Monday, April 17, 2006

Rotten Egg

(I had a mighty fine fiber adventure on Saturday, but I'm not going to tell you about it just yet. My gracious hosts took pictures which they've offered to share with me, and once I get those I'll write an account. In the meantime, an Easter memory.)

I was about twelve years old, and a dedicated goody two-shoes, when I signed up to join the Catholic Youth Organization associated with our base chapel. There was pressure at home to get out of the house, do something, make some friends my own age. Trouble was, I didn't like most kids my own age. The boys were as obnoxious as they'd ever been. The girls, who had always been my buddies, suddenly sprouted breasts and withdrew into giggling secrecy.

The CYO met near our house once a week, and was supervised by a quartet of happy, shiny adult volunteers. I hoped the adults could keep the other kids in check. If the whole thing became too much to deal with I'd simply walk home.

It wasn't so bad. Most weeks we'd just sit in a circle and talk about a topic of deep import (drug abuse was a favorite). Occasionally there were spaghetti suppers, field trips, or craft projects. Every once in a while we'd indulge in Good Works.

Most of the Good Works were pretty dull. We'd pick up trash along a stretch of road, polish the pews in the chapel, or sort clothes donated for homeless. As Easter Week approached, we were asked if we'd dye the eggs needed for the Interfaith Easter Egg Hunt. That was the kind of Good Work I could get into, even on a Saturday afternoon.

A lot of the other kids felt the same. About twenty of us showed up in the chapel kitchen, where 500 white eggs had been boiled by the Christian Ladies Circle and were awaiting decoration. One of the ladies directed us to a tall stack of dye kits in the corner, told us to help ourselves to sodas from the refrigerator...and left to get her hair done.

Big mistake.

Not that, at first, you would have noticed anything untoward was going on. We didn't fling eggs or cups of dye at one another. On the contrary, as we sat dipping eggs with teaspoons and showing off our handiwork, we could have been an ad for Wholesome Teen Fun.

Then I found the crayons.

I was startled to find that some of my coworkers didn't know that if you drew on an eggshell with a crayon before you dyed it, the wax would resist the dye. You could decorate a egg with a message or drawing that way. It was much more fun that using only solid colors. I showed off a festive "HAPPY EASTER" egg and everybody clamored for crayons. There weren't enough in the kits to go around, so one of the boys snuck into a Sunday school classroom and came back with a box of Crayolas.

After the fifth egg, writing "HAPPY EASTER" lost its novelty. But Easter is short on alternative taglines. If these were Christmas Eggs we could have written "Joyeux Noel" and "Season's Greetings" and "Ho Ho Ho" and whatnot, but with Easter you're pretty much stuck with "HAPPY EASTER."

I did a bunny face, just to be different. But it's very hard to do fine detail with a crayon on an eggshell, so I gave that up. Then Satan, who was hanging around the chapel looking for somebody to bother, came over and whispered in my ear, "You know what would be funny?"

I picked up a blank egg. Giggling to myself, I wrote "THE EASTER BUNNY HATES YOU" and dropped the egg in the dye. As the dye coated the egg and the message showed up in large block capitals, it seemed unbearably funny and I burst out laughing. Heather, who was sitting next to me, looked over and squealed.

"Omigod I cannot believe you wrote that! That is so funny!"

This was an entirely unexpected reaction. Most of the CYO kids never noticed anything I did or said. Now they all crowded around my subversive egg and hooted.

"I'm totally doing an egg like that," said Heather. "Do another one!"

How could you top a slam from the Easter bunny? No problem. In these situations one has merely to wait, and Satan will oblige with inspiration.

"TOUCH THIS EGG AND DIE," I wrote. And dropped it into a cup of pink. As the message appeared, the crowd went wild.

All the way down the table things were haywire. About half the finished eggs going back into the empty cartons were suddenly saying the most dreadful things. Heather held up a two-tone (orange and blue) on which she had written "YOU'RE UGLY" in a legible, if lopsided, hand.

Suddenly I was the most popular kid in the CYO.


And perhaps most ironically, from a kid who probably went on to become a Nietzsche scholar:


We were so enthusiastic that we finished 500 eggs in record time. When the Lady in Charge came back from the beauty parlor, the filled cartons were already in the refrigerator.

