Trash Wednesday

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I wonder sometimes why I can remember some things well back into my past, and other times I have no recollection of events just as far removed.

I think it’s common with most people, and if not I don’t want to know.

For instance, I can remember like it was yesterday when JFK was assassinated. I was coming home from St. Anne’s School in ranks (where we would be led blocks from the school by seventh- or eighth-grade crossing guards). I thought the world was coming to an end by the reactions I saw around me.

I remember Bobby Orr flying through the air after winning the Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins in 1970.

I remember my mémère’s dog Prince, a big fluffy old German Shepherd who gladly followed and protected a plethora of grandchildren, including me. Prince mostly understood French. To get Prince’s attention we would say, “Viens tant, Prince,” and she would be there in a French-Canadian second.

And of course I remember falling out of a tree at age 11 and completely breaking the radius and ulna in my left arm. I lost a whole summer vacation on that one.

But for the life of me I cannot remember things like my First Communion and Confirmation. I did make them, I have the pictures.

I can’t remember graduating from St. Anne’s School in eighth grade, and I can’t recall how I felt when the turtle that belonged to my brother and me, Sammy, died.

But there’s one day in my life I will never forget — Ash Wednesday circa 1966.

At that time I was always with my cousin Janet. We were inseparable.

On that Ash Wednesday my mom and Janet’s mom (sisters) told us to go to St. Mary’s Cathedral to get ashes. It was a simpler time then, and we weren’t afraid to walk the neighborhood.

Being the dutiful and obedient children we were, we did. We went to the cathedral and received ashes.

But sometimes in life things don’t play out as expected.

Our family lived across the street from my mom’s parents and several of her brothers and sisters. That was a big yard where everyone played (and was home to the tree that spit me out).

My pépère had a trash barrel at the far end of the property where he would burn trash (again, it was a simpler time then). And after torching a barrel full of trash, Pep would dump the barrel and ultimately toss the cooled ashes into his garden. So it wasn’t uncommon for ashes to be everywhere.

Well, when Janet and I returned and proudly went in to show our moms that we had done as we were told, both our moms accused us of taking ashes from the yard, placing it on our foreheads then simply going for a walk to kill time.

Nothing we could say convinced them otherwise. We were devastated. Even at that age, I learned what it was like to be falsely accused. 

I’m not sure about Janet, but I eventually convinced my mom we went to church that day. She was in her 90s.

Well, that “Trash Wednesday” has remained “burned” into my brain ever since.

If Janet and I had given them any reason not to trust us, then it’s just one of those things I simply cannot remember (put winking smiley face here).

davejolivet@anchornews.org



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