My Catholic School “Special” Project Disaster

Or, how I was nearly exorcised.

In my book, Wanderlush, I reference a childhood event that took place in 1980 during my weekend Catholic School class. I’ll add a bit more detail in today’s blog post. The exact details are a bit fuzzy because I’m still furious about what happened but here’s my recollection. PS: I wrote this blog yesterday so technically it qualifies as a Throw Back Thursday entry:)

Students were asked to prepare and present a product or service that would bring children closer to Jesus. Within seconds after receiving the assignment, I was off and running. This project was right in my wheelhouse.

My classmate, James, presented first.

Sister Gloria: Thank you, James. Your Jesus holiday placemats were wonderful. I’ll be ordering some this holiday season for sure.

[The students offered up a lame applause.]

Sister Gloria: David, would you like to present your product now?

[I had been tapping my foot impatiently. I couldn’t wait to present my product. When I heard my name, I jumped out of my seat and raced to the front of the class with a bag that contained my winning product.]

Me: I want to first thank Sister Gloria for this assignment. It kept me out of trouble for the past two weeks. I know my mom would say thank you as well if she were here today. She couldn’t make it because last night my brother and sister got into a fight over our Atari set and my sister kicked my brother in the nuts. My brother woke up last night screaming, My mom said one of his balls was the size of a clementine. I don’t know what a clementine is but judging from my brother’s face, I’m guessing it’s big. So they are all at the hospital.

Sister Gloria: David! Your product. Please!

Me: Oh yes, sorry. Before I show you my product, I wanted to let you know that I was torn between which product to showcase today. I really wanted to present a new board game I created, called Father, May I? But my mom didn’t agree. She said it was likely a little ahead of its time. I just had to trust her judgment on this.

[Sister Gloria shifted uncomfortably in her seat.]

Me: I also had a great idea to manufacture a line of flavored communion wafers. I mean, what kid doesn’t like chocolate and bubble gum? I saw a lot of potentIal with those wafers and that was my product idea until a few nights ago. I was lying in bed thinking about Jesus. I mean really thinking about him, and all of the stuff Sister Gloria taught us. Like, how cool he was and the positive impact he’s had on people’s lives. And then I realized how hungry I was. And then it hit me. I was like “Holy crap.” I woke up straight away and got started on the product. My mom thought I was crazy. Well, crazier than she normally thinks I am. But I didn’t care because I just knew I was going to create something special.

[I reached into my bag and retrieved a box of cereal. On the front of the box was a cutout of Jesus’ face.]

Me: I created Rice Christies.

[I held the box up high so my classmates could see.]

Me: I’m not sure if you can read the front but it says, Put a little Snap, Crackle, and Pope into your morning.

[Sister Gloria hissed.]

Me: I know what everyone is thinking. Does this come in other varieties? Well, not yet but I can totally see a version with little Apostle marshmallows or at Christmas, little snowflakes and angels.

[My classmates started to laugh at me. I was humiliated and a bit hurt because I had put so much effort into my product. The laughter amplified. Sister Gloria tried to gain control of the class but the kids were too focused on poking fun at me. I snapped.]

Me: You applaud stupid placemats but you’re laughing at a real product that has market potential? What the hell is wrong with you people? Go ahead and laugh. You’ll realize someday how genius this product is and then you’ll look ridiculous. When I become famous, we’ll bump into each other on the street and you’ll try to apologize. And you know what? I’ll be like,”Oh I’m sorry. Are you trying to talk to me? I can’t hear you because all I hear is you laughing. Ha Ha Ha. Let me ask you this. What did your kids have to eat this morning. Oh! Rice Christies? That’s interesting. Who’s laughing now?”

[I felt a burst of tears welling up in my throat. The laughter continued.]

Me: Fuck you. Amateurs.

[I grabbed my box of Rice Christies and stormed out of the class.]

Rainbows and Four Leaf Clovers – Part 2

To see part 1, click below.

Game day…

Coach: Get out in right field and just don’t move. Okay?

Me: Okie Dokie.

I waved to my parents and ran into position in far right field. I think it was during the third of fourth inning when a batter on the opposing team hit a zipper directly toward right field. The ball peaked high over the field and began to descend right after it cleared first base. Every person watching from the bleachers was fixated on the ball’s trajectory. It was headed directly toward me.

This was the moment my dad had wanted. The moment his son would shock the world by catching his first baseball. There’d be screams of joy. Hugs for days. A party even.

My dad must have been heartbroken when he and the other family and friends watched as the ball dropped from the sky and landed softly in the shallow grass in outer right field. At nearly the same moment the ball made contact with the ground, I jumped up in excitement, oblivious to my missed super stardom. I didn’t care. I just found my first four leaf clover.

“Mom. Look!” I held my bounty up so she could share in the dazzlement.

My dad dropped his head into his hands and wept. My coach dropped to his knees and pounded his head against the ground.

I looked for my mom. She stood behind my dad and offered me a shielded thumbs up. She understood the skill and patience required to locate a four leaf clover in a field that expansive. What were the odds?

