Palm Sundays Warmed Up and Served Cold

Written By: Gary Stroud

I have always been a true believer in the Horatio Alger myth –Work hard and get ahead, tossed in with a sprinkle of Superman’s truth, justice and the American way. Growing up was oh so simple back then:
you went to school,
followed the Golden Rule
and didn’t act like a fool or a tool.
Back in the day, when my mama used to take me to church at Our Lady Of Ostrabrama Roman Catholic Church in Cutchogue-I believed that it was the most beautiful Church on the entire East End of the North Fork.
This was before the hot flashes started and stopped her from going.
As a child I used to use the palms to go fishing at Mass.
My mama used to say, “Stop doing that.”
But when my pre-school attention span
did not hold me for more than a few minutes,
the pinching started. It worked.
A few years later before catechism class each Sunday at the nine o’clock children’s mass at the same gorgeous Church,
Sister Priscilla would also pinch me. I had to sit next to Sister Priscilla because my dad had taught me to stand up to miscreants, troublemakers, ne’er do wells and bullies.
On this one particularly gloriously, beautiful Palm Sunday morning I had walked to Mass by myself early to be the first in line to go in. There’s nothing like working hard to get ahead. My adolescent brain was chuck full of incense and a feeling of exhilaration like Sir Edmund Hillary must have experienced when he made the second assent to the summit of Mount Everest. To paraphrase a Cream song. I was “sitting on top of the world.’ So therefore I was amazed when some older snakish, rakish looking boy showed up fifteen minutes later and letting his hands be the devil’s workshop, stood right in front of me.
“Excuse me?” I asked the older, larger boy,
“But I was here first.”
“So whaddaya gonna do about it?”
He asked back with his most inSINcere Eddie Haskell/Martin Shkreli smirk that told me that this tete-a-tete was not going to be about logic or fairness but rather Darwin’s Survival of the fittest where the weak perish and the strong survive, so my reptilian brain clicked into “Flight or Fight mode.”
” I was here first,” I responded, ” you should get behind me.”
“Make me!” threatened the boy with two horns and a tail.
I said, “I’m giving you fair warning, if you don’t get behind me I’m gonna punch you in the nose.” Now my dad had been an amateur Golden Gloves boxer and my old man had taught me a few things about honor and justice. Having grown up to the taunts of his name Hartsel- like Hartsel Fartsel- my old man had more than his fair share of abuse in school with his having to endure these taunts. Little did I know that this tiny bit of martial arts training would come back and bite me in the derriere within the next five minutes.My new adversary just laughed in my face and began to mock me. To this day I don’t really recall what happened next; perhaps the paraclete of the holy spirit took over my body, but what I do I remember is Sister Priscilla’s grabbing me by the arm and yelling at me, while ol’ Snake eyes, the other boy, was bleeding from his lip. So that’s why I had to sit next to Sister Priscilla until after I had made my first communion.
I was pretty sure Jesus was on my side that day. I know that he believed in turning the other cheek and all. I don’t remember if the other boy threw the first punch or I just reacted. The end result would be the same. My mom was upset with me, but my dad was proud that I had defended myself.
I try to stay away from Palm Sunday masses these days.
Too much bizarre ju ju for me on this day. Besides I don’t need a congregation to experience the sensation of connection and unity. I am connected to every other atom that vibrates in this cosmos. A walk in nature always connects me. But savoring that titillating church incense would be nice. And palms, palms would
be nice. I miss the palms. Om Mani Padme Hume!