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April 24, 2013
I couldn’t be more uncomfortable if I had been squashed into a girdle.
Third grade is where began putting on the weight that would eventually lead me to be a staggering estimated 280 pounds by fourteen years old. At eight, I didn’t weight that much for my age. However, I must have been getting on the husky side by that spring, because of the awkward situation that my mother decided to have my communion dress hand-made at the local cleaners. I think I cringed as the seamstress pulled the yellow measuring tape around my waist. It’s doesn’t seem right to me now , but even my eight year old mind was growing conscious of the new inches before my belly.

“I hate this,” I believe is what I muttered to the huge square mirror that forced me to look at myself.

The dress I’m referring to was not your typical little girl’s Easter Sunday gown. It was made with satin, snow white, with a lace-trim skirt that went past the ankles. It was, pretty much, a petite wedding dress. Made just for me, which made me loathe it all the more. I dreaded putting on that dress from the very instant I first laid eyes on it, and I’d been anxiously looking forward to the morning that would follow this sure night of calamity.

To begin with, I never really liked dresses when I was growing up. I wore graphic T-shirts with SpongeBob SquarePants and The Power Rangers on them. I wore shorts just because they didn’t drag, and I despised the blue plaid jumper and white neck-ring leaving blouse collar they made us girls wear at Our Lady of Mercy.

Up through second grade, every morning getting dressed for catholic school was a pain in itself. First there was the shirt, which Grandma had to help me with because my little fingers fiddled with the buttons, and even she, because of her arthritis, had to use a specially designed button-lopping tool to get those darn little suckers on. To get a good look at the collar with her thick, square bifocals, she would pull me an inch within her face, my nose right above her hot mouth. Then those slippery, navy panty hose that made my knees itch, and then the jumper. On gym days, if you were like me, you swapped the blouse for the gym shirt and shorts beneath the jumper, to prevent the awkward and collectively humiliating experience of undressing in the classroom and chancing someone giving you so much as one dirty eye.

Grandma told me simply that this is what little ladies do. Well, rebellious was I that I just wouldn't take that. I never really wore dresses or skirts outside of school—I pretty much refused to whenever there was a choice. I liked lose, bumming clothes.I enjoyed being that little, lazy, TV watching lump that America would only in following years brand as the stereotypical to-be victim of the 'childhood obesity factor', and I, above all, liked being able to dress like one.
Since the school of Our Lady Of Mercy Parish had turned public that year, the dress code was taken down a notch. For the first time, I was allowed to wear plain white t-shirts and khaki pants to school, and the feeling of freedom was amazing, even if there was still a uniform policy to reluctantly abide by.
But now here I was, back in a dress again. And holy Mary, mother of God couldn’t have picked out a more obnoxious one for me.
Five fifteen P.M. The back zipped up, I looked up at my mother with totally honest question. “Can’t I burn this when it's over?”
Mom's eyes popped. “No!” she moaned her reply, her shoulders slacking in a look of what I realize now must have been outright disappointment that I had even made such a statement.
I plopped down onto my green chair before the letter cabinet and pull-down desk, where the big TV in her room sat. It was worth a shot.
I didn't really know that, like my baptismal gown I suppose, she had planned on keeping this thing forever. As soon as I found out, I protested, knowing that at least for me, the only memories it would bring would be of embarrassment and discomfort. But she was unmoved. “Maybe I'll let you paint it blue or something,” she said in a folding mumble.
“Sure. Whatever.”
I sat there with my arms folded and waited for the nightmare to erupt doing what I enjoyed most—watching cartoons. It was now half past five. The dress was so tight now that it felt like if I ate anything, I'd bust from the seams.
And yet I was starving.
When I told Mom, she said, “You’re going out for a nice dinner when it's over.”
“You remember Woody's, don’t you? The one we went to with Aunt Pam that one time?”
The rib joint? I really remembered it only because it’s name reminded me of my favorite Pixar character. “Oh, yeah I think,” I said. “Wait, I'm going in this?” I asked, pointing to the dress with the notion that I was going to change. Oh, stupid me.
“Yes. You look very pretty.”
Well, I didn't need to be a psychic to guess that she'd feel it necessary to add some fluffy comment like that at the end of anything she said to me that night. It was actually the first part of her reply that stunned me. Woody’s? Was she serious? Not that I cared so much at eight years old, but was a bar-be-q joint really what the adults considered “a nice dinner” following this kind of elaborate ceremony? Is that the first thing that pops into mind? Maybe I was young, and they thought a fancy restaurant would bore the snot out of me, or heck, maybe they're broke after spending all their money on this ridiculous dress. But the idea that I was going to a causal, bustling BBQ joint in that white monstrosity of a dress mortified me. I was going to stand out like the Stay-Puff marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.
When I told Mom I'd have rather not and just come home, she sighed. I assumed that meant ‘forget it’.
Everybody was going to be there--my whole 'party.' Grandma, Aunt Pam (who only years afterward was I so sternly told by my mother wasn't even really my aunt, but an old neighbor of theirs and my godmother, and apparently a pretty lame one at that), and my mothers’ brother, Uncle Mike.
Only my mother decided to pass on it.
When she said “You” instead of “We”, she was actually being literal. Like the Tuesday night meetings in which she kicked me out to go with Grandma, she politely and silently turned down the invitation.

