I believed in Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. I trusted my parents to tell me the truth. I believed my teachers, who were nuns and priests, always told the truth because they were closer to God than I was. When unbaptized infants died, I believed they went to Limbo. I believed in angels, archangels, and my guardian angel.
I believed the Earth was flat. On the day my dad told me the Earth was a huge round sphere, which rotated on its invisible axis, salty teardrops streamed down my cheeks. I assumed the next time we drove somewhere, our home would’ve moved to a place we’d have difficulty finding again. Sitting close to me at our mahogany dining room table, Dad tried to reassure me that wasn’t going to happen. Our home and car were spinning together on the Earth’s surface. This was way beyond my understanding.
I sniffled while Dad asked me a riddle.
“Ricky, Adam and Eve and Pinch Me went down to the river to swim. Adam and Eve fell in. Who was left?”
“Pinch You,” I said as I got up and scrunched myself into the space between a wall and our over-sized radio, record player, and voice recorder box. It weighed more than I did and I needed to stand on my tip-toes to reach its control knobs. Crouched there, away from my dad, I sucked my thumb until my crying subsided and my thumb had shriveled up into a prune.
Months after I’d gotten over my fear of car travel, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the early spring, I believed Dad had driven us to the Holy Land. We piled into our 1950s Chevy and drove to where Mom’s cousin, Sister Gerald, lived with her community of Dominican nuns. The muggy weather was making me drowsy. To stay awake, I started tallying the times we stopped at red lights. I stopped counting at thirty.
We asked for Sister at the front desk and were told to wait there in the lobby and take a seat on the wooden pew off to the side. Sister Gerald hurried along down a hallway. She kissed Mom’s cheek and shook hands with Dad. She wore a creamy wool habit with deep folds in her floor-length skirt. She was perspiring under her white, starched wimple and her black veil reached down to the middle of her back. A crucifix attached to olive-sized black rosary beads hung from her waist. I noticed her wire-rimmed glasses were slipping down her nose when she beamed a schoolteacher’s smile in my direction.
Before Sister escorted us outside, she and my mom exchanged news about their families while I eavesdropped.
Once outdoors, we walked along a path of crushed stones through landscaped grounds of green lawns, large elms, and dogwood trees in blossom amidst white and light purple lilacs. I inhaled the sweet fragrances spreading through the air. Sister had us pause at the Stations of the Cross, which lined a forty-foot stretch of our pathway. “These are the places where Christ walked with his cross and his head crowned with thorns,” Sister told me.
I believed her.
The following week my first grade teacher, Sister Marie Agnese, explained a new ceremony to us first graders. In a few days, as a class, we'd be attending a ritual called The Stations of the Cross for the first time. Sister told us the Stations depicted the places where Jesus walked after Pontius Pilate had condemned Him to death. We learned there were stations commemorating where Veronica wiped the face of Jesus, where He fell for the first time, where Simon of Cyrene helped Him carry his cross, and where Jesus died.
I blurted out, “Sister, I've been there.” I felt connected to what she was telling us.
“You've been to Jerusalem?”
“Yes. Yes.” I assured her. “I was there with my mom and dad.”
Sister's look of surprise and disbelief confused me. I struggled to squeeze back the tears that were spilling down the sides of my nose. Sister called me up to the front of the classroom, enveloped me in her blue serge habit, and wiped my face with a pure white handkerchief she’d retrieved from a secret place inside her garment. She whispered to me, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
I wanted to disappear as she gently ushered me back to my wooden desk.
When I got home from school that afternoon, I asked my mom if we’d been to Jerusalem. She shook her head no.
“What about when Sister Gerald showed us the places where Jesus carried his cross?”
She said, “Ricky, that was Akron, Ohio. Jerusalem is in the Holy Land, thousands of miles away from here.”
I wanted to cry but held back.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I lied to Sister. I told her we’d been to Jerusalem.”
That night as I knelt on the hardwood floor and wiggled my little behind in my Roy Rogers pajamas, I leaned against my bedside and prayed. I was sorry for telling a lie and asked God to forgive me and bless my family. The lumps in my mattress kept me awake. I wanted to suck my thumb and was trying hard not to. I gave in and drifted off, imagining where Jerusalem might be located.
About the Author: Rick Trushel is moved to write because he believes stories, narratives and serendipity deepen our understanding of our lives and purpose. He often procrastinates because he mistakenly believes it improves his writing. His essays and short stories have appeared in The Sun magazine and on-line at Menda City Review, 101 Words, and Eunoia Review.