I received an e-mail from the principal of my daughter, Liv's school yesterday.
Dear Ms. Lastname,
It is my pleasure to inform you that your daughter, Liv, is being offered a very unique opportunity. As you may know, one of the assignments for Liv's English class was to pick a saint and write an essay about them. Liv chose St. Apollonia, the patron saint of dentists. With your permission and her assent, we would like to have her read it aloud at 5 o'clock mass this Saturday at St. Tiffany's. Please respond by Tuesday, January 22. Congratulations to Liv!
Mrs. Principal Lady.
My first thought (and maybe yours too) was "Why would Liv pick the patron saint of dentists?" I mean, there are so many others to choose from.
She could have chosen the patron saint against bovine spongiform encephalopathy: St. Saturnimus.
The patron saint against vermin: St. Magnus.
The patron saint against boils: St. Eligius.
The patron saint of bar keepers: St. Amand.
The patron saint of chicken farmers: St. Brigid.
Or...the saint that I was assigned to write about in high school: St. Agatha. I was assigned this saint along with another girl and we discovered that she was the patron saint of breast pain. We went trolling for a painting or drawing of her and, to our horror, EACH and EVERY one we found was either of her arms being held by burly looking tormentors while other creepy ass men seemed to be applying hot tongs to her nipples or she was portrayed as a demure, smiling woman holding a tray....holding two perky breasts. We knew that showing these pictures might get us expelled from school or tormented unmercifully by teasing bands of boys with boners, so we chose to simply show her from the shoulders up, sans tray of boobs.
This is what happens, I thought to myself, when you go to Catholic school. At least, Liv didn't have a name thrust on her, she got to pick.
But why St. Apollonia? As far as I know, Liv has no obsession with dentists. She does wear braces but her braces are far different than the tinlike variety that I suffered with during seventh and eighth grade. Hers are practically invisible. Seriously. You can barely see them. She will not have to worry about smart ass boys pretending to be blinded when she smiles on a sunny day.
But, hey....I'm not bitter or anything. Even though that crooked front tooth went RIGHT back to being crooked when I was in college.
I told Liv about the e-mail. She said that she had received an e-mail from the principal too and she was fine with reading it. She asked me if I wanted to hear it and I decided that I'd rather just be surprised along with everyone else next weekend. I mean, how often do I get to not only go to mass but also be entertained with an essay about a dead holy dentist?
I don't mind the mass, although I only go sporadically. Actually, the only time I go is when Liv requests that I take her. Bing hasn't set foot in a Catholic church in decades but I am guessing that she will go with us since she never misses a chance to see Liv perform, whether it be in a swimming pool, a basketball court, a soccer field, a stage in an auditorium or now...a Catholic church.
Liv seems to be without any stage fright, her only request was that I not wear one of my gypsy skirts, or as she calls them, your Stevie Nicks outfits. She thought for a moment and then also asked that I not wear what she calls my Annie Hall look either. I asked her if she would like to pick out my outfit and she nodded happily before realizing that I was being sarcastic.
I have half a mind to wear my dark blue swirly skirt with witches on their brooms all over it. Maybe wear my hair down and frizzed out like Stevie's. I could wear a bowler hat too. And maybe a man's vest. And a white man's shirt with a tie. That could be my combo Stevie/Annie Hall look.
No, I'll wear one of my dresses that my mother would have loved.
Liv sat on a stool watching me bake brownies. She used to like to help. Now, she just shows up to lick the bowl, usually. I told her all about St. Agatha and how now she has to cart her breasts around on a tray. She was aghast.
"I chose St. Apollonia because I love the name," she said. But, you know she was also tortured. They pulled out her teeth."
Well, now. Why doesn't this surprise me? And I remember that when I was a child the ONLY book that my parents would let me take to church with us was a tome called Lives of the Saints. I remember being horrified over and over again at the shenanigans that were pulled as pius Catholics everywhere were tortured right and left for their beliefs. I remember being fascinated by a rendering of some saint (Sebastian?) who was tied to a pole with a dart sticking out of his bare chest and blood trickling down. He was looking upward at heaven and smiling, as if he and baby Jesus were sharing a little joke about the crazy people down here on earth. My MOTHER condoned this book and smiled at me. This is the same parent who refused to allow me to watch television shows about talking horses because she thought they were somehow frivolous and ungodlike. But, hey...watching people being tortured was okey dokey? I could gaze at a woman getting her nipples pulled off with hot tongs but couldn't hear a horse talk?
Welcome to my childhood.
So, next weekend, I will learn St. Apollonia's story of getting her teeth yanked out for God.
At least it isn't her breasts.
I told Liv that is exactly why I wish she'd rethink going to a Catholic high school.
She took a big spoon lick of my brownie batter.
"Mama, it isn't all about torture," she said. "Some parts of Catholicism are really interesting."
Like what? Like selling dispensations or Cardinals having several children even though they were supposed to be celibate?
I smell a debate just waiting to happen. But...first...I'll listen to her essay.
But, the ride home from mass may get dicey. The joy of having a mother who wears whatever the hell she wants to mass and then debates with you in the car on the way home? She could do worse.
I could wear my nun's habit just for fun. I have one in the far back of the closet that I wore for Halloween one year before she was born.
She could do worse, I tell ya. She could do SO much worse.