|SEND IN THE CLONES: I just grabbed this photo off Google Image.|
They're not St. Clement boys but they sure look the part.
There are reasons I haven't touched this topic before. You'll soon know what they are.
But first, for anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, altar boys (these days they're "servers" and it's not just boys, thank goodness) help priests during Roman Catholic masses.
When I was a kid, most servers were in grades four, five or six. The real senior guys we looked up to--the ones who got the important jobs like carrying the crucifix up the aisle during Good Friday ceremonies--were almost adults. Grade seven or eight even.
Here's confession number one: I was an altar boy way too long than was healthy.
There were times, on any given Sunday afternoon, my contemporaries were roaring around Sudbury in sup'ed up Chevy Novas smoking weed they kept in the glove compartments while Pete was at church.
My usual attire of blue jeans and t-shirt was covered by--I hope you've got Wikipedia open--my surplice and soutane. The surplice is the short lacy white part of the altar boy's outfit; the soutane the long black underpart. We also wore slippers. Clad thusly, I was helping our parish priest Father Frank Farenzena do things like "the washing of the hands". (It's part of Mass, okay?)
Speaking of Fr. Frank, fast forward 18 years--from 1968 to 1986--until you arrive at my older brother Alex's living room, days before my wedding. Father Frank, still the parish priest, was in attendance.
And holding a glass of Canadian Club whisky in one hand and a Peter Jackson cigarette in the other, Father Frank said, "Peter, until this moment, I was under the impression you were going to be joining us."
"Us" meant the priesthood.
I was, I believe, 29. Man-o-man had Father Frank ever not been paying attention.
So now you're probably like, "You had your wedding stag at your older brother's house? And the parish priest was there? Pete? I'm s-o-o-o sorry."
When I started this blog I was hoping to write about the secret life of altar boys but got distracted. Maybe next time. Puts me in mind of something one of my writer pals Debbie Fein-Goldbach posted on Facebook last week. It's a quote from one of Canada's funniest (and darkest) stand-ups, Norm Macdonald: "Hope is never good. Don't try it, it never works out."
P.S. Somebody once told me and I choose to believe it that the peerless and inspirational Canadian novelist Robertson Davies waited until a lot of his family popped off before he produced his best stuff. I sure get that. On that note, I'm not 100-percent sure that it was Canadian Club Whisky that Father Frank was sipping or that he smoked Peter Jacksons, but it could have been. But he definitely was at my stag. And it was at my brother's house. That was me all over. Just takin' a walk on the wild side.