My First Communion Black Eye
Friday afternoon! The best day of the week for eight-year-old me. I jump off the back stoop and hit the dirt with my new cherry red Keds. The brisk April wind whistles in my ears as I race to the swing set under the
old, overgrown maple tree. Sometimes I pump so hard, the right front pole lifts right up off the ground. It’s fun, though. A little scary, but a good scary.
I tilt my head back, wind-whipped hair flapping around my face. I look up at the sky, so far away. It’s the same faded blue as my grandmother’s apron. A few planes crisscross overhead, leaving white tails in their wake. I raise my arm and wave, wondering if the pilot can see me. I should be careful, though. The Russians are supposed to be watching us. It’s a creepy thought. It scares me sometimes, especially when I’m just about to fall asleep. My mother told me not to worry, but I do.
We have air raid drills at school. When the sirens sound, the whole class has to go out in the hall. We kneel down, face the wall, and curl up like cats on the shiny floor. The custodian, Mr. Johnson, is very proud of his floors. He spends a lot of time making figure eights with a heavy buffing machine. Back and forth, back and forth, until the green floors gleam like glass. His job looks like fun, except when someone throws up. When that happens, he has to haul a big yellow bucket and stinky white mop out of the janitor’s closet. I feel sorry for him, then. But he never seems to mind.
Our teacher, Miss Rossi, says, “Class, this is what I want you to do when you’re kneeling.” She laces her fingers together. I half-expect her to say, “Here is the church, here is the steeple . . .” but of course she doesn’t. I wonder, in my second-grade abstract way, how my two hands could
possibly save my neck (or head) from dropping bombs. I decide the adults must have figured that out.
Even though tomorrow is Saturday, we’re going to church. Marilyn, a Jewish girl in my class, said she goes to Temple on Saturday. I wish I could go! I can’t visit, though. I think it’s a sin. My cousin is Presbyterian. I like to say that word out loud: Pres — by — ter — i — an. I want to visit her church, too. But, we’re Catholic. It’s not allowed.