Friday, May 19, 2006

Long as I have my plastic Jesus ...

As an afterthought to encountering plastic action figure Jesus on Comm. Ave. in Boston earlier this month, I've been remembering the little set of plastic Apostles we had when I was a child. I'd forgotten all about them until plastic Jesus brought them back to mind. These weren't exactly action figures, being all of about two inches tall and incapable of any jointed motion, but I was fond of them.

I think the set included Jesus, although as I recall we didn't have all twelve of his mates--and anyone who really knows me will understand how much that incompleteness bothered me, because I like to have things in order that way. I don't remember who was missing, but for some reason I do recall that Doubting Thomas was in the collection and that he was one of my favorites, which now seems appropriate.

My house had other statues, too, not made of plastic and therefore more probably for the benefit of my parents than for us kids. I remember Mary, and possibly St. Francis, but I can't remember exactly who the rest were. We also had a little kit for anointing the sick, kept handy in a convenient bedside drawer. The crucifix lid slid off and could be inserted into a special slot and stood upright; the kit also included a small pair of beeswax candles and a container for holy water. To my knowledge it was never used as intended, nor is it likely to be, though it likely still resides in my parents' bedroom, since in our world of modern technological wonders we seem far more likely to suffer and be anointed in a hospital than at home in our own beds.

I'd like to think that having these things around as familiar household items suggests just how much religious expression was part of everyday life for us in those days, but for one thing we never actually played with the plastic apostles; that wouldn't have felt quite right. (Although "playing" Mass with candy wafers seemed a perfectly suitable activity for small Catholic children.) We mostly admired the little statues and lined them up for display in various configurations (I don't remember if we did nor did not give the mother of James and John her wish by placing her boys at Jesus' right hand). One day, when we were supposed to be taking a nap, my little sister sat straight up in bed and gave plaster Mary a whack that sent her flying halfway across the room; she got glued back together but was never quite the same again after that.

"It was looking at me," was the only explanation my sister could provide.


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