Lent begins today, forty days of sacrifice.
On Ash Wednesday as uniformed girls in
Catholic school we were given
boxes with forty pockets meant
to hold forty nickels. If we managed
to fill all of the pockets with nickels
we were entitled to purchase and name
a pagan baby! What an extravagant prize!
A child a human being (even a pagan)
is by any measurement quite a prize.
My sister dutifully gave up her nickels
in exchange for a document
certifying that she had indeed
purchased and named a pagan baby.
She named the pagan baby Kathleen Marie
after me. Handily, all of us schoolchildren
had also learned to baptize any hapless
pagans in the unlikely event we
encountered one in Real Life.
My own nickels likely went the way
of Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate bars.
I was never much good at Lent.