Tag Archives: church

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 mass 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.


Failing at Bingo


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When I was a child, Bingo was not legal. Fraternal organizations and church groups would covertly host Bingo games as fund raisers.

Every now and then, an article would hit the papers about a raid on a Bingo game, complete with photos of priests in their Roman collars being detained and prim ladies in Saturday dress-up, looking stunned. The accompanying article – and the dinner time conversation in my house – leaned strongly toward the attitude of “don’t they  (meaning the vice squad, I guess) have anything better to do with their time?” They’d back that up with stories of a robbery or murder (“a real crime!”) that happened just around the corner, while the police were busy finger-printing good church-going people.

Mostly, when it came to Bingo, I think law enforcement personnel just tried to look the other way.

When Bingo was illegal, there were no laws dictating how old you had to be before you could play. When we were on Beaver Island for summer vacation, my Grandma Florence would regularly take us to Bingo at the Holy Cross Hall.

Back home in Lapeer, the Fraternal Order of Eagles held a big Bingo game every fall. The prizes were donated from local markets. Dad was a member of the Eagles, and happy to support them. He’d take any of us kids that were old enough to read numbers, and set us up with one Bingo card each. He’d stand behind us, beer in hand, chatting with his buddies while keeping an eye on our cards. “You missed one there,” he’d say, or, “Get ready to yell Bingo!” One year, with one card only, I Bingo-ed three times, winning a turkey each time. Dad was grinning ear to ear when he told Mom I’d “filled the freezer.”

When Bingo became a legal game, it gained several new rules and regulations to go with it. There were specifications on record-keeping, admissions, payouts, and manner of dispersing winnings. When Bingo became legal, children were no longer allowed to play.

When I was a young pregnant woman with very little disposable income, my husband and I always “splurged” on Saturday night Bingo. It was a cheap night out, with the possibility of a payoff. The poorer we were, the more it seemed we had to go, for the chance to win big.

After my daughter was born, Bingo was no longer cheap: the cost of child care had to be factored in. It became a rare excursion: eight or ten times a year instead of weekly. Around that same time, I quit winning…completely.

Now, I enjoy gambling in many forms. I like euchre better if there’s a “dime a game, nickel a set” rule in place, just to make it interesting. Cribbage is always “penny a point, double on skunk.” I don’t play high stakes poker, but “penny ante, three cent limit” is fun. I don’t have to win. I’m okay if I don’t  break even. However, if I never, ever, ever win – even a fraction of my investment, just to give me hope – it quits being fun. That’s what happened with me and Bingo. So, I quit going.

My point is, though, that I have a long history with the game. I thought I knew how to play. I was confident of it.

Last Wednesday, my nephew Bob was working Bingo at the V.F.W. in North Branch. Bob’s Mom, Cheryl, invited her sisters to go. Brenda, Amy and I took her up on it.

We were all lucky. That wasn’t an issue.

The problem was with the technicalities.

When I called “Bingo,” I hadn’t raised my hand ahead of the call, when the number showed on the TV screen. I didn’t yell loud enough. I was so late it yelling it out, he was calling the next number at the same time. There was a little bit of grumbling from the professional players around the room, and a little lecture from the caller at the podium, but they paid me my $10.00 and we moved on.

Brenda was next. She didn’t call out loud enough. She didn’t keep her had in the air.

More grumbling from the crowd. Another lecture from the caller.

I wondered if Bob was less than thrilled at his row of aunts, all causing so much trouble.

Amy – looking pretty much like a professional player herself, with her own pink Bingo chips and magnetic pick-up wand – had to split her winnings with one or two others who Bingo-ed at the same time. She was coming close enough on many of the specials to make us all hold our breath.

Cheryl won next, without major incident.

Things were improving. I had learned to watch the screens for the numbers, rather than just wait for them to be called out. I was getting faster at placing the chips on the cards, and clearing them before the next game. The professional player sitting at the next table was helpful in explaining some of the intricacies of the game: what a “roving T” was, why we could ignore any “N”s called when going for “the letter X” and the same for “B”s and “O”s when trying for the little “around the free.” At intermission, I even had a friendly exchange with the grouchy caller, who was then working the concession stand. I said, “I’d like two hot dogs, please.” He said, “We only have polish dogs left.” I said “Okay.”

It was looking like we might get through the evening without humiliating ourselves further.

Then Brenda got another Bingo.

She nudged me and pointed it out. I didn’t realize the last number – though it was showing on the TV screen – had not yet been called.

What was she doing, trying to get us in trouble??

I grabbed Brenda’s arm and flung it into the air. “BINGO,” I yelled, loud enough for everyone to hear! So there would be no confusion this time, I jumped up out of my seat, and pointed at her!

Brenda tried to get her arm down. I held it up. The caller stopped calling. The guy checking the cards rushed over to check her card.

Her number had not yet been called.


I sat back down.

I let Brenda put her arm down.

We all paused, then, waiting for him to call the number. We had it down now; we had just rehearsed it.

The caller gave me a long scowl first.

He called the number.

Brenda called “Bingo!”

The checker called out her numbers.

It was a good Bingo.


