While in tenth grade, my religion teacher, Sister Francine, asked the class to take out 5 sheets of paper and make a list of the 5 most important things in our lives. We were told that we could talk among ourselves and that we had 10 minutes. Some of my classmates were still in that “I hate my parents” stage. I guess I’d either passed through it or never experienced it because my mom was at the top of my list. Next on my list were my brothers, my friends, Gidgette, my poodle, and my grandmother.
When the time was up, Sister Francine walked to the front of the class and put a record on the turntable. I don’t remember what the song was, but I do remember it being something slow and pretty. Our instructions were simple: as we listened to the music we were to go to the garbage can and place the pieces of paper in it –one at a time- throwing each piece away signified letting go of that person or thing forever in order to follow God. As I think back, that had to be the hardest day of my high school career. Most of my friends and I were basket cases.
Here’s how it went:
Letting go of Gidgette was truly gut wrenching. After all, I’d had her since I was eight years old and she was the guardian of my lunch. Every morning after I prepared and bagged lunches for my brothers and me, Gidgette would sit next to mine on the ottoman and stop my brothers from switching bags. I always put the best snacks in my bag. That, in and of itself, should explain why it was so hard to choose between letting go of Gidgette and letting go of grandma. I was the difficult teenager and she was the nosey grandmother who gossiped all day with her old lady friends and told my mom everything she “thought” I was doing. So no brainer, right?!
I also had trouble deciding between my brothers and my friends because my brothers were … well they were my brothers… we aggravated one another and we told on one another and/but we loved one another. I couldn’t begin to imagine my life without “the boys” in it. They were my first friends. I think I trashed my other friends before my brothers, but nonetheless, the tears flowed freely as I stepped up to the garbage can.*Note to my brothers: Rick and Ray if you ever read this you should feel very good about yourselves because you made it through the first three cuts. (LOL). I would like to send out a sincere apology to my tenth grade friends. It’s a good thing your lives didn’t depend on the order of things that day!
Last, but obviously not least, was the piece of paper with those eight simple letters written on it…M-Y-M-O-T-H-E-R… my mother. What did I do? I held on and I cried. The bell rang and I was still holding on to that silly piece of paper that meant more than the world to me. Several of my friends, male and female, were in the same boat. We couldn’t let go. Truth be known, I probably still have that piece of paper tucked away in my old religion book.
Talk about a trick question for a kid!
**Dear Sister Francine, because of you, I never stray too far from the sidewalk, because of you I learned to play on the safe side… you know the rest!