C is for Confirmation and finessing the Pledge. Third of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
My family went to Endwell’s Christ the King Roman Catholic Church, and one of the rights of passage into worshipful adulthood was Confirmation.
And sure enough, as my Confirmation approached in 1963, I was faced with a major adult-level decision at age 13: should I or should I not take “the Pledge?”
What is the Pledge?
The Pledge, in case you are wondering, is a promise made in church at the end of the Confirmation ceremony that you won’t drink alcohol until you are either 18 or 21 (your choice).
Looking back, I thought the Pledge was a weird anomaly of our diocese or perhaps dreamed up by our fire-and-brimstone priest — since I’ve queried Catholics over the years and nobody seems to have heard of it.
But it turns out the Pledge was indeed a church policy dating back to the 19th century as a temperance effort to prevent drinking — and practiced widely Ireland, if not in the U.S.
My parents push the Pledge
So back to 1963 and my quandary. The New York State drinking age was then 18 — a mere five years away for me. But my 1950s-era parents wanted me to swear off alcohol until I was 21 — in front of them and the whole congregation.
Seriously? That would put me halfway through college! Surely I would take a drink by then.
So my options were clear: Be honest and avoid the Pledge, or lie in church, take the Pledge and risk eternal damnation when I later broke my promise.
My decision was also clear: I couldn’t lie, so I would have to somehow avoid the Pledge when our Confirmation group stood up to say it. But how?
I finesse the Pledge
Anyone raised Catholic knows there are ways to get around most things without breaking the rules or risking an embarrassing confession. This was one of those instances — and fortune was with me on Confirmation day.
My parents were seated on the right side of the church, at the back. I was in a sea of teens on the left side, a few rows up — and from there I could keep a side-eye on my folks.
When it came time to recite the Pledge, I leaned slightly forward and made sure my head was hidden behind the girl to my right — so my parents couldn’t see my lips, which were firmly clamped shut.
I evade the inevitable question
Outside after the ceremony, there was a flurry of white gowns and picture-taking. But my mom was no fool, so she asked me outright, “Did you take the Pledge? We couldn’t see your lips during the ceremony.”
I responded with a Catholic evasion: “What are you talking about? Everyone took the pledge.” And that was that until I was 18 and went out for my first legal guilt-free drink with one of my high school girlfriends — no confession necessary.
Up next: Dion, the Dave Clark 5 and Dancing to Dick Clark. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!
© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.