Friday, December 23, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1870, December 23rd, 2011

Me and my man Santa.


It was December 1961. My first grade class was very nervous because we were all going to be front and center on the big stage at St. John the Baptist Grade School. (You know the place, it’s now a parking lot brought to you courtesy of the Diocese of Scranton. The church and school were both assassinated and turned into dust by the good Christian/Catholic powers that be. But hey, I digress).
Our first grade nun, Sister Anastasia was a tough task master. Like Vince Lombardi, she bellowed, “Failure is not an option”. Or, if you mess up one word, no presents. The big day came and I was calm because my mother was working days and my father would be working too. No pressure. But at breakfast, my father was in street clothes and not his railroad get up. I found out he took the day off just to……gulp…..see me in the Christmas play. If I knew what it meant then, I most likely was saying "WTF" in my mind as I boarded the bus. I absent mindedly gave a present to Billy Wagner, the bus driver and dove for the seat on the bus. I opened up my book bag and frantically searched for the piece of paper the mean little sister scrawled on. “Y is for yearning……we as Christians spent our time in Advent yearning for the birth of the Baby Jesus”. That was my line. Over and over again I memorized that sucker. The morning Mass and classes were a blur. “Y…is for yearning…….” I said over and over again like a demented rummy on Times Square.
We were the first class in the Christmas pageant. The priests sat up front, the kids eighth to first sat behind them and then the parents. “WTF” my little brain shouted!!!! My father sure as heck came but he brought an entourage. Three aunts from my mother’s side, two of his railroad buddies and some guy named “Chick” from Californa that drove a two seater rag top. The diminutive nun gave us these giant posters with big red letters on them. A for Adams, B for Badosky, D for Dellarte, H for Hizny, K for Komensky, P for Polansky, S for Steve, W for Wasko, Y for Yonki and Z for Zaleppa. Every kid with a last name got a letter, the kids that had names that were already designated with letters got the Q and the X.
We marched on stage with these big ass letters. Adams led it off. A few kids stumbled. I thought I saw the little nun ball her hand into a fist, maybe I just imagined it. When Bob Wasko started his, “W is for warmth that the manger provided to the baby Jesus” I started to tense. The kid next to me started with his letter. “X is for extra, the extra love we feel for the baby Jesus at Christmas”. I panicked. “Wait a minute, X is for extra, I knew extra began with an “E”, the nun was changing the gig all of a sudden?” My pause was dramatic but not deadly. I stepped forward and said, “Y is for yearning….. we as Christians spent our time in Advent yearning for the birth of the Baby Jesus”. I was confident, I was forceful and by God I had the righteous indignation of knowing that my word began with the proper letter. When Eddie Zaleppa launched into his “Z is for Zebra….the animal who stood guard at the foot of the manger to protect the Baby Jesus” I thought….”Whoa, I’m only 7, I ain’t never seen a zebra in any manger scene in my young life!”
My thoughts were drowned out by applause. Even the 8th graders were clapping, I especially like the fact that one of the 5th grade girls squeezed my chubby cheeks.(Joanie Simalchick, God bless you!!!!) My dad and his friends were clapping. The nun was happy too. I realized when you were being on stage, you couldn’t take things too literal. You made allowances for the “X” tra word and the Zebra. Even in a Catholic School at a Christmas play…..the truth never got in the way of a good story. Or a big giant set of letters from A to Z. December 1961, that was the day I fell in love with the sound of my own voice….and applause. I also realized we as first graders learned a valuable lesson, success in life was not about the act but about its presentation. And with that, I leave with these words, to all those Christmas story tellers out there…..speak loud and forcefully. Even if you throw in a Zebra….your friends will love you anyway.



At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent Dave, Wow what a memory, it has jogged mine and Yes I do remember giving you guys a standing O. For the life of me I can't recall if the 2nd grade did anything that year. I was always more interested in what the PTA gift was! Hope you had a nice holiday, and HAPPY NEW YEAR !
Drew Wasko SJB Class of '67

At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah but he's still bitching about the church.


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