. Besides, who was I, an 12-year-old girl, to stop an adult, as well as a man of the cloth from doing anything?
Since, I hadn’t practiced my due diligence this gave rise to Father M.’s often-slurred Sunday sermons. Needless to say, Sister M-M always blamed me. Nonetheless, the old bat assigned me this task twice a month and my continued failure to stop the drunken antics of a 60-something priest, as directed by an equally old nun might have been what finally drove me to sneak into the sacristy, abscond with the communion wafers and gobble them up like I was downing a bag of Frito Lays potato chips.
All right, before any Catholics reading this post have a coronary, I’m making it clear right now, they were un-consecrated communion wafers swiped from the tabernacle’s ciborium, so let’s all calm down, shall we? If your sense of justice needs righting, Sister M-M finally caught me and dragged my ass to the vestry where Father M. was prepping for mass. She left me in his hands, and I was forced to confess my sins face to face waaay before such practice became the norm. I couldn’t lie so I spilled my guts and no, I didn’t feel better. Although, as it turned out I never received a tough penance since Father M. confessed, he ate them too.
Until I made friends beyond my Italian neighborhood, I had no idea Crème de Cocoa liqueur wasn’t actually a topping for ice cream—Gnocchi never made it on the menu at the first Thanksgiving dinner—or that the end of a loaf of bread is only known as the 'Culo' in an Italian household. Intrigued? Then kick back with a glass of vino and take a glimpse into my life growing up Nort’ side.