My baseball career ended that afternoon. I was thrilled. The car ride home was tense.

“You didn’t even try,” my dad said.

“I was out there in this ridiculous uniform, wasn’t I?” I replied.

“All you had to do was open your glove. The ball would have dropped right into it.”

I leaned in between the two front seats. “That’s selfish, Dad. Did it ever occur to you that I couldn’t care less whether I caught the stupid ball. And look at me. I’m wearing a royal blue and pumpkin jersey. Haven’t I suffered enough for one day.”

My dad slowly came around. He even applauded my balance beam routine that I performed on the bench of our picnic table the following month.

My dad passed away in August of 2014. He lived a full life with many great memories. I miss him. I’m also willing to bet that when I was preparing for the dismount after my grueling balance beam routine, my dad had the same reaction as the one he displayed on those bleachers in the Summer of 1978. He hoped and dreamed I’d nail it. And boy did I ever. Perfect landing!

Rainbows and Four Leaf Clovers


It was this picture that triggered the following turn of events in the summer of 1978.

Mom: Your dad thinks you should start playing sports.

Me: Why?

Mom: He thinks it might be good for your OCD.

Me: That doesn’t make any sense. I’m terrible at sports.

Mom: You don’t have to play competitively. Maybe just practice a little with the other boys.

Me: What’s in it for me?

Mom: Ice cream every Saturday for a year.

Me: Saturday and Sunday.

Mom: Deal.

The coach requested me to show up at Pee-Wee League baseball the following Saturday. Practice was ten to twelve. I showed up at 11:30 am, thinking I was early. Practice was actually from 10 am to 12 pm. I hated this already.

Coach: You’re late.

Me: You’re vague.

Coach: Grab a glove. We’ll throw some balls to you.

Me: You’re going to throw balls at me?

Coach: That’s how it works.

Me: I don’t think so. I’ll tell you what. It’s clear I don’t want to be here, and you don’t want me here. What if you put me in the least visible position for one game to please my dad and I’ll promise not to embarrass you all season.

Coach: How does far right field sound?

Me: When’s game day.

…. To Be Continued…

For Part 2, click the link below.

One of the Many Roots to My Anxiety

In honor of Throwback Thursdays, I’m sharing one of my first memories as a child. You’ll have a clearer understanding of the bond I have with my mom as well as why I have anxiety and abandonment issues.

One late afternoon in July of 1974 in Northampton, Massachusetts, all of the families in our neighborhood were in their backyard BBQ’ing or swimming in their above-ground pool. Our family was no different. My dad hovered over the charcoal grill, fiddling with hotdogs and hamburgers, while my mother and older sister sat at our picnic table and shucked corn. My younger sister was inside, sleeping in her crib, while my older brother was busy setting the table for dinner. I, however, was on the other side of the backyard tethered to a cinder block with a piece of rope my mom had cut from our old clothesline.

Now before you get all worked up about child abuse, my being tied to a block in our backyard had nothing to do with abuse or neglect. From my mother’s perspective, I was the frustrating combination of mischief, determination, and speed. While my siblings acted like loyal domesticated dogs, I was more of a wild coyote. If I wasn’t anchored to something, I was gone. Tethering me to something of substantial weight was an act of pure necessity.

Although I was four at the time, I can still recall that day as if it were yesterday. I looked across the lawn through our chain-link fence and into the eyes of our neighbor’s beagle, Puddles, which coincidentally was also tied to a cinder block. I wasn’t a huge fan of Puddles, but I was open to the idea of bonding with him for a few moments given the fact that I was sitting alone on the cinder block, wearing nothing more than a diaper and a t-shirt. I was starving for attention. Puddles and I held each other’s stare just long enough for me to realize that the dog was mocking me. If Puddles could talk, and based on the look on its face, I am absolutely sure it would have said something along the lines of “you tragic mess.”

Puddle’s stare was all the motivation I needed. I spent the next several minutes dragging that cinder block down the hill toward our pool. I got to the edge of the pool and somehow harnessed enough strength to lift the cinder block onto the ledge beside the pool. I then used the rope to pull myself up onto the ledge as well. Once I got into position, I turned toward my family and yelled, “Hey, Mama!” When my mother turned to face me, I casually pushed the block into the pool.

Two or three seconds went by between when I pushed the block and when I disappeared behind the edge of the pool. This was just long enough for me to see forty years added to my mother’s face. I don’t think she realized that my father had drained most of the water out of the pool earlier that day. Of course being tethered to the cinder block while my father emptied the pool in order to fix a leak, I was keenly aware that the pool was basically empty.

Obviously, my mom was relieved to find me sitting calmly on the pool floor in a puddle that was barely deep enough to cover my feet, but it still took months for her natural hair color to return. I don’t think she’s ever really forgiven me for that stunt. However, my mother always gets even. On my following birthday I received a beautifully wrapped box. Inside the box were a packet of new clothesline rope and a brochure from a cement company. I looked at my mother inquisitively, and she just shrugged. “Well played, Mother,” I said.