Growing up in a poor, white Catholic family in Wisconsin, I could always count on certain things:
1. Church every Sunday (and every holy day of obligation and the First Friday of every month)
2. Paul Harvey on the radio
3. Hee Haw on TV on Saturday nights and an hour of polka dancing/music every Sunday.
4. Dessert after every meal (I don’t know how my mother managed it!)
I was the youngest of eight children. By the time they got to me, my parents pinned all their hopes on me of providing the Roman Catholic Church with a priest or nun since none of my older siblings were cooperating. (I guess even that was a hand-me-down of sorts.) Back in their day, it meant bragging rights to have a relative as a member of the cloth. My mother used to tell me when she first met my father that she boasted, “My sister is a Carmelite nun!” to which he replied, “Well my THREE sisters are Franciscan nuns!” I went to Catholic grade school, dutifully studied in my plaid jumper uniform, and with my family lineage, felt destined to become a nun, and I waited for “the call”. Well, instead, in the seventh grade I started public school and met Mary, my new best friend. She was more worldly than I, had been allowed more freedom in her Lutheran upbringing, and shared a household with only two older sisters instead of seven older siblings like I had. She introduced me to boys and parties and softball games at the park. We were thick as thieves, always being good girls, but we flirted and carried on with the happy party people. There went my parents’ hopes of the convent for their youngest…
Many years later, when I met my now husband, I was surprised to learn that he had been raised a devoted Catholic, had served masses as an altar boy all around the world during his Air Force upbringing, and at one point felt certain he was going to be a priest. Must have been our calling to find each other…