Back when I was a kid, like all kids, I went through a rebellious stage. No, I didn’t spend my time ‘saucing’ my parents or refusing to do my homework, I did something much more serious.
In the third grade, we shared our school with those dreaded protestants. Being Catholics, we had the best schools and apparently (although most would disagree) the best teachers (if you consider a cranky nun a good teacher).
The golden rule of getting along with the principal and the teachers was to stay away from any student who wasn’t a Roman Catholic. The school was virtually split down the middle, with a huge wall separating the two sections. A large sign read ‘NO ENTRY’ on either side of the wall, and most students did their best to abide to the rules. Not me.
I had a problem determining exactly who was Catholic and who wasn’t. Everyone looked the same to me. The principal even had a school assembly where he pointed out the rule, and threatened punishment by the leather strap if any Catholic kid was caught even talking to a protestant kid. We were taught that those kids were pure evil, and our protective school officials surely didn’t want any of us pure, innocent Catholic kids being led down the garden path by those sinners.
Anyway, there was this kid, Vincent, who worked like a spy on the playground. If he noticed a kid sitting alone, with nobody to play with, he would set that kid up with a friend….a protestant friend, for a price. Usually his price was a sandwich or some cool desert like canned pudding or jelly.
One day, Vincent noticed that I was standing by the sliding board alone, not another child in sight. Vincent slithered over to me and gave me a ‘Pssst’, and pointing to the wooded area behind the school, he invited me over. I remember feeling guilty as hell by going, but what did I have to lose, other kids said he was cool.
When I got to the bushes, Vincent stood there with two kids. A boy and a girl. They looked just like any other kid I had ever seen, no distinguishing marks to let me know that they were the spawn of the devil, so I decided to hear Vincent out.
“I like you kid” he said, “Just for today, I am going to set you up with not one, but two protestant friends. They just moved here from Ontario, and have no friends. I am not going to charge you anything, but mum’s the word if you get caught.” It was like he was a drug dealer or something, and I was drawn into his little scheme.
For the next two weeks, I actually liked going to school. No longer did I spend my recess and dinner breaks alone. I ate lunch and took off outside to play with my new friends. It was fantastic.
And then someone ratted me out. After lunch that day, like every day, I quietly left the cafeteria and actually went to the other side of the building. What did I run into but Sister Kotell (AKA Sister Kotex)!
Dragged by the ear from the playground to the office, and then twenty straps on each hand, my palms almost bled. Each time that leather strap came across my hands, the nun recited readings from the bible and told me how I was never going to enter heaven, and how my eternal soul was going to burn in hell forever….for playing with a kid of a different religion. I was eight years old for crying out loud. I hadn’t developed any prejudices at that time, so how was I to see my wrong doings?
Looking back at it now, I realize just how foolish the world was. My dad said that when he was a kid, he was told that protestants (anyone who wasn’t Catholic) all had yellow bellies. They were told never to check, but that they should believe in God, and God would protect them from the evil.
What would those morons think now that I am married to an Anglican, my brother to a United Church person, one of my sisters to a Salvation Army person, and my other to an atheist? You know what? They still don’t look any different than anyone else. Our school officials are probably rolling in their graves right now! Maybe they are burning in hell for teaching young kids racism and hate at such a young and innocent age. I hope so anyway.