Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Excuse me, Miss, you have a smudge on your forehead.

It's Ash Wednesday! Back in my days of knee socks and plaid jumpers, Ash Wednesday was the day everyone wanted bangs. If you didn't have bangs, you inevitably ended up with the priest with a heavy thumb, the guy who acted like he was stamping out a cigarette on your forehead. Since it was a sin to blatantly wipe off the ashes (or so we believed), we'd try many techniques to dust it off. There was the blowing-an-imaginary-hair-away (blow out of corner of your mouth), the phew-that-was-a-tough-test ("accidentally" wiping forehead with back of hand), and the less subtle, but effective brush-it-off-but-leave-enough-to-show-piety.

Oh, this reminds me of a certain Ash Wednesday I spent with my sister in D.C. Now, when Kate and I are together with no adult supervision, we tend to get a bit, well, I'll say high spirited, although the word "obnoxious" has been bandied about. The year was 1984. Kate was living in Alexandria, VA, and I was visiting her. We planned to spend the day doing touristy stuff in DC, then attend mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral (the site of Kennedy's funeral mass and also the name of our hometown church, without the cathedral part). Everywhere in the city we encountered people who had already done their churchly duty and received their ashes. So Kate and I, being the fun gals we are, started pretending it was an alien invasion and all the aliens could be discerned by the black smudges on their foreheads. "Look, there's another one." "Quick! Run!" Okay, maybe you had to be there, but it was fun. Late in the day, we were on the subway on our way to mass, still doing our alien invasion bit, you know, pointing and laughing, "They're everywhere! What are they?", when some sourpuss gave us the MOM LOOK and reprimanded us with "They're Catholic. It's Ash Wednesday". To which Kate replied (in a tone that can best be described as Mean Girls) "We know. We're Catholic too". Then we gave her our own look and giggled conspiratorially. Ah Katie...always a good time.

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