My friend Lauren has black curls that frame her round face and rosy apple cheeks that make her look like a cherub or that kid on the soup can. She is a year older than I am and has been my best friend forever. Every Sunday after church my family visits with other families and today my parents decided to drop in here, and I’m happy about that. I miss Lauren. When we lived next door to each other, we could play everyday, but now it’s only once in a while.
Lauren has a new board game she wants to play and while she sets up I study her for differences.
“What are you looking at?” she calls me out.
“Nothing,” I say. Except I am. “You’re Catholic, right?”
“Yeah, so what?”
I’d heard my parents arguing last night with Lily, my older sister. My Dad yelled something about not having a daughter of his married to a Catholic and Lily stormed out slamming doors behind her. Mom and Dad continued to talk in raised voices afterwards.
“We’re not allowed to marry Catholics.”
“Yeah, us neither.”
“You’re not allowed to marry Catholics either?!”
“No, Dummy, we’re not allowed to marry Protest….whatever you are.”
“Oh. Why not?”
“I don’t know, they’re different” She looks at me suddenly realizing what she’s said. “I don’t mean like awful different. You’re just fine…. oh… I don’t know what I mean.”
“Me either. I mean, you don’t look different. What’s different about us?”
“Beats me,” Lauren shrugs. “Sometimes adults have funny ideas. Now, to play this game……”
On the way home, I decided to broach the subject. “Dad what is wrong with Catholics?”
“They have different religious beliefs than us.”
“What kind of differences?”
“Well, for one thing they have a Pope that tells them how to live their lives and their churches are run by Priests, men who do not marry.”
“Is that why we don’t like them?”
“Who said we don’t like them?” my Mother pipes in.
“Dad did, last night.”
“I didn’t say we don’t like them, I just don’t want one in the family……I…..” my Father breaks off angrily in his because I say so voice.
My mother looks at me as is to say Let it go, so I stop talking, but I can’t let it go. It doesn’t seem right somehow to judge someone just because they believe in something different. I’m only eight-years-old, but I don’t believe what the Minister says in church every Sunday. Does that make me Catholic?
“What’s wrong with Catholics?” I ask my sister Mai when we get home.
“Nothing except that Lily’s going to marry one.”
“Lily’s getting married?” Why doesn’t anyone tell me anything around here?
“She has to. She’s pregnant.”
“Lily’s pregnant?” This is too much. I march into my parent’s bedroom. “Lily is going to have a baby, and she’s getting married to a Catholic. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it’s not something we are proud of Beth Ann. It is shameful when a teenage girl becomes pregnant before marriage. Your father doesn’t want it to happen. He’s trying to talk her out of the wedding. Now, we won’t be discussing any of this outside of the family, do you understand?”
She doesn’t have to worry about me; I have a lot of sorting out to do. Lily is pregnant – that means I’m going to be an aunt! That’s exciting, right! I’ll be the youngest Aunt around, well except for Janie – she’ll be a four-year-old aunt – that’s crazy! I really like Lily’s boyfriend, but now that I know he’s a Catholic, is that okay? Is this going to change Lily? Will they take her away and make her all Catholic and different? Does this mean Lily will be leaving home?
Maybe my Dad’s right! Maybe this all happened because my sister dated a Catholic.