Antique Childhood, Faith, Mildly Amusing

It Made Sense At The Time

Whenever I’ve talked about how that at St. Cabrini, where I attended Catholic grade school, our 4th grade class saved up to buy a pagan baby, I’ve gotten one of two responses.  People who did not attend Catholic school in the 1960s will look at me in stunned silence as though I were from Mars.  People who did attend Catholic school will nod their head knowingly and sigh at the utter absurdity of the notion.

Sister Mary TwiggyHow does a fourth grader go about buying a pagan baby you might wonder?  Well, we brought our scavenged pennies and nickels into school and put them in a jar until we finally had enough to send off for a pagan baby, I guess from the pagan baby store which was probably somewhere in California.  That’s where everything cool was, or at least that’s what mid-western Catholic school kids thought.  If you could get your parents to move to California, then you could automatically be cool.  Anyway, $4 and some box tops later, or something like that, and we were the proud owners of a heathen.  I have no idea how much a pagan baby cost, no one ever told us, and being good Catholic children, we didn’t ask.

Eventually we would get a certificate of some kind in the mail.  The class would vote on a name and afterwards we would have a naming ceremony.  For a baby girl, Sister always pushed us to choose Mary something – Mary Beth, Mary Alice, Mary Margaret, Mary Catherine, Mary Jane, whatever.  The Mary list is endless. For a boy we were expected to choose a name like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  But in 1969 the names we fourth graders favored were names like Ringo and Twiggy.

Since it was a class vote with Sister having two votes to our every one, we compromised on Mary Twiggy. We thought it so very funny to exasperate Sister with our zanyness.  As a class, we were supposed to pray for the salvation of little Mary Twiggy throughout the school year. So you see, there was a seed of goodness buried deep deep within such a warped idea.  And somehow?  It made sense at the time.

I wonder what ever became of Mary Twiggy…

Originally published July 2006.

32 thoughts on “It Made Sense At The Time

  1. Ohhhhh, I remember that. I wasn’t Catholic, but most of my friends were. And I remember being very jealous of the pagan babies, the fish frys, the church carnivals, and yes, even catechism. I felt very left out.

  2. So… I am one of those non-Catholic-school-people from Mars. Who got the money that the sweet 4th graders scrimped and saved and sacrificed?

  3. Oh my, I haven’t laughed this much in a loooong time. It’s a good thing I sent my SweetiePie off on a road trip because I have spent hours reading your blog and laughing out loud. Thank you for sharing your humor and your love…you have one of the brightest lights I have seen shine in a looong time.

  4. My sweet husband grew up in a very Catholic household and attended Catholic grade school. I don’t know if his class ever adopted a pagan baby, but I do know he still has nun flashbacks!

  5. Wow, that’s funny. You really need to read a short story called “The School” by Donald Barthelme. He talks about adopting a child in a far away country, and says something along the lines of “maybe we adopted her too late or something. The letter we received didn’t list the cause of death.” It’s a very funny story.

  6. The new site is just gorgeous. I love it!! I’m not sure – but she’s probably in counseling somewhere. I think it has something to do with her name!!

  7. Somehow when I was reading Christopher Durang’s “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You” I just had the feeling that he wasn’t exaggerating about the things that happened in Catholic school…you know…back in the day. Pagan babies, hmmm?

  8. Your site looks awesome. Congrats on the move. Maybe you could wear your maternity clothes a while longer if you’re in the process of buying another pagan baby…

  9. Overwhelmed, I guesss since you didn’t go to Catholic school, your knuckles are ears are still in pretty good shape.

    People ask me sometimes if I’m still Catholic and I always say, if you are born in Japan and move to the US, are you no longer Japanese? It’s part of me – for better or weird – no matter where I go to church.

  10. Is this like adopting a child from World Vision? I’m still trying to understand if Mary Twiggy actually arrived in a box, breathing and in need of a diaper change and who took her home for summer vacation. Love love love the new look. Gorgeous!

  11. Poor Sister T.! 😀 Trying to make all the horrible little children into good Catholics! We used to sing to our 4th grade teacher (Mrs. Robinson) “Jesus loves you more than you will know” from the Simon and Garfunkel song. We had NO IDEA what the song was really about!

    I guess the correct word would be that your class “sponsored” a pagan baby. But that’s only an adult interpretation. The baby was probably in Asia somewhere. That’s where the pagans were. The heathens (protestants) were all around us! 😀

    I agree that I am still Catholic – for better or weird! And I don’t go anywhere for church. Sorry I missed your trip back to Illinois. Maybe next year.

  12. I hit the Catholic schools in northeast in the early seventies. Perhaps Mary Twiggy was the last pagan baby on the shelf because I did not get to experience that weirdness.

    I do remember the school uniform though. I had ONE plaid polyester skirt for grades 6-8. (I think this was because we had the big Catholic family. If I had had two skirts somebody else would have been naked.) That thing must have been huge on me in sixth grade because it still fit in the eighth. I moved out of the skirt and went on to ninth grade elsewhere. My only sister took up residence for the next three years. Indestructible polyester! Indestructible, that is, until she burned it upon graduation. I was so sad. Not because the skirt was gone but because I did not get to participate in the ceremony. Good memories.


  13. Mary Twiggy sounds like a good name to me. It probably didn’t stand out at all if she was African. There are some really wild names in Africa, trust me. (I know personally a Godwin, a Hilton (male), a Marvelous, a Precious (just like in the books), a Desire, and many other wild names)

  14. I think I’ve read this post three times now throughout the day. It’s just that kind of funny. I love it.

    Catholics (and those damned fallen Catholics :> ) have the best sense of humor, I swear. Evidently, it starts early.

  15. Been thinking about this today. Just had to say its made me envious I wasn’t Catholic. Apparently Presbyterians didn’t have the foresight to order pagan babies.

  16. well i’m still catholic, even if it is on my on terms, but didn’t go to cathilic school. but my friends tell some of the funniest stories i’ve ever heard, this was in the 50’s and early 60’s. my lot drove many tired nuns into retirement and one over the hill! she walked out of their 7/8 grade split class one day, stole the convents station wagon and was never heard from again! everytime this story is told in its’ entirety i wind up laughing until i can’t breathe. i fully understand the pagan baby mentality and the joy a group of nine year olds would take in owning one of their very own! poor mary twiggy is middle aged now, kind of takes the bloom off the rose doesn’t it!

  17. I came by way of Tongue in Cheek. This is a great memory! I too hope Mary Twiggy is well and prospering!
    This is the best Mary- double name I’ve ever heard of!

  18. I studied in a Catholic school (India) during the 60s & 70s. we were high on works of charity. Had collections, sales and raffles for all sorts of projects.It was really good.

    I like your new website.

  19. Nuns, rulers, plaid uniforms..oh my! Did THEY go to some kind of school to learn how to handle young children? All the hitting that went on? Can you imagine this taking place today? The lawsuits would be flying! I still have my pagan baby certificate! I named her Barbara.

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