“Aren’t you coming?” I did ask at one point.


Why not?”

“Because...” she said, trailing off like I could have anticipated

“Because why?”

“Because,” she said, beginning to sound annoyed that I even had to ask.
It was an ongoing game between us—at least she thought it was a game, and that I enjoyed it. But I didn’t. It pained me as much to ask as she had to answer. But I couldn’t help it. I wanted to see today might be different. If for once, she would just admit in words I could understand why she never went to any of these school/church/party/social affairs with me. The idea that she was uncomfortable around multiple people was a complex idea to explain to a child, even though she had kind of tried in the past in her own difficult way. She preferred to stay home alone and tidy up things around the apartment for us, and she only wanted me not to ask why.
But it wasn't fair. It wasn't like I had fun doing these things either, but I did them! I didn't look forward to going to any of my older cousins’ birthday parties, but I went anyway. Besides, they were thrown particularly for the adult's enjoyment. I nearly always tagged along because my Grandma always felt compelled to go and have long, nostalgic conversations with the extended family, who where, at least according to Mom, tisking at her behind her back. I was the baby of the family. I didn’t understand what was going on. All I knew was that I was old enough at this time to feel obligated to go with her and keep her company, and maybe so that it didn’t look so sad, her going by herself.
And I suppose this was just another thing I could do just to make everybody happy.
Around six, we drove past the tight-nit, business blocks to a street called Troy . Much like our apartment, it was nestled into a crowded neighborhood before an impossibly narrow street, over eighty years old and literally crumbling in the corners. Built in the nineteen twenties, was just two blocks from the North side Chicago apartment where I'd lived all my life with Mom and G-Ma.
I grumbled as I slumped up the long concrete avenue past school before the church, with the annoyance of picking up the ends of the dress so that I wouldn't trip.
When I turned my head to the right, I was relieved to see a familiar face coming up on the right. “Mary-Kate!”
The girl with the name that seemed to have been plucked from a late nineteenth century kids tale, with albino skin and rosy, freckled cheeks. Neck length, bobby-curl brown hair , which was now dressed in several cuts of pink and blue ribbon flowing behind her as she scrambled up the block from the parking lot.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Mary-Kate. Junior athlete, and tomboy to the stars.
Running up to me in a dress.

“Wow,” she said, grinning. “You look... weird.”

“I know.” I said, my eyes trailing down the length of my white disaster. “So do you.” I didn't know what else to say. I was sort of stunned by looking at her and then processing what she said.

