Down Lifes Highway
Roots Of My Raising
April 26 — the date of this publication. Why would April 26 have special significance to me? Alright, let me explain.
I was raised in South Louisiana in a poor Cajun family without the benefit of a father. My mother and grandmother were strict disciplinarians who believed all children should be well mannered and do what they were told. Above all, they believed in the Catholic faith and its teachings. It was compulsory that all good Catholic Cajun kids attend and be cleared through all function of the church.
This brings me to the highlight of Thursday, April 26, 7 a.m. That’s the day and time I made my first Communion.
It wasn’t only an eventful day for this young “turk” but something the whole family took pride in. A milestone in all Catholic families.
About the time I made my first Communion, times were extremely bad in my family and I was already a breadwinner. We had very little and I venture to say probably one of the poorest families around. However, I managed to take Catechism lessons. I don’t recall what that cost — very little but it was hard to come by.
I don’t recall much about the lady who gave us those lessons. There usually were three or four students at a time. I do recall, however, how impressed I was with a big Edison gramophone that she had. It had a great big speaker on it. After lessons she would usually play some of her records. I mostly remember Jimmy Rodgers. If time permitted, I always stayed over when she was kind enough to play it for me.
I remember my mother scurrying about trying to make arrangements so I would have a wardrobe like the other kids. All of it was borrowed. Pants were pinned up at the waist and the legs folded under at the bottom. The coat was borrowed from someone else and fit fairly well with the tie and shoes she’d managed to outfit me with for the big event. The first time I’d ever been dressed up and the last time for a long time.
Each boy marched in the procession with a girls partner and incidentally, after many years of not seeing my partner, I one day, four or five years ago, discovered that she lives right here in Orange, Texas — Anna Belle Hebert Rost. I was small for my age but Anna Belle was even smaller. That was a big day in our lives.
Immediately following the services, we all went across the street from St. Mary Magadalene Church to the old Knight Studio and had our pictures taken. He would give us the first picture free and you bought the rest for grandmothers, aunts, uncles, or what all. All we got was the free one. Our family had extended itself jus seeing me through the first Communion.
The ceremony in the small town of Abbeville, where everyone was predominantly Catholic, was an important happening. It sticks out in my mind today for several reasons. I guess maybe the dressing up, even though it was all borrowed. I felt a sense of belonging and wasn’t ashamed of the way I looked. Maybe it was because of my family making so much over me and being so proud that the one and only boy had received his special sacraments.
I was a religious kid and lived with a fear of God. I would not displease him. If I did I was genuinely sorry. I took to my faith like a duck to water. I guess maybe in our condition, we had so little and knew the pains of hunger, I had to have lots of faith. And we were rich with it.
We never had any transportation from home to the big church but we attended regularly, walking every mile and never complaining.
I look back on those days and wonder where we went wrong. Have the prosperous times made us soft? Has society tainted our faith? Probably not. People have a tendency of forgetting quite easily.
We don’t care to recall the bad times and along with it, many good things are forgotten. If nothing else but for the sake of reasoning to what point we have come, we need to all go back to a special event way back then and follow our course to the present.
I went back to this special day, April 26. It’s amazing how many curves a man can take in his life time. The path always becomes somewhat straighter when we go back to our roots, it’s teachings and upbringing.