Looking Backward

Kermit looking back at a time when he had a lot to look forward to.

Who is that skinny guy?

Memories of long ago events or incidents drift in random fashion through my mind, often when I am resting, or  even when I’m waiting in line at supermarkets. One memory floated by while I was waiting with my friend George at the American Citizens Services section of the American Embassy in Tokyo. The sight of a young boy of 8 or 9 standing with his father at the passport renewal window triggered a memory to pop up. For some unfathomable reason, my mind flitted back to a third grade classroom scene at St. Angela’s Parochial School in Pacific Grove.  Sister Roberts, the principal, was handing out reports cards. Afterwards she gave us a pep talk about studying hard. “You are the future. You are the generation that will lead us into the 21st century. You have so much to look forward to.”

Ah, looking forward. The key words for an impressionable third grader such as I was. I imagined rocket ships transporting passengers to resorts on the planet Mars. Diseases would be wiped out. Nations would live in peace and harmony under the leadership of the United States.  Of course the peoples of the world would have accepted Catholicism as the one true religion.

Ah, but you must forgive me. I was a little boy growing up in the grandfatherly days of the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration. And Pius XII still reigned as Pope, though in ill health. I remember when the parishioners knelt at the end of each Sunday Mass and said prayers for the conversion of Russia.

“Some day Joseph Stalin will kneel before His Holiness Pius XII and ask for forgiveness for his sins.”

That remembered fragment of a homily delivered by our Religion teacher the Friday before the Sunday we received our First Holy Communion made me laugh.

“What’s funny?” George asked. My abrupt laughter had distracted him from his own thoughts.

“Nothing. I was just looking backward.”