“Thank you. Don’t I?” she smirked.
Out of the two of us, she was the real tomboy, with a passion to get moving and active. I couldn't so much call myself a tomboy, as much as just a kid who hated following the norm. But these weren’t like picture day outfits—we both had reason to be ticked. Yet so close to Mary Kate in her simple, lose purple suede dress, while I looked like I fell out of a chubby bridal magazine, made feel only feel more like an overdressed idiot
I could have filled Ms. Marian-Katherine under a multitude of things. Class brainiac. Math wiz. Creative storyteller. Most likely to one day become a rocket scientist. Her parents were active members of the community, as she so nonchalantly informed us about their involement with some of the city’s public care facilities. By second grade, she was a violin player, a vegetarian, and she had chosen herself to be the voice of logic and reason in our little social circle, often trying to talk me into the right and noble thing to do. She was smart and hard working, and the worst part was that you couldn’t find a more humble, reliable friend when you needed one.
If there were a goody two shoes award, she must have won it eight years in a row already. I would have bet that there wasn’t a single sin she had to confess about that night, where as I was never the perfect little angel, and God probably had a record on me as tall as I was, and I say that with the note that we were pretty stalking eight year olds.
That night I was only going to open up about two--the same two sins I had earlier decided on.
Soon, I caught up with Luis and Israel and Bekim, my other friends and classmates—or former classmates, as when the school changed to public, they and Mary-Kate all transferred to one further off, much larger local Catholic School and left me to see the school change.
These kids--we all knew each other from as far back as preschool. We had been through the monotinism of modern Catholic school together, and now we were about to pay the biggest price for our parents’ religious loyalty into the new millennium . In 2003, we took our first communion—a God knows how old, roman catholic program designed to give third and fourth graders a taste—about eight to ten weeks, that is—of hell. Every Tuesday, Grandma dragged me to these meetings nearly literally by the wrist, to hear even more biblical babble that bored me to sleep at six P.M.

For the past month, my “informative” upstairs neighbor Luis had been giving me the gist of this whole communion deal, which, since my parents—respectfully, Mom and Grandma—had neglected to explain to me much about it, was my biggest help to finding out how this thing was going down. More often than not, I feel sucker to his exaggerations, but this time I was going to take whatever information I could get and He told me that at Communion, you have to sit down with the priest and tell him everything bad you've ever done. Everything.

After hearing that, I could think of just two significant sins that would sit and stew in my mind, rattling my nerves all the way up until that night.

I had attended a catholic school, but other than that, we weren't “practicing” Christians. Even when my school was still connected to the church, we never really followed up on the proper Christian behavior, whatever one might consider that to be. For one thing, we never, ever attended church on Sunday, except for one midnight mass of Christmas Eve, where I conked out in the pew to a priest rambling from the Bible in fluid Spanish. We didn't say grace before dinner. We didn't even eat together at the dining room table like all good families supposedly do, and I didn't know anybody who actually did. I didn't get on my knees at night before bed and say thanks to God or Jesus or whoever was supposed to be listening up there for the entirely coincidental health of my family and friends, or the magic of modern technology that was cable television.
I suppose Mom and Grandma were pretty lenient parents, since we didn’t do everything that “wholesome” homes should have. Generations of catholic tradition had been watered down with the onset of time, sensibility, and lack of interest. Back then, I didn't ponder that the reasons we never went to church may have been Grandma’s exhaustion after her night shift at a downtown hotel, and Mom's supreme social distrust that I would contract in years to come.
So I didn't get why they had thought it was so important for me to go along with this, especially since the school was now public, and I wasn't so obligated to it anymore--it seemed to me like the iron ball I was chained to had been unschackled, why go against that? I could understood my friends. Neither were they so insanely religious or anything, but their families were a tad more traditional, whereas we at our house were more lay back and flexible. Religion had played a part in my upbringing, bu a small one. It seemed to be something to do and finish—to get over with. So I had an excuse to wonder, why even bother? Why go through the motions?
When I asked either of them what this was all about, all they said that was simple enough for me to understand was, “You just do it,” or “It's so you can get married someday,” or something like that. Yeah. As if THAT made me any warmer to the idea. Here’s a little newsflash for future parents or those ever thinking about having children—you don’t try to use the thought of marriage to convince a kid who still thinks boys carry the plague, and as far as they’re concerned, got it while visiting their home planet Jupiter.

