“Jesus tastes like cardboard.”

It was May 7, the day before mother’s day. I had slept in sponge curlers for at least 36 hours. When I took them out my hair was still straight with a few added kinks and plenty of extra frizz. I wanted more than anything to be just like my big sister on her day. But, no matter how hard I tried, her hair is naturally curly, and mine is not. My dress was the prettiest acrylic lace a seven year old could ever imagine. Its hoop skirt made me feel like a princess, and only caused a little bit of difficulty when I was kneeling. I was the only little girl wearing a veil, and I loved it. It was a bright sunny day, and my smile showed every single one of my baby teeth. I ran as fast as I could to show my dad my dress. He was definitely impressed. I was the first to process in because I was just as small back then as I am now. I can still remember Father’s homily, and my psalm speaking part. I didn’t even need a microphone, but, it was realllllly fun to talk into one. I was confident in God’s love, and I looked like a toy bride. It was definitely one of the best days of my life.
Today, as I witnessed my second grade CCD class receive Jesus for the first time, I remembered my own day and all of the excitement with which it was filled. I cried 8 times during Mass today. Their smiles, white paten leather, fake taffeta, real taffeta, glitter nail polish, botched signs of the cross, the over zealous bowing, the “please, can you fix my veil again,” and “how many more minutes?!?!” and, in particular, the one very special boy in the all-white suit (my Godson Daniel) made those tears fall steadily and happily.

I tried to quit teaching CCD at least 200 times this year, because having a third baby and spending the little free time I have to teach a group of rowdy kids that aren’t mine, is hard, and, sometimes, annoying. I’m terrible at arts and crafts and that’s what second graders like to do. I’m also bad at disciplining, so on more than one occasion, they were running around the class drawing on each other with markers, knocking down chairs, or pulling the preschool kids artwork off the walls. The thing is, though, teaching second grade is the best way to learn about God, and what matters most. They confuse the Annunciation with Dewali, because those are both big fancy words and who cares what the name is when they know what happened. Gothic and gossip are pretty much the same thing and both are stupid and a bad decision. They give up putting on make up and eating skittles for Lent, because that’s the hardest thing they can think of, and they want to make God happy. They bring purses shaped like dogs filled with colored pencils and stickers, and wear shirts that say “Gangnam Style” because fashion is supposed to be fun and expressive. They make homemade cards that say “I’m happy you had a baby girl named Rita, God loves her and I hope you do too” because they know that all babies should be loved. They pray for their sick, dying, or dead pets every single week because they really like their pets and they understand mercy. They fight over what color lollipop they want, who won musical chairs, and whose turn it is to be line leader, prayer leader, bathroom leader, or door holder because they understand justice. They tell their teacher a lot of stuff about their parents that they shouldn’t because they are transparent and honest. They cannot possibly tell a story without squirming, because they really want to make sure its told properly and the truth matters. They absolutely love to raise their hands and say, “I forget” because forgetting is much better than being held accountable for a wrong answer. And If someone farts, class should be dismissed immediately, because there is absolutely no way to ever get them to ever pay attention ever again because farts are always funny and humor is a virtue. They tell you they are still nervous to receive communion and want to practice again, even when everyone did it perfectly 5 times in a row, because we are practicing with cheddar Goldfish and they really want another Goldfish. They squint their eyes really hard when they are praying because they want me to know they are seriously trying and that its important to pray. They are excited to make their first Reconciliation, and own their sins with no guilt at all, because they want to be best friends with Jesus. And on the day of their first Communion, their purity makes the whole church smile, and reconsider what that little piece of bread is really all about, even if it does “taste like cardboard.”

A big congratulations, and an even bigger thank you, to all of my second grade students on this very special day.

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