It was 1977 and I was seven, and there was a blizzard so bad school was cancelled the entire week before, so my hopes were high the streak would continue. Would it work for church too?
“It’s freezing out there, folks. We recommend you don’t go outside unless you absolutely have to,” the voice on the little bedside radio said.
I was sitting on Bobby’s bed, and he was pacing the room, looking at the window each time a gust of wind knocked snow against it. David was standing on his bed leaning against the wall with his arms resting on the windowsill. You could see his breath mark on the glass.
Bobby was nine. He was the oldest and wisest. Or, I suppose, he was the one from whom we learned what worked and what didn’t with mom. Being the eldest, he was the Guinna pig of sorts with mom and dad.
David was a year younger than me, but just barely. Mom and dad were busy in those early years.
“It’s snowing!” shouted Danny as he stomped through the house. Danny would have been two and a half.
Bobby jumped off his bed with an audible thump that was probably louder than Danny’s wail. “No, Dan. You’re gonna wake up mom!”
David and I followed in Bobby’s wake.
“Shh! Quiet!” Bobby was shushing Dan in the dining room when David and I caught up with him.
“Let’s watch TV then,” David said. We trounced into the living room, turned on the TV, and there was nothing but church shows on all 2 of the channels. He flipped the hard to turn dial slowly, waiting a moment between each flip to see if a picture might come in, but each time all we could see was white snow and hear static.
“Hey, look at this,” David said, after several minutes of this process. I saw the picture was very hazy, but could clearly make out the music of Sesame Street.
The four of us sat down in front of the TV. The volume was turned low as possible so we could barely hear it. My stomach grumbled, but knew very well that mom would wake up the moment I set foot in her kitchen. I’d starve.
“Dah! Dah! Dah!” It was Baby Tony.
David and I hopped up and rushed to Tony’s room, which was right off the kitchen next to mom and dad’s.
“We don’t want to wake mom up,” David whispered, patting Tony on the head through the bars of the wood crib.
“Dah! Dah! Dah!”
“Quiet!” I said, poking my face between two bars. Tony bent over and slobbered on my face.
“Dah! Dah! Dah!”
I rushed out of the room, wiping saliva off my face, through the kitchen to the dining room and looked out the window at the front yard and watched the snow blowing every which way.
“Dah! Dah! Dah!”
From Tony‘s room I heard David, “We’ve got to be quiet. Dad’s gonna--”
“I’m up.” It was the familiar voice of dad from the dark bedroom next to Tony’s. Now I could hear the sound of curtains opening, and was certain now that mom was up. I watched as the bedroom quickly filled with white light.
“Crap,” I whispered.
“It doesn’t matter,” Bobby whispered. He was now standing beside me. “It’s already 10:30, too late to get ready for church. We’re safe.”
“All right kids,” Dad said, trudging from his bedroom in his underwear. He scratched his butt, opened a drawer, and drew out a clean pair of underwear. “Get dressed kids. It’s time for church.” He walked down the hallway and closed the door to the bathroom.
“You were too loud, David,” I said, no longer whispering.
“It wasn’t me, it was Tony,” David whined.
“If you would have just left him alone mom never would have--”
“We’ve been up a long time,” mom said. She was out of bed now holding Tony, who was making happy baby sounds. “Come on, Ric, let’s pick out what you’re going to wear.” I followed her, slipped into whatever hand-me-downs she picked out for me, and heard the bathroom door open.
“Well, you looking forward to going to church,” Dad said, smiling. “I love going to church.” I watched as he bounded down the hall naked and into his bedroom. I walked toward the kitchen and, not 30 seconds later, dad bounded into the kitchen already dressed.
“David! Bobby! Let’s go!” he said.
“I’m hungry,” David said as he sauntered into the kitchen, his hair askew.
“Me too,” Bobby said from behind David.
“No time to eat. We can do that after church,” Dad said.
"Awe!!" The audible sound of disappointment from three kids.
Dad drove carefully, but we made it to church just fine.
The organ was playing loud, and I looked back to see. I felt a friendly hand on my forehead, and the hand forced me to look at the front of the church. I slouched while standing, and a friendly hand touched my butt, forcing me to stand straight.
I slouched again, and dad whispered in my ear, “Slouching makes you look lazy.”
I stood straight. I slouched again, and he patted me on the side. I concentrated on not slouching, but found myself looking back at the clock under the balcony where the choir sang, and dad made me aware of what I was doing once again.
Near the end of mass I saw an old man resting his butt on the pew while kneeling, so I did the same. Dad was quick to correct me.
I yawned, and thought of grandma as I covered my mouth. I smiled. This day, at least, dad wasn’t going to discipline me for yawning without covering my mouth. I could hear grandma’s voice clearly though, “Nobody wants to see the inside of your mouth.”
Church ended. I have no idea what Monsignor talked about. Dad never said anything about whether I listened. He never said anything to Bobby and David.
Back home mom was lying in her bed with Danny and Tony snuggled up next to her. Tony was sleeping, and Danny was watching Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt with mom, who smiled as we entered. I heard dad in the kitchen moving pots and pans, and sat at the kitchen bar with David and Bobby and watched as dad cooked pancakes.
Later in the day he cooked French fries. David, Bobby and I got the first batch, and pretended the fries were matches as we lit them by scraping them through the catsup. Dad smiled as he cut up more potatoes. He checked the batch currently sizzling in the grease, and dumped them onto a paper plate covered with a paper towel.
“Here you go boy’s,” he said, smiling. “You want to know something really cool.” He said, as he dumped a new batch into the fryer.
“What?” We all chimed in at once. “These are just as good as McDonald’s Fries. Do you know why?”
“Why?” I said, stuffing my face.
“Because I taught Ronald McDonald how to make fries.”