I also didn't get what this had to do with marriage—I’m not actually sure why my brain ever linked the two in the first place. I figured from how my parents put it that when you do this, you literally get some papers that say “OK to get married.” If that was so, I wondered how my crafty and intelligent mother couldn't just make a few calls to the church and settle the whole thing without having to spend a mountain of money on a custom-order dress that I was going to outgrow in a matter of months.

Then I figured: Oh, yeah. Just because.

Her parents coming up from behind, my ex schoolmate skipped up the steps and inside.

Meanwhile, I laid back and waited for the rest of my family, and while I must have hand my mind busy, a large hand reached up behind me and tapped my shoulder. Needless to say I guess, I got the spit scared out of me.
“What’s a’ matter, Schmow?” he inquired in his mock playful voice.
I spun around and looked up. Now, my family was notorious in that little urban neighborhood for its gift of height, but my uncle was a startling six feet and a few inches to spare, and the church regulars had never seen him before. When I turned around, my eyes were hardly above his waist.
It was the first time I remember ever seen him in a suit. I might have told him he looked funny if there wasn't a knot in my throat. He looked down and flashed me this awkward, well-meaning smile, and then he led me inside like it was his church, not mine.
In the bustling hall, we liked arms and took our place in line, behind the other kids. I wasn't sure if this thing was going in alphabetical order, and the thought scared me. I didn't want to go first. I had no idea what we were doing, and I'd feel stupid asking. I wanted to law low and follow the crowd.

Inching down the line, I peered around for Mary-Kate or Luis or anybody who I might recognize, but they were either focused on the front or out of my view. I was surprised by just how many kids I didn’t know. I wanted to tap one of them on the shoulder and ask them who they were and what in the heck they were doing there. I mean, didn’t they have their own church

And that’s when I made the peculiar observation--the one that would stay with me for almost a decade afterward. Suddenly, something clicked. Here I was, standing with the brother of my mother, who, if it were up her, would only be relative to us by blood and DNA, while everyone else, including Mary-Perfect, was accompanied each by her own significant man. But not just any man. It was their dads.

For as long as I can remember, whenever kids would ask me where my dad was, I said I didn't have one. Even to this day, that's what I say: I don’t have one. He doesn't exist. He's a figment of idealistic imagination. My father was a different story. He existed. He was, in fact, a flesh and blood human male, and that's about all I was sure of. And at the time of this Communion, I was probably the last thing on his mind.

