The days of fastidious fasting
So it was Ash Wednesday yesterday, and in case you didn't know, I was raised Catholic. My mother, who can do without any other ceremonial deed in her life, was very strict about this holy day. The orders were issued at dawn, "No tv. No snacks between meals. No meat!" And we would be going to church that evening, no exceptions.
You never know how much you love watching tv until it is revoked, like a carpet being yanked out beneath your feet. No tv? No reruns of I love Lucy, Laverne & Shirley, The Brady Bunch, Starsky & Hutch, Gilligan's Island?? Shiver. Ouch. Cold turkey, we stumbled around the house, once in a while picking up a Reader's Digest condensed book, or an out-of-date Good Housekeeping. I always had my own slew of books ready for consumption, but somehow during a forced famishment, even they lacked their usual gleam.
As far as food went, no snacks between meals was about as cruel for a child as telling them to go out and sing broadway to their neighborhood Huffy riding rivals. We tried to cheat, we tried to steal. I can still see Marshall opening up the refrigerator door, hands slipping into the meat bin, and Mom's voice from the next room, "Drop that bologna!"
It never made sense really, Mom's rules. Here we were stricken to a day of absolute hell all for the good of God, and one pass of the living room showed her lounged across the couch watching the news and reading a Harlequin romance. "I have to watch the news. Watching the news is okay. And reading is good for you."
The rules of adults never quite made sense, but children are resilient. Our long day of slow death ended soon enough, each of us crawling into our beds with a cross of ashes strewn over our foreheads. "The angels will check on you tonight, and see that you are good children."
And so we were.