Wanting Wednesday’s Ashes: When I Wished I was Catholic

Today is Ash Wednesday.

I know this because I see people’s foreheads smeared with what my Grandfather Abie called schmutz, or dirt. As in, “wipe the schmutz off your face.”

As a kid, I wanted to be Catholic. All my friends were Christian but it seemed the Catholics had all the fun. Midnight masses, Easter Sunrises, Christmas Trees, and Sunday Hams.  And Catechism. Back then, there was no issue holding religious education classes after school, using classrooms.

Once a week, my friends attended these classes, which to me seemed so secret. A gaggle of nuns, dressed in full black habits, their hair tightly bound under starched white wimples, a veil reaching their shoulders, arrived, school supplies and religious icons in oversized totebags.   My only exposure to nuns had been The Sound of Music  and Sally Field as “The Flying Nun.” 

I left to ride the nearly empty school bus home, alone.

The next day, the half-erased chalkboards showed glimpses of what transpired.  My friends talked among themselves about what occurred in my absence. Each nun sounded meaner than the next. I felt so left out.

Then there was Lent.  A month leading up to this period before Easter, my friends discussed what they were giving up for Lent. I wanted to give something up too but the thought of depriving myself of cookies and ice cream for an entire 40 days seemed rather harsh.

By high school, I no longer wished to be Catholic, though I dated Catholic guys and went to their homes for holiday meals. After school, kids played sports, or went to club meetings, or worked.  There were no religious education classes held on the high school premises.

Perhaps I began to identify myself more as a Jew, at least culturally. (My previous post on this topic.)

Yet seeing the ashes today reminded me of what it’s like to be different and want to fit in. And the importance of acceptance and tolerance.

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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6 Responses to Wanting Wednesday’s Ashes: When I Wished I was Catholic

  1. Barbara klein says:

    Oi Vey!

    Your Yiddishe Momma!

    Like

  2. So funny. I was always so Southern Baptist. I did watch the Pope’s midnight mass. I did get ashes one year. I went to mass.

    Like

  3. SMB says:

    I loved “my only exposure to nuns had been in The Sound of Music”! For a long time I wanted to become a nun so that I could break my vows and marry a captain 🙂

    My early Jewish education came from “Fiddler on the Roof” 🙂 and I love the books of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Chaim Potok. “Isaac Bashevis Singer” is one of my answers to the question “Which person from the past would you most like to meet?”

    Like

  4. Leah says:

    Nice post! I remember growing up feeling the same way, wishing I was Catholic too. I think back then, they had better PR than Jews.

    Like

  5. Pingback: Remembering Blue Laws: A Barmaid’s Arrest | cyclingrandma

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