Kage Baker was a veteran of Catholic school – an all girls’ high school, in particular. She and I, Anne and Kimberly (and eventually Anne’s daughter Annie, too) all went to Immaculate Heart High School. Kage used to tell people its initials – IHHS, which we all wore embroidered on our uniform breasts – stood for “I Have Had Sex”. Yeah, right.
One of the great advantages of parochial school back then was the holiday schedule: bottom line, you got more of them. Our Christmas breaks were longer; we went back to class usually a week later in the fall than the public school kids; and we had a number of days off for religious events like the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Of course, those extra days were technically Holy Days of Obligation – the Obligation being, you had to go to Mass – but once that was out of the way, it was Liberty For All Hands!
Of course, this was all pre-Vatican II. One of the many efforts Rome made then to convince the Protestants that we were not just fancily-dressed pagans involved disenfranchising a lot of saints and their days. We lost some of the Days of Obligation. I never felt trading them for guitar Masses was really a great bargain …
Those particular magic beans never yielded a bean stalk, either. From being allowed to hear Mass in English, Catholics quickly went to required. People got excommunicated for saying a Latin Mass; they schismed for the right to keep the Latin and other old rites; and very few people learned to play a guitar well enough to warrant singing the Introit to its twangy dissonance. In Kage’s freshman year at IHHS, Latin was still a required language; by my entrance a year later, it was dead and gone … eight years of learning to sing Greek and Latin, and suddenly I was expected to know “Rock of Ages”? Don’t even mention the peppy, preppy crap the “young” priests wrote special for us …
I had never been much of a Christian; I took off for religious pastures where hymns to God sounded like love songs rather than commercial jingles. Besides, all our extra holidays vanished.
I thought of that today while driving past old IHHS, and seeing the flower of Catholic maidenhood returning all disconsolate to their educational cloister. LAUSD – for which Kimberly and her husband Ray both teach – is still out for a third week of winter holiday right now and the public schoolyards are blissfully free of students. The entire household has slowed to a delicious torpor, broken this morning only by poor Michael, who as a college student had to report back today. (His father slept in, radiating false sympathy like a smug nuclear reactor.)
Kimberly and I were also up, because I had lab tests to complete. Wending our way to West LA was interesting, especially as two weeks of weather have bred potholes like mushrooms in the streets. Tinsel and lights are looking decidedly tacky along Melrose today: West L.A. has grown older, and tame. What was the Southern California capital of freaky wildness is now all retro tiles and gilding and excruciatingly cutting-edge fashions. There are Staples and Trader Joe’s and Subways, and only smoke shop I saw was selling imported cigars instead of bongs.
I remember going to the Whiskey with Kage – she in sandals and a gypsy scarf, me barefooted and wearing a yard of lace. Today there was a tour bus parked in front of it… Small wonder I have somehow gotten old enough for my heart to start stuttering!
Tomorrow: Isaac Newton’s birthday