The ritual post-Thanksgiving writing exercise required that Sister Linda’s third grade class detail the holiday events. Dressed in her usual knee-length dark blue skirt, pressed white shirt and worn black Oxfords, Sister Linda paced in front of the classroom as she spoke of the essay contents, starting with family arriving on the front door to a description of each Thanksgiving dish.
I spent the next 45 minutes writing 5 simple sentences:
“We did not have Thanksgiving. My mother works. My father sleeps. I spent Thanksgiving with Jesus. We had a nice talk.”
Accompanying my little essay was a large drawing of Jesus in different felt pen colors. I included large curls of yellow and brown hair, pink lips and large, probing black eyes.
For my efforts, I received a C-, the lowest grade in the class.
As a Catholic child, I thought sincerity, coupled with an expressive and colorful drawing of our Saviour, would have at least boosted my grade to an A, had that been my main purpose. However simplistic and direct, my paper was written to capture the event’s proceedings, minus a few details. My mother, a maid for an old San Francisco family, had been too busy wearing the dour tiptoeing around the scions of high society while they settled in on their own Thanksgiving meal. Without my mother, there would be no turkey dinner, stuffing, mashed potatoes and the spectacular pie selections on our dinner table.
Instead, I sat in front of a bookcase, self-aware that I was bypassing a rite of Americana. Watching “Heidi” might have even been nice, but there was a Clint Eastwood movie marathon. Amidst the squealing tires and gun fire, I tried to bypass a Catholic school rule. I decided to speak to God and understand why I was missing Thanksgiving. I was trying this without the aid of a priest, who was supposed to be the intermediary for all such conversations.
Perhaps this is why I got the C-.
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