So, I don’t know…I may not be up on all the new technological advances in the game of Bingo; I may be a little slow on marking the cards, a little confused by all the new acceptable patterns and a bit over-enthusiastic when it comes to a win…but the Ricksgers sisters walked away from the table with combined winnings of seventy-one dollars and seventy-five cents. Can it really be said that we’re not good at Bingo?




Church on Sunday


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I was once in a car, following my sister Cheryl and her family to a restaurant.

[In light of the many personal story embellishments that have been making the news lately, let me just say right up front, I’m not POSITIVE it was me in the car behind Cheryl. It could have been one of my other sisters…maybe Brenda…who later related the story to me. Over the years, I’ve taken it on as my own. I’m not even sure that a restaurant was the destination, but…]

Midway through the drive, Cheryl unhooked her seat belt, turned around in her seat and – as her husband continued driving – was seen yelling at her children and angrily rearranging the games and toys they had brought with them.

Upon arrival at the restaurant [or wherever…], I [or whoever…] asked what all the commotion had been about.

“They said they were CROWDED,” Cheryl said through gritted teeth, “I have two children! They each have a window! They each have half of the back seat!” To fully explain her justified anger, she added, “Don’t you remember church on Sunday???

Well, of course.

Who could forget church on Sunday?

My Dad was the only driver in our family. Our car was a normal station wagon. We had a large family. Aunt Margaret lived next door, with her large family. The Immaculate Conception Church was in town, four and a half miles from our house. Mass was at eleven. We all had to get to church. It went like this:

In the front seat, Dad at the wheel, leaning against his door. Next to him, my mother, with a baby on her lap. Then Aunt Margaret, sometimes with a baby on her lap, too. That was it, unless Patsy “Doney” was visiting; if he was, he squeezed in, too.

In the second seat, in our Sunday finery: Brenda, Cindy, Sheila, Cheryl and Shirley. Cheryl was a little older than Shirley, but Shirley was a little bigger than Cheryl. There was sometimes a battle about which one of them should get the “bottom level” and which one had to sit on someone’s lap. Sometimes, we just crowded all five of us in side-by-side. On the next level, perching on the laps of those of us on the seat, were Gail, Mary, Nita, Robin and – when she was big enough to be there instead of on her mother’s lap in front – Joannie. Sometimes we’d have to squeeze in a friend or two, as well.

In the back end, sitting in a circle around the spare tire, were all the boys: Ted, Barry, Kim, Bobby and Greg. Sometimes Topper’s boy, Brad, if he had spent the night. Dave joined them after Amy was born, and took over the spot on Mom’s lap in the front.

We were never early for mass. We usually had to park on the side street, about a block away.

It was just as well.

As the doors opened and we spilled out from all directions, grabbing the hands of little ones while straightening our clothes and trying to keep up with Dad’s long stride, I’m sure observers would wonder what brought the “clown car” to the town on a Sunday morning!

Back in Time, the Sequel



I traveled back to my hometown again last weekend, for another wedding.

This time the bride was my niece, Nicole.

Two weddings in two months seems like a lot for me to plan for, with travel and gifts and boarding the dogs…just imagine how the parents of these two sisters feel! Both were beautiful ceremonies, held in the church that has served our family well since my Mom and Dad were married in it over 62 years ago. Both receptions were lovely gatherings of family and friends with lots of laughter, music and dancing.

Each weekend was a mix of old memories and new pleasures.

Always, when I get close to the Lake Nepessing Road exit, I think of getting off. From there, it’s a right turn from the exit ramp, a short drive, then another right turn onto Hunt Road, and less than a quarter mile until a right turn would put me right in the driveway in front of the house where I grew up, and where my parents lived their entire adult lives.

There’s just a pang of remembrance, the reality that they are no  longer here, a sigh, and drive on to the next exit, which puts me closer to my sister and brother-in-law, Brenda and Keith’s, house.

There, we are welcomed with open arms, my cousin, Bob, and I, down from Beaver Island. Brenda has prepared a guest room for each of us. When my daughter, Jen, arrives from Lake Odessa tomorrow, she’ll share my room. Barbecued pork, for hot sandwiches, is in the oven, and plates of fresh vegetables are ready, as accompaniment. Later, Keith’s nephew, Steve, drops in with his family, here from out of state. My baby sister, Amy, stops by with her daughter, Kristen, in the midst of last minute wedding arrangements. All are greeted warmly, invited in and welcomed to the table.

With such evident generosity of spirit, an observer would never guess that just that morning Brenda and Keith had attended the funeral for Keith’s Mom…that, in fact, Keith had been released from the hospital just in time to attend…that before they came home to wait for us to arrive, they’d had to help convert the Odd Fellow’s Hall from the site of the funeral  luncheon to a Bingo hall. They had to be exhausted, physically and emotionally!

Yet, Brenda doted over us. “How was the drive?”… “Could you use a luggage rack?”…”If you’re chilly, we can set up the heater, and there are extra blankets…”

Brenda gave me a choice of going for a pedicure with her the next morning, her treat, or joining her in her yoga class.


On the dresser in my room, I found a manilla envelope with my name on it. Inside, old photos and other memorabilia that they’d found and thought I should have. There, among dated snapshots of me, pictures of my children and a card I’d made for my Grandma Florence, were old photos of Brenda and I.

Proof positive…no matter what, she always has been there for me.