While I was always pretty adjusted to living without a dad and comfortable being straight with people about the idea of not having one, I can’t deny even to my mother the brief instances from time to time that I would ponder who my real father was that I’d never seen and where he was now. On a cloudy afternoon, did he ever stumble across a train of thought that eventually led him to remember me, even for the slightest second? I shamed myself, because maybe I didn’t give him enough credit. For all I knew, he had thought of me pleny of times. Could he possibly have some sort of biological tug that said that he had a kid somewhere who was doing something kind of important?
Apparently not, because as the minutes ticked by, he didn’t show. Why couldn't my mother at least be here? I darn well knew her! My little communion was begining to look a lot like my cousin’s parties, except it was my grandmother who was there for me so that it didn’t look sad.
How come neither of my parents, live and breathing, could be here? Why was it that my Uncle had to break from his life and his obligations to fill in as the man walking me down the isle? Was this the sad little preview of how my real wedding was going to go? With both my parents backing out and a random group of remaining relatives standing in their place? My cheerleaders were from anchient history?
It then faintly occurred to me that something wasn't all right with this picture. Was it possible that I, at eight years old, was putting the pieces together that formed the dark puzzle part of my life?
Somehow I was beginning to realize for the first time that I was the unanticipated result of yet another illegitimate relationship that burdens this country. I looked at the other girls with their fathers, and shame washed over me. I felt guilty. Dirty. Out of place. Like I wasn't supposed to be there. A oddball. A misfit. A loser. A joke. This blinding white dress I was wearing was surely fit for someone else. Someone purer.
And again I asked myself ‘What am I doing here?’
In the same church that I had dared to be baptised in, I felt... unholy.
We did our circle down the middle and around the pews. I fretfully hoped we were done at this point, but I guess we weren’t.
I took a seat next to G-Ma to close my eyes and listen to the priest rattle on about stuff that seemed blissfully unimportant to me. I was tired, and I just wanted to go home.
Somewhere I’d found out first communion kids had to eat a wafer and drink a little of the community wine, and I didn't really want to.
“Do I have to do that?” I asked Grandma.
“Huh?” she looked, squinting her eyes.
“Eat... and drink... the stuff!” I pointed frantically to the kids up front as I suddenly became inarticulate.
“But... I just gotta eat the cookie, right? Not the wine?”
“Yes, go!” she urged, nudging me away.
Frantically I stood back up, shuffling my way through the pew once again and scrambled up to the front
I had hoped that I could get away without doing it. But now that I opened my trap, it was too late to say I forgot.
By the time I got to the line, however, all of the other kids had already gone. It was the grown up's turn, the regulars turn. I looked at Grandma, wondering if she'd come up and get some, but she was talking to another lady in the pew next to her. I figured she didn't feel like it.
That left just me. I turned back to the line ahead of me. I was the only kid there—the one who forgot.
I did it again. Typical--missed the uptake. Dimwit.
I wondered for a long time what the little white wafers tasted like. I imagined a little bake-shop in the back of the church, where kids from older grades and the preist took plates of steaming hot wafers out of a little oven in a little home-ec. kind of situation. Or maybe they ordered them off of e-bay. I never really did figured out where they came from.
I stuck out my tongue and closed my eyes, and she placed a thin cookie on the end—at least that's sometimes what they called them, but they sure didn't taste anything like a baked good. In fact, I wasn't certain what she had just put in my mouth was actually food. I didn't know whether or not to chew, but soon, the thin rice disk melted, and it vanished like cotton candy. I didn’t know how that was possible.
Then again, it WAS the body of Jesus— it should be magic, right?
I hid my grimace from the priest, or at least I tried to.
When I turned my head to the right, there was a lady tipping a glass of ruby liquid into some guy’s mouth. I knew what the stuff was, and it revolted me.
I never tried wine. I knew what beer smelled like from the typical waft emerging from the open door of the neighborhood bar, and it just nauseated me. It smelled like bleach and soap to me, and I imagined it tasted like dishwater, especially with all the little bubbles at the top.
No problem, I thought to myself. Grandma said I didn’t have to do it, so I’m not gonna.
But the decision, I learned, wasn’t so much in Grandma’s diction after all. I took one step forward from the priest with the wafers, and she looked up from her current customer and caught my lost gaze. She nodded to me and pulled the cup back.
I looked around, then pointed to myself questioningly, and she hastily beckoned me forward to keep the line moving.
I watched her wipe the lip of the cup with the napkin very carefully, demonstrating that she had been doing it for years and was very experienced in the art of cup-wiping. Though I didn't get why she bothered, if she was going to use the very same napkin after every ship. I mean, doesn't that just reapply the spit germs ever time someone takes a drink?
