Tag Archives: Catholic school

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing # 5


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The writing prompt I’m using today comes from Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg. She asks, “What religion were you brought up with?”

I was raised in the Catholic faith. We went to church every Sunday and abstained from meat on Friday. We always gave up something for Lent. The sacraments were an integral part of our lives. Babies were baptized, all of the girls sharing the same flowing white baptismal dress right up until Darla, the seventh baby girl in our family, died in infancy and was buried in it. When Amy came along, she had to have a new dress. We practiced for our first Holy Communion, with discs of white bread flattened to resemble the host. We studied for out Confirmation, and took great care in choosing a saint for our confirmation name.

We all went to parochial school. Bishop Kelley School was the only choice in our small town, and it only went through the eighth grade. If we were to continue in Catholic school for high school, the boarding school at the convent in Oxford was the nearest option. A few of us considered it, in those pre-pubescent years when we imagined we wanted to go into the sisterhood, but in the end we all stayed at home and went to public high school.

When I think of it now, it was amazing that my parents managed to send all of us to Bishop Kelley. At some time that I was attending, I knew that there was a ninety dollar per-year, per-family fee, plus so much for each child. In the 1950s and early 1960s, that was a huge sum, for something that could be had for free. It speaks to me of my parent’s commitment to the church, and to the education of their children. They were never very vocal on either of these topics, but they obviously made them a priority.

Attending Bishop Kelley School, we started each day at the Immaculate Conception Church, for mass. Each class sat in a group with the teacher. When mass was finished, we walked back across the road to the school, to begin out classes. Religion class was a part of our daily curriculum, as well as history, geography, arithmetic, handwriting, phonics, English, spelling and reading. When I see that schools often cover all of those last five subjects in one “language arts” class, I know we received a superior education!

In our family, we attended mass every Sunday, said grace before meals and prayers before bed. My mother was a member of the St. Jude Circle, and went to regular meetings. We attended Catholic school. For the years we were in Bishop Kelley, we usually went to church for massĀ six days a week! Beyond that, there were Stations of the Cross, rosaries and devotionals in the various seasons. We went to evening catechism classes through our high school years. Still, the Catholic faith always seemed to easily fit around our lives.




My friend, Kate, has been making me laugh.

I’ve known Kate since grade school…though she was Kathleen then.

We all went by our full names at Bishop Kelley School. I’m not sure, but I think we may have gotten extra credit if the given name was an actual saint’s name. In any case, no shortened versions. Twice, in the eight years I attended, I had to bring a note from home, verifying that – in fact – Cindy was not short for Cynthia or Lucinda, but my given name just like that (I was actually named after Cinderella, but my mother had the good sense to keep that off the birth record!). I’m fairly sure my younger brother – we called him Teddy back then – would not have had to repeat the first grade if he hadn’t had to spend so much time trying to write Theodore Ricksgers on every paper!

When we transferred, after grade eight, from our small Catholic school (90 students divided among eight classrooms)to the large, city-wide high school (1200 students in four grades with dozens of different classes), it was easy to lose track of people. Depending on scheduling and class plans, it was possible to have six classes with not one single familiar face. There were many more options for activities and interests; without the ever-vigilant nuns overseeing our choices, a whole new world of clothing and hairstyle options opened up to us. Names were shortened. It took me two years of high school to realize that Bill, the funny, loud boy with longish hair and cool attitude, was the same shirt-and-tie and crew-cut wearing William that I’d sat in the same classroom with from first through eighth grade!

So, in the larger world of high school, Kate and I lost touch. When we re-connected last year through the internet (and its magical ability to make the world a smaller place), we had hardly spoken to each other since the eighth grade! Still, there are strong connections between people that were children together. The years tend to downplay differences and accentuate similarities. Through her wonderful blog, I’ve learned about her family, her interests and her life. Through messages she has sent, I have benefited from her understanding and sympathy. I have been surprised and pleased by her wonderful sense of humor.

Most updates on social media are pretty dry, aimed at a specific audience, and remind me just a bit of notes passed in high school: “sick today…UGH!”, or “headed for the mall – new dress!”.

Not Kate’s! Every single post is a gem. She is brilliantly funny, a master of understated hilarity, simply profound:

“Procrastinate zealously…Put it off until there are penalties.”

“I like the way “Peace be with you” gives everybody smiley faces.”

“It kind of hurts my feelings to hear other people talking about how smart their phones are. My phone is smart, too…It just never applies itself.”

I read any one of her offerings, and I grin about it for hours…or sometimes days. Most recently, I’ve been chuckling over this entry:

“So, I said to myself, “Kate, you have too many pairs of flip flops!” Then I said, a little bit louder, “What?! You can never have too many pairs of flip flops!” ”

Silly, yes, but so very applicable to my life!

This week, crawling around on hands and knees to clear weeds and debris from my garden, I thought, “Too many flower beds!”, then thought of Kate, smiled, and thought, “You can never have too many flower beds!”

Picking up yet another package at the Post Office, I chastise myself, thinking, “You really have too many books already…” then I imagine the twinkle in Kate’s eye as I say, “What?! You can never have too many books!”

This morning, I put the long bench out in front of the forsythia bush. I dragged the old metal chair to its spot under the big maple tree. I pulled the benches out of the shed and sat them on either side of the outdoor table. I moved the red folding chair to the back yard, and the sling chair to it’s spot near the vegetable garden. I thought, “Really, Cindy, for one person, you have way too many things to sit down on!”

And the distance from Greensboro, North Carolina to Beaver Island, Michigan disappeared, and more than forty-five years fell away, and Kate and I could have been two children giggling together as I said “What?!”