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.
How 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.