"Great job!" she said. "You'll be back tomorrow to help hide them, right?"

Oh yeah. We sure would.

I didn't go. In fact, I didn't even go back to CYO after that. It wasn't out of fear of punishment. All twenty of us had written nasty things, and one of the side effects of being a goody-goody is that when somebody points at you and says "He started it!" the adults don't believe it.

I just knew, somehow, that my brief, shining afternoon of popularity was a temporary fluke. I wasn't a bad child, really,* and when the others realized that I'd go back to being the little nobody. Better to go out on top and leave a fabulous memory behind you. Even if it's only written on an egg.

*I felt so guilty about this that I brought it up in confession. The priest told me to say ten Hail Marys, do something nice for at least one little kid, and think about pursuing a career in advertising.


David said...

That wasn't Satan, that was God telling you to lighten up.

msubulldog said...

Oh, that is the most hilarious thing I've heard all week! Thanks. :)

Isela: Purling Sprite said...

That is just awesome!! The best laugh ever!

Holly said...

That's the best Easter story I've ever heard. I feel bad for not thinking of it myself.

grace said...

Wonderful story! I should not have been drinking coffee while reading--had a wee bit of a mess on my desk to clean up.

All the Way With Knitting said...

Holly's Mum here ...Tomie de Paola has illustrated a wonderful book about his love of crayola.My uncle was a flight engineer so joy of joys he'd bring back from The States those big boxes of 100 colours ..with beautiful names except "Flesh" which was caucasian pink ( I am but some of my friends not).Then I got a Polish friend who decorated gorgeous eggs and took me to mass ..couldn't understand a word but fell in love with Frankincense .At primary school we'd do crayon pictures ( really patches of colours).then smother them in black crayon and sratch a picture in muti-colours.Angie

Jon said...

And here I thought I was a rotten child....

Mom said...

That was a great story, now I know why you never when back. I got a good laugh out of it also. All is well in IN and VA.

Anonymous said...

sweet FSM, what a great story! even if I almost choked on my strawberry banana yogurt, it was worth the laugh.

you gotta watch us catholic kids - we may APPEAR innocent, but we are really satan's spawns insude. could it be from having all that religion shoved unwillingly and unquestionably down our throats and in our brains? just sayin....

anne marie in philly

Nita said...

A creative act that inspires a community to bond together--that is a God action personified! And every kid in that group had a high-profile memory for life. Fabulous!

pacalaga said...

As a "recovering Catholic", I found this to be a beautiful and shining example of how there might be hope for us.
And now I need to go get some half-price egg dyeing kits. The husband should get to have funny (or other types) messages in his lunchbox during the day. Heh.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the laugh today!!

Nelly Olsen said...

That story brings to mind something similar that I did as a kid. Another kid and I had been hired by a company to sign some materials for a presentation, but we were signing as the CEO as the company. He wanted whoever received the material to think he had cared enough to sign it personally.

After a while the boredom and the disgust with what seemed like deception inspired me to alter the signatures a bit. The CEO's name was Dennis something. I started signing as Dennis The Menace and came up with other variations. I always wondered what people thought when they saw those signatures.

Witchypooh Lynne said...

ROFLMAO! I can't begin to tell all the naughty things I learned while attending CYO and they had nothing to do with crayons.

Jasmine said...

This is awesome! Best Easeter story I've heard.

Red Dog Knits - Kristi and Otis said...

After frogging two major projects over the weekend - your post was the first thing that made me laugh out loud and pick up my needles again :-)

Bonnita said...

Catholic guilt, is there anything worse? ;) Thanks for the morning giggle.

Marith said...

Oh, I'm going to have to add that story to my growing bad egg collection. Thank you!

(what is it about eggs? They're just good humor material somehow.)

Paul said...

That's got to be one of the funniest stories I've read in a long time! I must remember to color eggs next year for the nieces and nephews......

Nelly Olsen said...

For what it's worth, Franklin, I still think of you as a goody-two-shoes and will never lose that image of you. It probably comes from my first impression of you. You seemed just so wholesome. Do you remember when we first met? I believe it was in church . . .

Anonymous said...

What would be a fabulous topper to this story would be if one of the kids who picked up one of these eggs popped up in comments.

Especially if it changed his/her life.

