My cousin Sue is 2 years older than me. When we were little girls we often played together. She was the one who always thought up things for us to do that might get us in trouble and usually did. She had that mischievous streak. My grandparents called her “the ring leader” and my mother sometimes called her “the sh*t disturber.” I remember when I heard my mother call her this and asked what it meant. She said it was someone who liked to cause trouble.
One day my cousin and I were playing in my room. We were going through the top drawer of my dresser examining the contents. I had a little plastic bottle that was meant to hold a small supply of Holy Water from the church. Holy Water is water that has been blessed by the priest and thought to have special powers to bless the members of the parish.
My cousin convinced me it would be a good idea to go to my local church and fill the bottle with holy water. So off we went to the church which was about 2 city blocks from where I lived.
We were at the back of the church trying to fill my bottle from the Holy Water font and we were probably being a bit too noisy about it with some spilling and giggling.
That was when Mr. Coffee the caretaker at the church spotted us and was in hot pursuit. As we exited the side door of the church I felt him grab hold of me and angrily ask what we were doing. He caught us by surprise. My cousin said he came out of no where. I guess he thought two little girls were capable of massive destruction and he was determined to put a stop to it. I was mortified. I tried to explain that we weren’t doing anything bad. My cousin shouted at him to let me go. I freed myself from his grasp and we ran all the way back to my house.
You have to understand my personality at that time. I was really the good little girl who was so serious and sensitive. I was very upset as we reported the incident to my mother. I spoke to my cousin about this incident and she remembered I was hysterical.
My mother called to complain about my treatment and explain how very serious I was about my religion, did not intend to do anything wrong and that I was terribly upset.
I was afraid Mr. Coffee would get me in trouble with the nuns at my school. I never heard anything more about it. I am sure I worried about it for quite a while.
It is funny what you remember from your childhood. I attended the Catholic School until the middle of 4th grade when we moved to the suburbs of The City. We referred to San Francisco as The City.
Another memory I have from that time is that we wrote J.M.J. on the top of all of our school work. This stood for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. My father was Irish American and would swear sometimes. One way he would express exasperation would be to say, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”
I don’t think I used this expression as a young adult very often. Except, I remember, when I was in labor with my son. As the pain became more intense and I experienced yet another contraction, I said to my Nurse, ” I’m having another one!,” meaning a contraction. She answered me with, ” Oh, are you having a contraction?” I yelled out, ” Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what do you think I’m having?”
I had lost touch with my Irish American roots. My father never talked of any Irish history or culture. He was not religious. Then I watched one of my favorite films, “Only the Lonely,” directed by Chris Columbus and starring John Candy, Maureen O’Hara, Ally Sheedy, Jim Belushi and Anthony Quinn. It is about an Irish American family in Chicago.
John Candy is a policeman, Danny Muldoon, and lives with his overbearing mother, Rose, played by Maureen O’Hara. And guess what? In the film I hear Rose say in exasperation, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” It took me back and I realized this is a common Irish American thing to say.
Well, I do highly recommend the film and not just because of that exclamation. It is a romantic comedy. It has some great music like Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” and “Someone Like You” by Van Morrison.