If you aren’t a religious person, you may not realize that Lent started yesterday with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time honored tradition for Catholics in particular as they give up something and stop eating meat on Fridays. Lent eventually leads to Easter but not before “Palm Sunday”, “Maundy Thursday” and “Good Friday” are celebrated. (Yes, I know lent is celebrated by many forms of Christianity, I’m just being facetious.)
What you may not realize is there is another holy day in there called Chalk Thursday. Chalk Thursday was started as a way of honoring those Catholics who have had their ash crosses on Ash Wednesday removed by the ignorant who thought it was a smudge of dirt not a religious symbol of repentance to be worn until sundown.
Let me explain a bit further.
My best friend and roommate in college, Fred, is a good Catholic girl. She was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school, and even graduated from an all-girls Catholic private school. The graduation from her Catholic school is a scene that could only be repeated in the south, but I digress. Anyway, even in college, she attended mass every Sunday. Heck, Fred was even a virgin until she got married. (Then she did the good Catholic thing, the shunned birth control in favor of the natural family planning method which is a perfectly good method that resulted in her giving birth to her first child 9 months after the wedding night. Ahh, irony!)
On Ash Wednesday, Fred and another Catholic friend would walk down to the local Catholic church to attend the Ash Wednesday services. They would come back with the ash crosses smudged on their foreheads and proceed on with their day.
Enter – Garbanzo, my pretty ignorant to organized religion boyfriend. He had never noticed the ash crosses on their forehead until that year. At lunch that Ash Wednesday, he walked up to Fred and tried to be helpful by wiping off the ash cross. Thankfully, Fred was pretty good natured about it after initially giving him a little Catholic guilt, then spending the rest of lunch educating him on Ash Wednesday, the true punishment for him.
The next night, another friend and I were down playing pool with Fred as she worked in the games room at the college. We did it to keep her company – and play free pool.
Just so that no one gets this impression that we were some sort of pool sharks or anything, playing pool with us was dangerous. While we could get good shots periodically, our brand of pool was best described as slop. No good or easy shot, hit the ball as hard as you can to break up the balls and hope for a good shot later. Oh, and if you are standing near where the ball was being shot, get out of the way….it could be dangerous. Fred was particularly adept at launching the balls off of the table.
Garbanzo later showed up (trying to avoid a paper, I think) and joined in the pool game. Midway through the game, he reached over and put a mark on Fred’s forehead where the ash mark was using pool cue chalk. When she asked what he was doing, he declared that he was celebrating Chalk Thursday. And, insisted that she wear it until sunrise or it wore off on its own, whichever happened first. I can still see the look on her face as he was explaining it to her. It was a mixture of amusement and wondering how and the hell he came up with that one.
To give Fred credit, I believe she did wear it for a while. She was that kind of a person – really could care less about what others thought. That’s why we all loved her. That, and when she was tired, her Texas accent, which was never very prominent, would become very thick, and we enjoyed having her say things like:
“There is no basement in the Alamo” (And most of this scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure:)
Sorry for the detour, but I had forgotten how much of this we used to have her recite. In fact, I still can’t say “tortilla” like a normal person – it’s a combination of that tour guide and Fred.
Anyway, fast forward 17 years later, and we all still wish each other happy Chalk Thursday.
So, Happy Chalk Thursday to you all, I mean, y’all!