Alas, I'm not one of those small, scarred children. But I'm laughing pretty darn hard.

TheAmpuT said...

Thank You. That was great :-)

Kristi said...

That's hilarious. I wouldn't have gone back either. I have to wonder what happened to the woman who was supposed to be supervising you guys. ;)

My memories of CYO are limited to the overnight lock-ins where we'd stay up all night in the church classrooms watching videos (Princess Bride) and making out when the adults weren't around. I don't remember much serious discussion or doing any charity work related to CYO, so maybe I only went when fun activities were scheduled. Er, not that making out was scheduled, but that's what happens when you put hormone-crazed teenagers in the same room OVERNIGHT. What were the adults thinking?!

Ted said...

Good one, Franklin. And after reading it, my offer to do some dyeing still stands. (Let me know, though.) And now I know not to leave the room.

Heather said...

I should learn not to read your blog during lunch. How appropriate that I nearly snorted egg drop soup all over my keyboard. That is the best Easter story, ever.

Buzz said...

" the Easter Bunny is Dead "

marie in florida said...

" i pushed my sister down the stairs and i blamed it on the dog"

too funny Franklin,you naughty boy.

i'll bet that CYO group had a lot of egg salad sammiches for a long while.

Annette said...

Coming out of lurkerdom to tell you that was the funniest story i have read all week. Franklin, you are a genius, a subversive one, but a genius nonetheless.

CateK said...

The funniest part is that decorting eggs is the most PAGAN activity one can think of next to decorating an evergreen tree inside one's house. I wonder every year when my good Christian friends will figure out they are celebrating Yule and Ostara right along with Christmas and Easter?

Carrie K said...

That's adorable. And about the nicest thing I've read about a priest in a long, long time.

Darn. Now I wished I'd dyed Easter Eggs.

Yvonne said...

OMG confession -- let's not even go there. I hated Saturdays at the confessional. But I really think that's hysterical that your priest had somewhat of a sense of humor and told you to look into advertising. That is awesome.

Mel said...

Oh my! My worst transgression as a kid, I think, was breaking a shuffleboard stick (accidentally) at church camp then not fessing up to it. One of the great things about being Presbyterian was that confession was just between you and God, so nobody else had to know. And nobody else has known - until now.

Helen the Muggle said...

What a great story--I read it in an airport business class lounge filled with Serious Types who clearly disapprove of reading things on your computer that make you laugh so loud! But was there a second act? What happened? Did the parents complain?

Sean said...

Once've cracked me up (pun INtended) again this morning as I sit in Harvard Square soaking in my happy life! Thanks.

Mindy said...

STILL giggling- thank you!

Liz K. said...

Coming out of delurking to thank you for bringing back my CYO Easter memory: every Palm Sunday weekend, our CYO would have a "famine" where we would stay overnight at the church, and not eat for 40 hours. We'd then collect money for the starving Ethiopians (this was the 80s!). I spent all weekend surreptiously looking for the many dozens of doughnuts my friends had hidden around the church and bingeing like I'd never binged before. Fun!

snowballinhell said...

I have seen my son's future.

mad angel said...

Hi, Franklin.

I'm a knitting/spinning e-pal of Jonathan and Meg. What a great story! David Sedaris has some serious competition from your blog, which I am really enjoying!

My family is a little late with Easter eggs this year, as we are choristers in a local Epsicopal church and were pretty whupped when Holy Week was all said and done. The kids are dyeing there eggs right now, and my eldest has just informed me that she has made a "Mr. Yuck" egg. Your legacy lives on!



christine said...

oh dear....

I was sent to anglican Sunday School, and we NEVER had fun like that.....

although, at 13!! I was allowed to join the 'youth' group'...the highlight of my week

One of the older guys used to drive me an E-type first non-school crush, and I lust for a car with leather upholstery (currently drive a 12 seat bus)

Angela said...

Franklin, that's the funniest Easter story ever! I can't believe my siblings and I didn't think of that one!

violetsrose said...

You really are fabulous!

jaclynbailey said...

Would you mind if around Easter I used this story as an example of the best damn easter story I have ever heard? Seriously. I laughed so hard that I had to use my inhaler! I thought I was gonna die! SO FUNNY!!!! This is probably why my church always used plastic eggs...

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