Oh, you know this girl? her mother said. She’s so sweet to do this. What a child of God! That’s so good of you. Would you like some cookies and a glass of milk?
I said yes.
So tell me about your project.
I told her. I noticed a large crucifix on the wall near the dining room table, an odd place, I thought. My mother had one, but it was in a private corner of her bedroom.
You know you will be rewarded. That’s such a kind gesture, bringing joy to the old folks. What a perfect Child of God you are. God sees everything you do, you know. And he will look favorably on your efforts. Pat’s mother almost sounded like a nun, though they were nowhere near as flattering.
I nodded. Pat stared at her opened marble notebook, the eraser of her pencil resting on her cheek. Why was my friend—always so nice and funny—acting as if she didn’t know me?
As I ate the chocolate wafers and sipped milk out of the same shrimp-cocktail glass my family collected, Mrs. Cardullo went on about God and my act of goodwill, which even I knew was meager. After the last wafer, I said thank you. I had to go home. I got up and saw Mrs. Cardullo toss my napkin into a garbage pail. A framed wedding picture with broken glass stuck out of the pail. I couldn’t tell if it was Mrs. Cardullo in the white dress. She saw me staring, pushed the photo deeper into the garbage, and patted me on top of the head.
Thank you for doing God’s work. She locked me in a grand hug and gave me a kiss. Embarrassed by the sendoff, I forgot to say goodbye to Pat.
The following Sunday, my sister and I missed the folk mass, so we had to go, begrudgingly, to the 11 o’clock. At least Father Adaire would still be officiating.
In a few months, Pat and I would make our Holy Communion, the second sacrament. We knew all about the mass, its two parts, and about the really holy part in the middle when the priest re-enacts the Last Supper and turns the water into wine, the white wafers into the Body of Christ. Although this was my favorite part of the sacrament, I had a tendency to drift off during the solemn ritual. There was a lot to look at: old ladies in black-and-white polka dot dresses who still wore dark veils that looked like mantillas. Young mothers with circular white veils bobby-pinned into their hair. Stained glass windows that were gifts from the O’Sheas, Doyles, O’Tooles, Smiths, Cunninghams, Clearys, Biglins, and Dowds. I liked the almost human-scaled statues the most. I had stared at them since I had first accompanied my mother to the Latin mass, long before I had known who they were.