Chapter 10: Collie and Lollies

We went to Mass once a month. We were Catholics. Onga Onga had Mass once a month. Father Phillips was the parish priest. He died.

The Onga Onga church was tiny. Before Mass started there were confessions down the back, then the hymn would start with this lady singing Hail Queen of Heaven or O Sacred Heart in a great warbly voice that made us giggle and get smacked.

For confession I always kept to the same sin, which was all I could think of: "I pinched a biscuit from my mother's tin". Because, you see, we'd always say "Mum? Can I have a biscuit?" and she'd say "Please?" and we'd say "Please" and then we'd get a biscuit. But of course one biscuit is never enough, and after eating the first I'd creep into the kitchen where Mum was cutting the cabbage for tea, open the cupboard door very, very quietly - just wide enough for a hand and an arm - open the biscuit tin and take another biscuit.

To say in confession, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I pinched a biscuit from my mother's tin" was a slight untruth, for during the month more than one biscuit had gone. But it was hard enough remembering the Act of Contrition without having to worry about such details.

First Communion was at Takapau and we got jelly and ice cream afterwards. Confirmation was the following year, and I was sure I felt a stinging on my forehead - where Archbishop McKeefry put the oil - which I was convinced was where the Holy Spirit had gone in.

First Communion
First Communion
Michael Satchwell, Francie, Me

Now someone had told Francie that if you said 70,000 Hail Marys you'd get whatever you asked for. We wanted a dog, and after several weeks of discussion decided that a collie dog was best. So each day after school, when we were sent to check the sheep at lambing time, France would say the Hail Mary flatout and I would count.

Farm at Springhill
Our Farm





And so it went on, day after day, until the lambing season was over and we'd only got to a thousand.

Christmas came. We got a goldfish. We figured that if a collie was worth 70,000 Hail Marys a goldfish must be worth about a thousand.

Lent was the best season of the Church's Year. We were each given an Agee Preserving Jar because we'd given up lollies for Lent. When we went to town on the Friday night, we'd buy as many lollies as possible with the penny, and put them in the jar. They were moments of greatest pleasure to take the jar out and look at the colours through the glass. Francie, Leo and I would spend Lent swapping and trading lollies. "I'll give you that one, if you give me that one". Leo would trade almost anything for a Licorice All Sort. And the jars would slowly, wondrously fill until Easter Sunday came and the lid came off the tomb and the tomb was empty.

Every morning when we got up we had to say:

O Jesus, through the most pure heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Thy Divine Heart.

At night we'd kneel by the bed in our pyjamas and say:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

And then we'd go to sleep, for we knew Mary the Mother of God could come in the night for a look.

"Because, children," Mum would say, "You never know when Our Blessed Mother might come to this house. And it would be terrible if she found your rooms in a mess or my laundry cupboard untidy."

I'm sure she did come. I know she did, for once in the dead of night I felt her sit at the end of my bed for a moment.

And it wasn't the cat.

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