What a relief to wake up this morning without a shiner like I did on Easter morning, sometime in the early 80s, when I was in the fourth grade. Technically, I woke up with it on Holy Saturday, but it was still there on Easter Sunday.
Sleepwalking was once a problem for me. I haven’t done it much in recent years, but as a child, it was a regular occurrence. Most of the time, I didn’t remember doing it until my mom told me in the morning. It usually involved just getting out of bed and wandering around, except for a couple of occasions where I tried to leave the house and another time when I turned the thermostat up as high as it would go.
Even though we weren’t a particularly religious family, we were very connected to the Catholic elementary school we attended. On Good Friday every year, the eighth grade performed Living Stations, a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus. I’ve attended several of these over the years and in comparison, ours were pretty low-tech by comparison. I mean, we didn’t know it at the time. As kids, we idolized the “big kids” who got to be the readers or portrayed various characters wearing costumes. We were awestruck watching Simon barrel out into the aisle to help Jesus carry the cross and to see the image of Jesus’ face on the cloth that Veronica carried. When Jesus was on the cross, he refused to drink the liquid from the sponge on the popsicle stick that was offered to him. And when Jesus died, the storm that occurred was portrayed by the flashing on and off of the church lights, the sound of the switches of the circuit breakers audibly clicking throughout. On top of that, someone in the sacristy shook a sheet of metal to create the sound of thunder. This was not seen; we learned these secrets around the time you figured out the truth about the Easter bunny. In our version of the Stations of the Cross at St. Aloysius, Jesus also rose from the dead at the end. Two of the prettiest girls were usually angels, emerging from the sacristy in white garments wearing a ring of Christmas garland on their heads and carrying a plastic Easter lily while the Hallelujah chorus played.
The year I was in fourth grade, we attended because my brother was in the Living Stations as part of the eighth grade class. I don’t remember details and I’m sure it was a nice production. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. I guess we probably ate dinner and eventually went to sleep. In our living room was a marble-top wooden coffee table in the shape of an oval. There was usually nothing on the table aside from a Polish crystal candy dish with a lid on top. When the lid was removed to get a piece of candy, it made a heavy pinging sound if it made contact with the sides. I was roused from sleep by that sound, in the middle of a sleepwalking episode. It turns out, for some mysterious reason, I had been banging my head on the marble table top, hearing the clanging of the candy dish in my head. I’m uncertain whether the clanging woke me up or if I was discovered making this racket.
In the morning, I had a shiner. It was never called a “black eye” by my family. Did “shiner” somehow have more class than “black eye”? This morning as I participated in Easter Sunday Mass, I realized that there are no pictures of me with a shiner for Easter. Could it be that my family was embarrassed by my appearance and thus, could not risk sending a photo of me with a shiner out to be developed, out of fear that they might be reported to the authorities? I remember attending Mass on Easter and remember what I was wearing (a shirt emblazoned with Blueberry Muffin, part of the Strawberry Shortcake cast of characters, on the front). And I remember that my parents dropped my brother and me off at church, maybe because they didn’t want to be seen with a black-eyed offspring.
Fortunately this morning, I rose bright and early after playing organ at a two-hour Easter Vigil Mass to return to church and do it all over again (three more times, to be exact). I was very relieved to have appeared at Mass with the eyes of a healthy, 40-something year-woman, with their age-appropriate puffiness and creases due to joyful times laughing and smiling. Hopefully, the days of sleepwalking – and shiners – are behind me.