The "Bad Girl" and Her Ash Wednesday Adventure (It's Feb 13 in 2013)
The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the "not so innocent". It's about a young lady and her endless search for fun, happiness, and doing things that really make her Mom angry. Flash back in time to the late 1950s when our gal, who we will call Mary, was forced by her Mother to go to church on Ash Wednesday:
“Mary, get up. It’s past five and you’ll have to rush to get dressed and out the door in time for six o’clock Mass. Come on Mary get up now!”
“Okay Ma. I’m up. Buy why do I have to go to Church today? It’s not Sunday.”
“You know why. It’s Ash Wednesday. It’s forty days before Easter. You have to go to church and get the ashes put on your forehead to symbolize people coming from dust. Dust to dust and ashes to ashes. Now hurry up and get ready. After church run right to school and don’t be late.”
“Okay Mom….okay. I’ll be ready in ten minutes,” Mary yawned, dreading the prospect of going to church and then spending the rest of the dreary day at school. She would have to suffer through a long, boring Mass and get ashes put on her forehead in the shape of a cross.
“I’m going to change to Jewish.” she told her Mother, “They don’t have to go to school on their holidays. So why do I have to go to school on mine?”
“It’s not a holiday Mary. You get the ashes to show your faith.”
“Come on Ma. It’s the 1950s not the dark ages. The church tells us we have to eat FISH on Friday and we do it. If we eat MEAT on Friday, we will go to Hell.
The Legion of Decency makes us stand up and swear that we won’t go see Marilyn Monroe in the 'Seven Year Itch'. And right there in church they make us promise we won’t even go to a theater that shows movies that they call bad. They say we will go to Hell if we watch a movie with Marilyn Monroe or James Dean.”
“Stop it Mary. Don’t say bad things about God. It’s blasphemy.”
“Come on Ma. I’m not talking about God. I’m talking about a building made of bricks, run by people, not God. Grow up Ma. I’m only fifteen but I can see that they are trying to control us. We can only wear the clothes they say are okay. They tell us what movies we can see. They tell us what radio and television shows are okay and which to boycott. It’s crazy.
They take all your money to give to the poor! Hey Ma, you are poor! When is the church going to give you some money?
And I heard a story about a Priest who made a woman pregnant. She had the baby and had no job and no money for the baby’s food and clothing. She was living in a friend‘s cellar.
Finally she was so desperate she tried to get the priest to pay for the baby.
In court, the Priest stood up before the Judge and said he couldn‘t pay for the baby because when he became a clergyman, he took a vow of poverty!
I thought they also took vows not to be with women.”
“RIGHT NOW YOU STOP IT MARY. YOU SHUT UP AND GO TO CHURCH LIKE A GOOD GIRL. NO MORE OF THIS BLASPHEMING. GO TO CHURCH AND GET YOUR ASHES.”
Mary left her Mother’s tiny apartment and began the six block walk to St. Anthony’s Church. The February cold knifed through her thin jacket and made her shiver as the first light of dawn started to pry away the night.
The stillness of the morning was shattered by a loud muffler-less car that pulled to the curb alongside her.
vintage 1953 Ford
“Mary, Mary come with us,” shouted three voices in unison through the 1953 Ford's rolled down window.
It was her friend Judy and two boys she had seen in school a few times.
“Mikey and Richie have the car today,” Judy explained. “We’re going to skip school, maybe see a movie and have a great time! Are you in?”
“Open the car door and I’ll be in, in one second!", beamed Mary as she jumped in the back seat with Richie while Judy stayed in front with Mike. The car pulled away from the curb with the four laughing teens planning their day’s adventure.
“Let’s put all our money together so we can figure out what we can do,” Judy suggested.
“I’ve got my quarter for school lunch and fifty cents that was supposed to be for the church collection,” offered Mary.
When all four had emptied their pockets and the counting was done, the total was $7.50.
“The first thing we have to do,” said Mike, the driver, “is to get gasoline. I saw the price last night at the Merit station. It was 19 cents a gallon, so we can get a dollar’s worth and that will be plenty. That will leave us with $6.50.”
“After that,” Judy said, “Let’s go to the Miss Beverly Diner for coffee and English muffins. Coffee’s a dime and the muffins are fifteen cents….so that will come to another dollar. That will leave us with $5.50.”
“Let’s get two packs of cigarettes at the gas station,” Richie suggested, “that will be four bits. That will leave us five bucks for the rest of the day.”
“We can go see a double feature. They open the doors at nine. I want to see Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch,” said Mary. “The show is a quarter each plus if we each spend another quarter on candy, the total will be two dollars. That will still leave us three dollars for lunch after the movies.”
The four teenagers watched the double feature….(well, between petting and kissing and such, they watched some of it!) and left the theater a little after one p.m.
At Ted’s Diner around two p.m., they were finishing the crumbs of a set of English muffins and swallowing the last of their coffee.
Snubbing out her cigarette in the ash tray, Mary said, “Okay, that’s enough fun for me for one day. I have to go home now. I told my Mother I’d go to church and get my ashes and then go to school and then go back home. I guess it’s time to go.”
“But she’s going to know you didn’t go to church, Judy said, “ You didn’t get any ashes.”
“Oh yes I did,” said Mary. “I got my ashes and my Mom will see them when I walk in the front door.”
“How are you going to pull this off?” Judy wondered.
A smile dashed across her face as Mary pushed her lush auburn hair away from her forehead, “Watch!" she instructed, as she extended the forefinger of her other hand and dragged the tip through the buttery remains on her muffin plate.
Next, sticking her oily finger in the ash tray in front of her she circled it through the collection of cigarette butts, before withdrawing her hand with a flourish.
Waving her soiled finger in circles above her head, she slowly brought it to her forehead and drew two lines on her skin, in the shape of a cross.
“Now I’ve got my ashes,” Mary beamed. “Take me home."
Today, more than a half century later, Mary is retired on Cape Cod and full of stories about her 'wild' days. Her comical misadventures seem mild when compared to the some of the things that seem to be going on with today's youth. Times change. The only constant we have, alas, is change.
This year (2013) Ash Wednesday is on the 13th day of February.
In the Catholic Church and many other Christian faiths Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and is forty days before Easter…not counting Sundays. The ashes on the forehead are a sign of penance. The ashes come from the burning of crosses made from Palms. Mixed with oil, the ashes are applied to the head in the shape of a cross.
As the Clergy person applies the ashes, these words are recited, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
For another "Bad Girl" adventure, follow this link.