Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Back to School and Then Some

We know the kids have gone back to school because the buses tie up traffic every morning and afternoon.

Ah, September.

The Fall prospects were doubly ominous for me.   Not only was I going back to school, but Sunday school at church was also kicking in.   Jeez, can't a kid get a break?

The photo above is one from my childhood church.  St. Peter's Lutheran Church on 219th Street.   It looks like something out of the Little Rascals.   Since my family roots helped to build this church, I am thinking my dad was once in the same position as these urchins.   

I would be, too.   Many years later.

I do remember the pastor in the picture. By the time I was one of these tykes, the guy had the word "Emeritus" in his title and was about to have his first one-on-one with God himself. He had already turned over the reins of the place to another German, Pastor Hoeniger. 

But, one thing that did not change over the years? Sunday school classes like this one. 

This, indeed, may have been a confirmation class, judging by the way the boys are dressed. Time, however, did remove the bows from the hair of the girls I studied with. Mercifully.

In the circle of life of our family, my dad would drive me to the same church for a similar Sunday school class.  For an hour beginning at 9AM, he would sit in his car outside the church, reading up on Gasoline Alley and Moon Mullins in the funny papers. I was inside, learning how to recite the Apostle's Creed. 

And not exactly loving the experience.

For us, Sunday School was one big room. Long rows of tables and, as you had birthdays, you moved from one table to the next like it was a Parker Brothers game. First, you were at the kindergarten table. Then, the first grade table. Then, the second grade table. As you progressed around the room, you noticed that there were less and less crayons as you grew up. 

At the kindergarten table, you colored some drawing of Noah loading animals on his arc. At the first grade table, you got to memorize the writing at the bottom of the page you just colored.

"Noah loading animals on his arc."


By the second and third grade tables, you were starting to hear Bible stories. But, not the traditional ones. Instead, because we were kids and more likely to identify with somebody else our own age, there were books devoted to Jesus as a small boy. Going to temple. Helping out his father in the carpenter shop. Totally strange. Little Jesus as if he were the star of a situation comedy.
"Leave It to Jesus."

In retrospect, it was all absurd. But, back when, we bought it hook, line, and sinker.

At the beginning of every Sunday School session, we all stood as one group. Kindergarteners right through to the sixth grade. And we recited prayers and sung hymns as led by the wife of the church council president. One such Sunday service had disastrous results for me, when a lack of breakfast made me faint face forward.   It was very well timed.  At the end of the Lord's Prayer.

"Forever and ever...amen."


For us kids, I guess this was a worship service. After all, we were not allowed upstairs to the main sanctuary. That was for the grownups. Downstairs, we had other life issues to grapple with.

"Hmmm, should I make Jesus' robe blue or green?"

The only time we got to go up to the big people's church was at Christmastime. The Sunday School annually put on a Yuletide pageant of carols and recitations. For this, my mother would make an in-person appearance. Which had been preceded by weeks and weeks of arduous rehearsals at home as she put me through my paces for whatever small contribution I was going to make to the show. 

Usually, the littlest kids had to memorize two or three lines of rhyming verse. She called it "saying my piece." For hours on end, I had to stand in the living room and recite it. 

Over and over and over and over and over. Laurence Olivier rehearsed "Hamlet" less.

And the words I had to say were always silly. Crafted by that same wife of the church council president, our Christmas pieces seemed to have been lifted from Bazooka gum wrappers.

"Tis the season, tis the reason, for glory to seize us, and love you, Baby Jesus."

Or something like that. The afternoon pageant couldn't end soon for me. Mom would be beaming in the front row as if I was Lincoln on the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Eventually, my Sunday School years ended with the natural progression. You moved to a Confirmation class with the Pastor. This was no small feat. Two hours every Saturday morning at church for two solid years. You didn't become a Lutheran easily those days.

And that meant I was now going to a school seven mornings a week.

Yes, a kid could not get a break around here.

Dinner last night:  Crispy honey shrimp at PF Chang's.

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