Well, if I were to get sick from some random man before me, I’d have a number of people to blame for putting me here.
She looked down and smiled at me as I shyly stepped forward. I hesitated for a second, then I put my mouth to the glass, and she slowly tipped forward. Soon, I felt the icy cool liquid hit my lips, and the tiniest amount spilled into my mouth.
So fast did I discover--it was putrid! I didn't know how adults drank this stuff with such pleasure.
Did it make sense that they preach to you not to drink when they force you to drink wine at eight years old? Was I the only one who saw the rational conflict here? Was I the only one willing to say something?
I made sure to smile up at her before I turned and walked away, wiping my mouth on my white sleeve, sort of licking it to get rid of the flavor of alcohol. When I lost my baby teeth, The taste of my own blood didn't stick in my mouth that long, but Jesus' blood stayed in my mouth for the longest time.
I wanted to contact Jesus and let him know that he wasn’t exactly a delicacy for having been served to billions of people—and anyway, wasn't it a sin to eat people? Didn't that break one of the ten commandments or something like “Thou shalt not EAT thy neighbor or thy LORD?” Back then, my family and I lived close enough to the church for me to practically consider God and his son our neighbors.
Another conundrum! If church is God's house, does that mean he actually lived there? I wondered where he slept. Maybe he slept on a pew like a homeless guy. But I imagined him so tall that he covered the length of the bench. Or maybe he had different guys from his staff staying at every church to make sure everything stayed cool. Say he or whatever spirit decided to sleep in one Tuesday morning and I'd wind up sitting right on somebody’s head, and then I'd just have that hanging over my head, too.
Almost nothing about the world made logical sense to me at this age.
Unlike the OLD old fashioned churches, Mercy didn't have a confession booth—at least none that I knew of. Instead, when it was time for first confession we kids were lined up along the wall by the huge, peach-colored marble support beams and waited to be called up for a seat in front of the church's new chief. Father Tito was still relatively knew to Mercy, having replaced the former head priest about two years ago.
And then I stepped forward.
For me, sins meant two things, and I had one of each. A bad deed, and a bad trait.
Father Tito knew me immediately. He was young, and he remembered the names of his kids like a good teacher, or maybe I was just easy to remember for some reason.
He smiled and said my name, and then he invited me to sit. I let go of the long sides of my dress and plopped down into the empty, black, plastic recreational chair across from him.
He asked me how the family was, how Grandma was doing, how I was feeling, and and then he got down to business. He asked me if there was anything I'd ever done wrong, or that I felt sorry for, or that I regretted. Things that I might have never told anybody about.
And with a calm sigh, I told him.
I told him about the box. I didn't know it wasn't mine. I saw the pretty wrapping paper and no name and figured it was one of my Christmas presents to be put away for the big day. Seeing it sitting there precariously on the desk by the buffet table for an entire week, unmoved, I couldn't resist. Like the spoiled kid I was, I waited until no one was looking and tore into it by the corner, not really commiting myself to being discreet about it.
With the side completely gone, I furrowed my brow and glanced at the side. Vegetable Chopper? What kind of a lame present was that?
I managed to question Mom about the box without giving myself away—for the moment—and she explained it was Aunt Pam's Christmas present. When I heard that,
I was sorry. I felt like I ruined Aunt Pam's Christmas. I felt like a conceited brat—and there was nothing, nothing in the entire world more terrible I could imagine to be. In some ways, I still can't.
To this day, I still don't know if she ever found out about that. For all I know, the present might have never even got to her, since she almost never came by our house for any reason, especially in the later years when Grandma began to shut out from the world .Blood is thicker than water, and usually makes for a more dependable Godmother.
But I wasn't done.
“And...” This juvenile priest in his mid-thirties knew I wasn't done. A tall, bony guy with short, dark hair, orange skin, staring me down with a warm grin that could break the nerve of the steeliest third grader. I felt his terracotta eyes looking right through me, reading the whole story without words having passed my lips.
“And...” I hunched forward and gazed at the speckled marble beneath my white ballet shoes, “... I have a temper.”
“Pardon?” he asked, leaning in closer.
“I have a temper,” I said a louder in his ear, then leaning back and looking up at him.
At least that's what Mom once told me—funny thing is, she probably forgot she ever said that to me, but whenever someone, especially a grown up, made a negative comment to me, it engrained itself in my head as a permanent fault.
“Aah... ” he nodded. “I see...”
I glanced upward with a near quivering lip. I wondered what was going to happen to me now? Was I in trouble now that I had confessed? Did I say something really wrong? Is this where I find out if I’m going to... the bad place?
