Autumn – memories of a Catholic upbringing


5776-a-red-oak-leaf-isolated-on-a-white-background-pv - public domain pictures

HT: Salvageable post – Playing outdoors. J’s post motivated me to write about my childhood. Thanks, J! 

And thank you, all who prayed for my eye surgeries – they went well and my vision is good!


When I was in grade school and high school, classes began after Labor Day. Memories of this time surface whenever the leaves change. I can see the long hill, the high swings, and the imposing convent of dark stone, its portico and visitors’ parlors…

Many memories of school revive, of our tummies grumbling noisily during the hush of Mass which was just before lunch, of uncontrollable giggling. I remember the Sisters of Mercy as they used to dress, their faces framed by starched white coifs and gauzy black veils, and the snapping of fingers that kept us in line. The Sisters of Mercy – some of them were kind but none could have had a grasp of the Gospel – it would have been a foreign language to them – for they never shared it. 

Because my Mom was single she had to work and couldn’t pick me up after school. When she took off work early to attend a school function late in the day, she dressed up beautifully, and in the cold months wore her cream-colored faux fur coat – on the ride home, I would snuggle against her. 

On my first day of first grade a car appeared and took me and another little girl to Mater Misericordiae Academy. Ronnie – Veronica – became a close friend. Her mother and mine were best friends. Later I learned that during World War II, the Nazis had hanged Ronnie’s grandfather, the mayor of a small city in Italy, because he wouldn’t reveal the name of a partisan who had blown up a bridge and caused the deaths of German soldiers. 

Children live in the shadow of the serious events through which their elders pass, participating in their childlike way in their joys and sorrows and terrors. I learned to love FDR and John Kennedy because of my patriotic Grandmother, for instance, and I had bad dreams after the adults discussed the bestseller, Worlds In Collision, at Sunday dinner. I’m not sure whether they read it but the conversation unsettled my child’s heart and mind.

cropped-han-chenxu-photo-from-microsoft-9c64c0ff-9f0c-49a2-b7ba-659eb77660ed_51.jpgAt school, Halloween was celebrated both as a holy day and a holiday. During assembly we wore costumes which were judged. When I was in second grade, Mom made me a witch’s costume with a hat and stuffed cat.

I see my Catholic childhood as a bright autumn leaf detached from a living tree and not as a bowl of harvest fruit…