Saturday, December 25, 2010

Blessed Christmas to You

Christmas Eve is my favorite time of the season.

The malls are closed. The traffic has eased. Luminaries line the curbs of well-tended neighborhoods. The churches are filled with the glow of candlelight. The bouncy radio and television Christmas jingles -- accompaniment to all the frantic shopping and baking and wrapping -- give way to the pensive, poignant carols and hymns that always lead to ...

Silent Night.

Holy night.

Son of God.

Love's Pure light ...

Whatever you believe, whatever you hold dear, here's a free night of the quiet soul.


And Merry Christmas to You.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Criminal Intent

I was seven years old when I committed my first felony.

Okay, maybe it was only a misdemeanor.

I blame Mrs. Weinstein, my second grade teacher. Her dislike for me was evident even to my young mind, and who can resist acting out in the face of such disapproval?

Okay, maybe her disapproval started after my crime. I can’t quite recall. I am, however, quite certain that I was at least a little misunderstood, and could have used a bit more monitoring in those early years.

It was Sunday, and I always did my homework Sunday evenings, but this particular Sunday, my parents decided to visit relatives. In those days, I remember us visiting relatives quite often. Later, those visits tapered off. Maybe it was a consequence of my crime.

Okay, maybe it was because a slew of relatives died around that time. I am certain, however, that no one consulted me about visiting relatives. Or about the state of my homework. To be honest, I am not sure if such queries would have done much good, since I remember feeling quite surprised – and chagrined – to realize, upon returning home at bedtime, that I had not done my homework. And, it was due in the morning. And now I couldn’t do it, because it was bedtime. I was not lazy, mind you. It was bedtime, and I was not mistress of the clock.

There it was then: the genesis of my crime.

To appear at school without my homework was unthinkable (testament to my sense of responsibility and work ethic), so I put on my thinking cap and what I thunk up was the need for a note. You know – that golden chit. That get out of anything without a scratch card. That ticket to the mystical land of unaccountability. A note excusing the easily excusable. I could not do my homework at my regularly scheduled time, because I was visiting relatives.

Okay, not sick, troubled, or otherwise imperiled relatives. But this was America! The land of baseball! Apple pie! Station wagon trips to visit relatives!

Okay, we didn’t have a station wagon, but the rest of the story held a teaspoon of water. Who wouldn’t accept such an excuse?

I cannot remember why I decided against asking my parents to write that bullet-proof excuse note. I cannot remember why I thought it was a good idea to write it myself. I do recall being unable to find a pen. Or a pencil. I did find a pad of my mother’s Memo from Frances Rivers customized green note paper. And a crayon. A green crayon.

I practiced writing that note quite diligently, well past my bedtime. See, it’s hard work creating a reasonable reproduction of your mother’s writing and signature in green crayon. Especially when you are just learning to write in cursive. At some point, I convinced myself that my efforts looked authentic.

Okay, I became sleepy and convinced myself that my efforts looked authentic enough.

The next morning, Mrs. Weinstein called for the homework. I trotted up to her, smiled and said, “I have a note.” I recall handing it to her with a bit of a flourish. My teacher opened it, read it, and told me to return to my seat. She did not look at me. The rest of the school day passed uneventfully.

That afternoon, my neighbor Debbie and I skipped home. It was a beautiful spring day, and we had Wednesday Bible Study with Mrs. Carbo. Mrs. Carbo was a warm, heavyset woman with cotton white hair who favored floral print dresses. She was earnest without being simpering, and pious without being overbearing. All of the kids went to bible study whether they adhered to Christian concepts in their daily lives or not. I recall it being more than simply something to do.

We ran gaily into my house to deposit our books. And, found my mother and father seated at the dining room table. In our double income family, it was rare for both my parents to be home at the same time in the afternoon, but there they were, sitting together at the dining room table. Staring at me.

“Debbie, Felicia cannot go to Bible study. You’ll have to go without her.”

Not go to Bible study? What the hell? Debbie did the what-did-you-do? eye roll and left the way she came.

Seems Mrs. Weinstein’s calm acceptance of my forged note was a ruse. She wasted no time ratting me out to my parents as soon as I was out of earshot. I’ll bet it was the scandal of the teacher’s lounge.

So, I was confined to quarters without the benefit of clergy. Come to think of it, why would one deny a sinner exposure to the Lord and all his redemptive influences? Would not a better course have been to rehabilitate me with more religion? This is the same faulty logic that punishes misbehaving, under-achieving students by denying them extra-curricular activities. If they are not performing in school, wouldn’t it be better to rehabilitate them within structured programs than to loose them onto the unmonitored streets of temptation?

Okay, I don’t recall an extended confinement. And, I got to keep the crayon.

What kind of lesson is that?