Going to church every Sunday is another ritual Little Johnny enjoys. Grandpa and grandma are not regular church-goers. So, the neighbors offer to take Little Johnny to church with them every Sunday. The music and singing of hymns and songs enthrall Little Johnny.
The two churches at the end of the street sit across from each other on two corners. Going to one does not need Little Johnny to cross the street, so that’s where Little Johnny goes alone or with the neighbors. A few years later, a Not-So-Little Johnny learns to cross the street by himself. He has been instructed and trained to look left first, then right, and then left again before stepping into the street. Now he goes to the other church, the one to which grandpa and grandma belong. With his angelic looks and sweet singing voice, Johnny is soon an altar boy.
The altar boy days come to a swift end. The priest catches Johnny and his little pal-in-crime in the basement. Both are guzzling the communion Mogen David straight from the bottle. A stern admonishment follows.
“That is the Blood of Christ.”
Little Johnny corrects the priest. “No, it’s not! Grandpa says it’s Mad Dog!”
Solemn summons goes out to grandpa for a one-on-one with the priest. The situation requires serious remedial action. A brief discussion ends with a decision. Johnny will attend a week-long Christian camp conducted by the church.
Johnny goes to camp and enjoys it. Surprise! Surprise! The camaraderie with new friends, new adventures, and the singing are magnificent. The lessons… boring. That is, until the last day. Johnny is kicking rocks as he waits for his pals to show up for their last evening of fun. A young boy and girl come strolling by holding hands. A priest sees them and scolds them for the physical contact. Johnny, eleven-years-wise, realizes something’s amiss. And feels compelled to set it right.
“It’s okay, Father. They are going steady.”
Poor Little Johnny gets a verbal chewing out on the last day of an otherwise fun punishment!
Back home, there is a lot of telling off. Johnny takes a firm stand. He is never ever going to camp again, never! Mildred, grandpa, and grandma admire Johnny’s determination and are also concerned. No amount of reasoning is going to work. Amidst loud sniffling and rushes of tears, Johnny wails.
“Holding hands is a sin, grandpa? Since when?”
A quiet Mildred listens, corners of her mouth suppressing a smile. Her thoughts, “That’s my boy, setting the world straight.”
Of course, Johnny returns to church. The music and the singing have cast their magical spell.
And school is problematic but fun. Johnny specializes in dipping pigtails in inkwells. A few times, Mildred has to meet the teacher to discuss Johnny’s progress or the lack thereof. Mildred has to take time off from work for these meetings.
At work, Mildred always presents a professional, polished image. She is a staunch admirer of her mother, Camille, whom she once describes as, “A very vain woman of much beauty.” Camille never steps out of the house without her hat, snow-white gloves, and pocketbook. She always makes sure her car is in keeping with her elegant visage. Her daughter, Mildred, has learned well and always presents a chic and stylish image to the outside world.
Arriving at school, Mildred knocks on the class door, and the boys and girls are all atwitter on seeing who it is. Little Johnny looks up and blushes as a domino of whispers, “It’s Johnny’s mom,” races through the classroom. Mildred smiles at the teacher and the class. Together they review a couple of samples of Johnny’s homework. Mildred is not surprised at the lack of diligence and the sloppy incomplete work. Her smile is now a frown, and she glances at Johnny, who looks away. With a serious promise to the teacher to take remedial action and a flashing smile to the class, Mildred is gone. Little Johnny heaves a sigh of relief and clowns at the giggling class. He also starts planning his defense for grandpa. Does not include clowning.