It is just another catechism class. For a 10 year old, it’s an okay place to hang for about an hour with a bunch of other snot nose kids. We sit and listen to Sister Mary Irish-Brogue teach bread baking, and wine drinking from a simpleton textbook filled with pictures, drawings, sprinklings of biblical stories, and scripture snippets.
Well, being a little whipper-snapper and a budding critical analyst, my mind is always thinking between the lines. 10 is too early to be distracted by the lovely young ladies in the classroom, so I actually tune into the lesson.
I remember this moment as clear as yesterday. We are learning about Adam and Eve, a favorite subject for many Sunday school classes. I don’t know why the story is repeated so often and so fervently for youngsters, but it is (another story idea).
Well, Sister Mary (again I don’t recall the last name), finishes the lesson replete with drawings of a partially naked bearded man and a woman with loin cloth and bra (good thing I was prepubescent). How did the bearded dude shave? He is extremely well groomed. I didn’t think of that until this moment. At ten I wasn’t shaving quite yet.
Well Adam and Eve’s son, the dude who whacks his brother, leaves home, and marries a lady in the land of winkin’, blinkin’, and nod. I don’t remember the exact land, and I’m not pausing to look it up. I’m on a roll here.
Okay, up to this point, the whole first family tale of sex and murder doesn’t wander to far off the logic tracks, but in my over developed 10 year old brain, I have one simple question. So I raise my hand. Mom and dad encourage me to be polite, that and several years of training in prep school force me to behave in such manner.
“Please ma’am, may I ask one question,” I ask feeling like Oliver Twist begging for one more bowl of oatmeal. Actually it is a second question, since the first request is a question, but I’m splitting hairs here.
“Why yes, my son, go ahead,” she replies. I don’t recall the exact permissionary response, but nuns do like to use “son” and “daughter” in addressing the kids. I feel like we are all one extended Partridge Family.
I clear my throat and boldly proceed throwing all caution to the wind.
“If there were only two brothers born on the planet so far, where did the lady come from that Cain married?”
I want to know. Truly, I do. There is no mention of other people to date, or siblings. In fact the story is implicit that this is the first and only family in existence. Of course, back in the late 60’s, no one knew about genetic engineering, so take that snap answer off the table.
“Ewwww, did he marry his sister?” The thought briefly flashes through my mind, but I know this is not acceptable and just plain gross already. I have a sister too, horror the thought. Yuck. Where did the lady come from? She just seems to pop in there.
Well, Sister Mary smiles, in a slightly twisted manner. Her face is slightly blushing. She pauses, kind of giggles, looks away briefly, then her eyes connect directly with mine. It feels like no one else is in the room. She is connecting directly to my brain. Maybe it’s a nun thing.
“Well, that is a good question. I don’t know,” she replies and proceeds forward with the lesson.
Okay, for most 10 year olds, that would be sufficient, but obviously not for me. I’m here writing about a million years later because it changed my perception.
“I don’t know?” I thought to myself. “How can she not want to know,” I reflect. “This is important, everything else is built upon this first family of the planet. Why, they were my great, great, great, great, great, yada-yada, grandparents. Am I the product of inbreeding? This is not good,” my mind is spinning, it hasn’t stopped since.
I know about inbreeding at 10 years old. Where from, heck I don’t recall. Someone told me, probably my dad. He planted seeds of insight where the education institutions feared to tread, thank goodness.
“Something is amiss in this whole story from the beginning. How can someone teaching this stuff not know the answer?” I will always remember this teaching moment.
The lesson and the day sticks with me. It is a testament to the importance of the question. And children must be encouraged to ask them, of anyone, and everyone. Children should practice it. Unfortunately, today in the K-12 system, kids practice memorizing answers for standardized test questions. Answers first, questions later – it’s all backwards.
“Copyright © 3MAR17 by Steven A. Schwab”