Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You Didn't Count on Me When You Were Counting on Your Rosary

I became aware of Lent when I was in elementary school. My friends were loudly lamenting the things they had given up and I wanted in on it. Not a lot I like better than a good lament.

That evening, my mother served chocolate custard for dessert. Now pudding in general and custard in particular are my very favorite go-to comfort foods. It was true then, and it's true now. She put a bowl of chocolaty goodness in front of me and I pushed it away. I purposefully turned my head away from the treat while holding it at bay with my hand and trying to muster up a few tears of piety.

"Is something wrong with the pudding?"

"I'm sure it's fine. Delicious even. But, you see", I paused to emphasize the gravity of what I was about to disclose, "I've given up chocolate for Lent."

"We are not Catholic, Tammy Lu."

The issues I had over not being Catholic had been ongoing. I was very jealous of my Catholic classmates who were going to catechism classes to prepare for their first holy communions and getting dresses that made them look like brides, for Pete's sake. I would've broken quite a few rules for the opportunity to wear one of those beautiful dresses with the sweet little white patent leather shoes and the to-die-for headpieces.

"I'm not doing it for Catholic. I'm doing it for Jesus." Jesus was successfully pronounced in two syllables, but they were really long syllables. Mom rolled her eyes and offered my share of dessert to my father and my sister. I felt very righteous. Hungry. Deprived. Righteous.

I may or may not have maintained my resolve through Easter.

In high school and college I continued to engage in Lenten sacrifice, even though it was not required in the faith of my family. But I didn't want to go the childish, cliche route of candy or treats anymore. I wanted to think of things that would truly be a sacrifice. I'm sure my college roommates remember the six weeks I gave up (the award winning) Guiding Light. Hey, this was before the days of VCRs, much less DVRs. Even though they faithfully relayed all of the storylines to me daily, it wasn't the same. That was a sacrifice.

So I knew about Lent. I knew about the giving up part. I knew about Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday and the last supper and all of that. All of those things were acknowledged by my family's faith (or, in the case of Ash Wednesday, once again illustrated by those lucky, lucky Catholic kids who came to school with smudges on their foreheads. I really really wanted one of those smudges.) But it wasn't until years later that I learned about Fat Tuesday.

I had actually gotten over my obsession with Catholicism by that point, after having taken some classes with the purpose of conversion in mind. When the practice of the faith was presented to me instead of the accoutrements associated with it, my (at that point) lifelong fervor disseminated. It was not for me.

Enter Mardi Gras.

Really? All those years I engaged in the sacrificing part of this season without ever knowing about the day of the most justifiably decadent celebration of debauchery and hedonism of the whole year? I am a fan of decadence, debauchery and hedonism, for Pete's sake. Big fan, actually. My Catholic friends knew this. How could they have been so - withholding?

Once discovered, I celebrated more in theory than in practice. Tuesday is a school/work/school night, after all. And when one is not actually following through with Lenten sacrifice it sort of loses some of its steam.

But it's a good theory. Mardi Gras beads followed by repentant sessions with the rosary beads.


I DID have a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast this morning, mad hedonist that I am. I'll repent under the oral surgeon's scalpel this afternoon.

Somehow Mardi Gras, just like communion dresses and ash smudges, looks like a lot more fun when other people are doing it.

Nobody was throwing beads in the carpool lane this morning.


Eva Gallant said...

What a great post....I grew up Catholic...giving up candy (not just chocolate) for lent every year. You brought back memories with that one! I didn't know about Fat Tuesday back then, though, either!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Iyiyi-- You gave up your Soup and you aren't even Catholic. You are good!

This was a terrific post, Tammy-- Mardi Gras does seem fun-- from a distance.

But the oral surgeon-- NOT on anyone's "fun" list. I hope it goes well today and is an easy recovery.

xo jj

Pam said...

Technically, I grew up Catholic and never gave up anything for Lent. And have never been tempted. I wonder what that says about me. Ugh!

Oral surgeon?! Good luck!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I grew up Catholic and often gave up candy for Lent, though at some point I was encouraged to do something positive rather than give up something. So I'd resolve to "be nicer" or whatever. But Mardi Gras was never part of the teaching. It's strictly something you gave to discover on your own.

Cheryl said...

I left the Church of the Chocolate-Deprived when I was 13. Never looked back. At the ripe old age of 22, I was invited to Mardi Gras and a week in N'awlins. I went with abandon. I remember the beads and the drinking and the southern fried everything and the drinking and not much else.

It wasn't until years later that I realized Fat Tuesday had something to do with Catholicism. Damn priests and nuns are sneaky bahstids.

Good luck with the surgeon. Hope he's like mine and puts you under really really good.

BTW, those little dresses? They were little bride's dresses. We were on our way to becoming miniature brides of JeeeeeeeeeeSussssssssss.

sitting on the mood swing at the playground said...

What a great post. Lent was HUGE in our house. As a young girl I gave up Barbie dolls and it was a very long 40 days.

FranticMommy said...

I'm Episcoplian..which is like Catholic, but we worship trees and rocks (kidding). I gave up cursing for Lent. I lasted one effing day. :)

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of debauchery and hedonism who is married to a good Catholic boy. It's always an interesting 40 days in our house. I do make sure we have meatfree meals on Friday - hopefully that gets me some points with the big guy.