The new school year was still weeks away. I was soon going to be a first-grader at Yorktown Elementary School, but didn’t care a whole lot about that. It was late-July, the sun was out, and the air was warm with a nice breeze. It was the perfect day for playing and running in the backyard. My revelry ended at the sound of a large truck rumbling down our street.
The moving vehicle backed into the long, gravel driveway of a new house kinda-sorta across Sarasota Drive from my family’s home. I ran over to the corner of our house to peek around and see just what the heck was going on over there. The truck blocked my view of the goings on. All I could make out was a few pairs of legs of the people unloading stuff then disappearing into the garage. There was no sign of young kids so I shrugged my shoulders then returned to play.
A few days later I was in my bedroom reading a Richie Rich comic book when there came a knock at our front door. Mom answered. I strained to hear what was being said down the hall but couldn’t make out any details until Mom said, “They sure can. Come on in!” Mom then called Susie and me to the living room. Even though I had read that copy of Richie Rich multiple times, it annoyed the heck out of me be interrupted. I grunted, yelled out “Okay!”, and dragged my butt to the living room.
Standing there with grins from one ear to the other were a boy and a girl. “Kids,” Mom said with a smile, “say ‘Hi’ to our new neighbors.” My head darted from the kids to Mom then back to the kids.
“Hi,” we said simultaneously. Susie was a bit more enthusiastic about it than I was. I eyed her suspiciously.
“Hi,” the two new kids answered.
The boy spoke first. He was a bit difficult to understand. All Susie and I could do was stand there and stare at him. His sister stepped in to translate. “His name is Tommy. Mine’s Bridget,” she informed the three of us. She went on to tell us of their respective ages, about their other siblings and how old they were, the house they lived in now and their new bedrooms and how much better the new house was than where they used to live. It was a lot of information crammed into thirty seconds and Bridget managed it all with one breath.
Susie could barely contain herself over the knowledge that she and the new girl were the same age. “My name is Susie!” she blurted out. Susie seemed to be already plotting out their lives as best friends together, up to, and including, being maid of honor at one another’s wedding.
“I’m Thad,” I told the pair of siblings, prepared for the stupid comments about my name.
If the first few weeks of kindergarten taught me anything, they taught one very important lesson- no one, and I mean NO ONE, my age had ever heard of anyone named “Thad” before they met me. I often longed for the days prior to kindergarten when my name was never an issue with the kids I knew back then. The kids at Yorktown Elementary? Pfft! Nearly everyone of them had something to say.
- “THAT’S not a real name!” – “Yeah it is.” – “Are you sure?” – “Yeah, I’m sure.”- This was the most common, and the most annoying, exchange during my first year of school.
- “Why did your Mom and Dad name you ‘Thad’?” – “I don’t know.” – “Mrs. Bauer? Why would a Mom and Dad name their kid ‘Thad’?”- Really? Really?! You have to bring Mrs. Bauer, the first love of my life, into this? It is a good question, though.
- “I’ll bet you’re the only ‘Thad’ in America. I’ll bet there’s one in Mexico and one in China and one in…” – This one was actually kind of funny. Along with a sense of humor, the kid displayed a pretty good knowledge of foreign countries for one so young.
I stood there in our living room waiting for the two new kids to pounce on my name. They never did. Bridget went on to tell us about their parents, their family history, and the various activities they were all involved in. It was nothing but buzzing to my ears as I was too caught up in the apparent lack of caring they displayed about my name. I couldn’t be sure if I was hurt or happy about it.
Over the remaining few weeks of summer vacation, Tommy and Bridget came over to play almost every day. It took some time but Susie and I got to a place where we could mostly understand what Tommy was saying without the constant help of his sister. Some of the things he shared with my sister and me were completely alien to us. I had to go to the smartest person in the world for some explanations.
I went to Mom.
“Tommy was telling me some stuff ‘bout church. He said they’re Catholic and not Christian. Why is that?”
Mom grinned at me before answering, “Catholics are Christian. It’s just a different type of church,” she explained in a way that I might understand. “We’re Protestant. We’re Christian, too, but we worship God in a different way than they do. Understand?”
I was already a step ahead of her. “He said they worship Mary. Why don’t they worship God?” I asked.
She gave me another grin. “Catholics may pray to Mary, but they don’t worship her. They worship God and Jesus just like us, but Mary is very important to them because she is the Mother of Jesus.” She gave me a look to see if any of this was sinking in. I was moving on again.
“He said he has a Godfather. What’s that?”
This one gave Mom some pause. She thought for a moment before answering. “Well, suppose something happened to Tommy’s parents and they were not around any longer,” she explained, choosing her words carefully.
“You mean they might die?” I asked.
Mom winced a little bit. “Yes, if they died,” she answered. “A Godfather and Godmother would kind of….” she mulled it over for a second, “…take their place.” She winced again at her choice of words as she gauged my reaction.
“Do I have a Godfather?”
“No, honey, you don’t.”
“Well, your Dad and I never considered it necessary.”
“You guys aren’t gonna die, are you?” I was starting to get concerned. I had never once given a thought to Mom and Dad being gone.
“No, sweetheart. We’re not going anywhere,” she answered with a reassuring smile.
I hopped off the sofa, said “Good!”, then ran outside to play, completely satisfied with all of Mom’s answers save one.
The whole Godfather/Godmother thing still had me concerned.