Monthly Archives: April 2014

Look, Ma, No Shiner!

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.

How Gozick?

Before divulging my penchant for swiping missalettes from church, I planned to open this blog by explaining how the name How Gozick? came about.

For as long as I’ve been alive, my first and last names have caused confusion.  Growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, people named Smith and Jones were vastly outnumbered by names with lots of consonants.  Something in our genetic makeup allows us to pronounce names like Wojciechowski, Przybyszewski, or Kwiatkowski with the greatest of ease.  Some of these names were Americanized due to language issues at ports where immigrants entered, including mine.  My great-grandfather Vasil Godzik came through Ellis Island in the early 1900s after a long journey from what is now Ukraine.  We were told growing up that our name meant “buttons” in some Eastern European language, but I’m not sure whether this is really true.

There are also a bunch of names that are very similar to mine and in spite of our multi-syllabic name-pronouncing superpower, my six-letter last name is confused with people named Gocek, Kozick, Kocek, Kozich (and countless others!). I am also asked if I’m related to people whose last names aren’t even spelled like my own.  Because some of those names are pronounced differently from mine, I have also suffered countless mispronunciations which have caused lots of laughs over the years.  Some of my favorites include names sounding like “Gauze-ick” and “Got-sick”.  My dear friend Michele, who was blessed with a fabulous normal-sounding surname, has taken a life-long pleasure in mocking my name.  The mockery of my last name continued into high school when she gave me a piece of gauze in a paper wrapper, saying “Gauze-ick” aloud while handing it to me.  In freshman year, people started greeting me in the morning by saying “How Gozick?”  I thought of it as a term of endearment.  Some of my childhood friends (and their children!) even call me Gozick as if it were my first name.

My first name has also been the victim of pulverization.  It’s a reasonably uncomplicated name, but so long that on standardized tests, my name was shortened to Christ because there were only six bubbles.  When I need to use my name to order something, I often shorten it or use a different name because for some reason, people often don’t understand it when I say it and I often end up repeating it.

And that’s exactly what happened when I ordered coffee from Starbucks the other day.  I ordered, the guy held up the little device to scan my Starbucks card, and when I presented him cash instead, he kind of slammed the little scanner down on the counter.  As if I were some low-class slob for paying in cash.  (This was the Short Hills Mall, after all!  Anyone without an American Express Centurion Card is a low-class slob!).  When I gave him the name Chris for my order, he asked me three times what my name is.  I’m always prepared for several different spellings, which, in that setting, are forgivable.  Unless I tendered some currency, like the American Express Centurion Card, that would show the correct spelling of my name.  When the barista shouted “grande ice coffee”, I retrieved it and snickered when I saw a name I’ve never been called.

How Gozick, Gracie?
How Gozick, Gracie? 

How the guy got “Gracie” out of “Chris”, I’ll never know.  Incidents like this are so frequent for me that I’ve tried to take extra special care with people’s names.  I always want to say them just right so that I don’t fall into the category of “that girl who always mispronounces my name”.


Missalette Thief

And now it begins.  This sweet blog o’ mine.  I have no idea what lies ahead of me, nor have I any grand ideas of what might be posted here. The thought of writing my own blog never appealed to me until I met my beau Sam, a blogger himself.  Early in our relationship, after we became friends on Facebook, I clicked on the links that led to his blogs.  And though I am inflating him because he’s the dude who set this thing up for me (and he laughs at pretty much anything mildly amusing that I say), I have to say that I was genuinely blown away by his creativity.  Though he modestly snickers when I compliment what he does, seeing his drawings, pictures, and witty musings on daily life still inspires me.

Today is the Monday of Holy Week and it hit me that this is the best time to begin.  For church musicians like me, this is a hectic time of year.  So why would I take on a project like this now?  Because I had a moment today that rose up from my gut that I couldn’t ignore.  A memory of my grandmother who passed away just before Holy Week last year.  Our beloved Grammy was a devoted Catholic who had a novena for everything.  We knew St. Martha novenas were said on Tuesdays, that St. Dymphna was the lady you prayed to if you had “nerves”, and that it was good luck if the head of a statue fell off.  (It meant that prayers were answered, according to Gram.  When I was about seven, she gave me her Infant of Prague statue whose head popped off so many times that it both freaked me out and amazed me at the same time.  She had also re-painted his face following every disfigurement suffered from falls off the window sill.  She also sewed majestic robes of sequins and velvet for this tiny statue with her arthritic hands.)  Stories of my grandmother’s faith and religious practices could probably fill lots of future posts.

I wonder sometimes how much the influence of my grandmother played in my gravitating toward my current job:  playing organ and piano, directing choirs of children and adults, and coordinating a music program at a local Catholic church.  Even though my use is taken completely out of context, whenever I hear the passage from the Gospel of John that goes, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you”, I realize this is how I feel about my work.  Someone greater than myself had a hand in placing me where I am.  My current position came to me by accident and so did learning to play the organ as a child.

My upbringing as a Catholic is kind of slippery.  Even though I was privileged to attend Catholic school from pre-school through high-school (and, I might add, those were amazing years of my life, overflowing with memories and life-long friendships), we didn’t attend Mass regularly.  My folks were not joiners and only supported the parish by popping their envelopes in the collection basket.  My mother went through periods of weekly attendance, but they seemed to be short-lived.  There was also something humorous about religion in our family and when we went with my mother, there always seemed to be something to giggle at during Mass.  Whether it was something in a homily or a funny name in the bulletin (for years, we cracked up at the thought of a guy going through life named Don Rother, as opposed to Dan Rather), we were always laughing in church.

Church provided an endless supply of mystery, especially since we spent lots of time there during school hours.  There were confessions and First Friday Masses and benediction on Friday afternoons at 1PM.  We prayed so much in grade school, it is a miracle that we learned anything.  I found myself attracted to prayer books and eventually, began to swipe a missalette or two from the church.  And a hymnal.  I even had the timing of the thievery down-pat;  I would steal a missalette when I knew it would be the last Mass they would be used at.  My logic was that they would just be tossed anyway.  As I got older and learned to play piano, I would play the music from the missalette.  When my piano teacher began to teach me organ, she endorsed my removal of these items, for educational purposes.

The missalettes from Holy Week gave me a thrill because they were not only thick, but they also contained the full text of the readings and psalms for each day, from Palm Sunday all the way through Easter.  I removed one on Palm Sunday because I couldn’t resist.  I recall being home from school due to illness one day during Holy Week in the third grade. Or I feigned illness to stay home to read my missalette.  I enjoyed reading the prayers out loud (or playing church with my brother), either alone or with my Barbies.  That day, my grandmother was in charge of me and I remember asking her to read the readings aloud with me.  And she said no!  I never knew why she denied upholding the religious practices of her granddaughter at that moment, but I never forgot that day.  She didn’t want to read along with me, but she did provide me with the correct pronunciation of the word ‘evildoer’.

Today I remembered those feelings vividly.  Waking up early to play piano for a school Mass and direct the children’s choir of children of missalette-stealing age, it occurred to me as I accompanied our children’s choir on piano that the word ‘evildoer’ makes an appearance in Psalm 27, today’s psalm.  Maybe my grandmother’s belief in the afterlife impacted me enough to snicker and shake my head today as I imagined her remembering that day – from heaven.