A comment in a recent column about the first time I tasted potato chips brought comments from some readers. Kris says she attended a picnic in the back yard at the convent. The yard was completely surrounded by high hedges making it very private and mysterious and she considered it holy. The Sisters served Doritos corn chips at that picnic. She thought they were the most delicious thing she had ever eaten. A FIRST she has never forgotten.
Do you remember the first funeral you attended? We lived close enough to the church to hear the bells toll when there was a death. We were taught to say a brief prayer for the person who had died as the bells sounded a loud gong for each year of the person's life. Some of us said the prayers but there was always one of us counting so we could try to guess whose life had ended based on how old they were. Usually, long before the pealing of the bells had stopped, Mother would have received a phone call or listened in on our party line and had the scoop but we played that game whenever the bells tolled. We heard those bells every time there was a death but never went to a wake or a funeral.
Then came the day the bells tolled just 12 times. We knew immediately it was our classmate who had been very sick most of the school year. That was the FiRST time I saw the body of someone whose life had ended. We went to her parents' home instead of a funeral home for the viewing. Two days later I attended my FIRST funeral with my sister and classmates. The hymns were all sung in Latin but the music was beautifully haunting. Just hearing the songs of the Requiem Mass they played that day can still bring tears to my eyes.
What may sound like a weird FIRST to remember was the day a police officer issued a stern reprimand to my 3 oldest sons. A dear friend had children the same ages as my kids. Rosy doubled her work and my pre-school aged boys doubled their fun when she became their caregiver during the first few months of the year while I helped an attorney prepare farmers' tax returns.
Rosy's house was on a corner lot so there was a lot of area exposed to the street. Her own kids knew they were never to go into the street but mine liked pushing the limits. They had pretty much the run of the place on the farm and having boundaries in town was a new concept. Rosy said they liked to show her boys how brave they were by sitting on the curb and dangling their feet in the gutter along the side of the street. This, of course, caused no problems but she knew it wouldn't be long before that wouldn't be enough for them.
The boys were awed by the fact Toby, the town's police chief, lived a few doors down the street. Occasionally they saw him leave his house dressed in his uniform. Rosy took advantage of their hero worship. She told Toby about the potential problems my boys could cause if they began venturing out into the street. A few days later they were sitting out on the curb seeing who could stretch their legs into the street the furthest but still be in the yard. Toby's car was cruising past at just that moment. He rolled the car's window down and said, "You boys get back in the yard. I don't want to see your feet in the street again." They scrambled back into the yard. That was the end of their playing that game.
Kris's story of the Sisters giving her the first taste of Dorito chips reminded me that I, too, could have had the FIRST taste of an unknown treat at a convent but I turned down the chance. We were visiting my aunt at her mission in New Ulm, Minnesota. The trip north took several hours. My aunt and some of the Sisters who lived with her met us and showed us around. Then my parents went off somewhere with them. My sister, Margaret, and I were left in a small living room. A young Sister came in and asked, "Would either of you like some ginger ale?" I had no idea what that was and if I didn't know, Margaret didn't either. It sounded like beer and since my parents would never allow beer in our home, they certainly would not want us to drink any. Why I thought the Sisters would offer us something my parents wouldn't approve is beyond me. As was usual when Margaret and I were together, I answered for both of us. Our FIRST taste of soda pop did not happen that day.