Then Father Tito surprised me with something he said. “I think we both can relate to that,“ he said with a toothy smile.
I had a deer-in-the-headlights expression as I looked up. “Really?”
“Will that be all?” he asked kindly.
I didn't know. Was that all? Had I said enough? Did repeating your sins mean confessing everything you’ve ever done wrong? Did using my mom’s white bedroom wall as a canvas when I was two count as something I still had to fess up to now? How about the fact that I had no dad, even though he wasn’t dead and my parents never married? Did I technically qualify for one of the worst sin of them all? Need I lay my grief on Tito? No. Better not drag him into this. I supposed it would be okay if somethings stayed buried, and others between me and the big white-bearded man upstairs. He knew everything already anyways, didn’t he?
Back straight, my eyes rolled to the floor again. “Yeah... that's all.”
He thanked me for being honest and for sharing, and called over the next kid as I made my escape.
The rest of the night is foggy.
I remember when Aunt Pam asked me what I wanted to eat at Woody’s later on that night. I looked at the kids' menu and I skimmed past of all the bar-be-q slathered entries, and for some reason, I said I wanted chicken nuggets.
Aunt Pam scowled. She said I could get those any time. Why not get something else?
I explain to her and Grandma that I wanted something that wouldn't stain my dress.
Well, when they heard that, their expressions went wild. You’d think I’d had said the most profound statement of any eight year old anywhere. Somehow, I had managed to please them.
“That's very grown up of you, Dodo,” said Grandma in a baby tone, “I'm proud of you.”
Proud of what? I was just afraid of getting chewed out by Mom if I came home with a big, brown splotch on my chest. Wouldn't you?
And looking back on it, I guess by late that evening, I took pity on her and Grandma for having spent an insane amount of money on this stupid dress. I supposed if they were so hell-bent on preserving it, I'd let them. At least I'd get to take it off and never have to wear it again.
I like to think that before I sat down with Father Tito and spit out my guts that I wouldn't have cared either what what happened to the dress. There was almost certainly a softening of the of heart going into the church and coming out, and I gotta blame it on something.
Though frankly, the only thing that could top my humiliation that night was walking out of that restaurant in a big, white dress with stains on it. The last thing I needed was to for someone to point and snicker and say “Looks, Augustus Gloop got into his mother’s wedding dress!”
For the rest of the meal, I stayed sort of quiet, watching the rest of my poundsome party tear into hunks of beef ribslike savages while I sat there and nibbled on a little ketchup-dipped chicken like I were at a tea party. I didn't know what was the more excruciationg part of the experience—thinking about the people watching me, or thinking about the people watching my relatives. Fortunately, even though it was a full house, there were only a few kids I could see out of the corner of my eyes. Unfortunately, I could feel their judgemental little eyes bearing down at me like a sideshow.
That night, I WAS a sideshow. I didn't belong.
I didn't belong in that restaurant.
I didn't belong at that church.
And I didn't belong in this dress.
But maybe... maybe I did belong with this family.
I was like a bent puzzle piece—I'm the right one, but I'm awkward, I and have to be hammered into place with the butt of your hand. I wondered why Jesus would make me such a misfit. Why he would put me in these places that didn't just feel wrong, but look wrong.
Maybe just because.
Every time I look back on this night, I see it in a different light. I seem to resent the smaller details as the main picture continues to face. I recall my disgust for that dress with an increasingly severe nausea, but I can't remember exactly why it gave me such feelings. I remember that ugly feeling glancing left and right in the church and noticing myself as possibly the only duckling in the pond of a different feather than my passel and my shame for that only seems to get worse with age.
However, if I have matured in any amount in the year that followed, it’s that I have formed a new appreciation for that nostalgic memory and those like it. While in those days I didn’t see it or embrace it for how special it was, I would give anything to relive that level of comfort and security again. So much has occurred since those simple days, that if my third grade self would have known what was in store for the future, I might not have resented it so.
I didn't know that my 'first' communion would be my only communion.
I didn’t know that it would be my last time in that church.
I didn’t know that all of my friends from catholic school would drift apart with the passage of time.
I didn’t know that every little resentment I had for my dorky family would seem so petty in year to come, as they too would part from me.
And I didn't know.
Just because I didn't.

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KatsK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 30, 2013 at 1:12 pm
This is really good. You made this relatable. This is really well-written.
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