My first memory of second grade at St. Mary’s Grade School in Independence, Missouri, delights me. Fondly, I gaze within, at the slim volume held in my childhood hands. It’s covered with thick blue paper with dog-eared corners. It’s my first Baltimore Catechism.
From second through eighth grade, I studied a catechism for “religion” class. The paperback books presented the beliefs of Roman Catholicism through the method of questions and answers. The name of the catechisms came from the city in Maryland where, in the nineteenth century, U.S. bishops had determined that Catholic children needed a book to learn the basic doctrines of their faith.
Each year the Baltimore Catechism got thicker and the questions more detailed. Line drawings illustrated each volume except for the one I had in second grade.
That first catechism was probably about 6 ½ x 4 ½ inches with perhaps sixty-four pages. Each two-page spread had the same format: On the upper corner of the left-hand page was printed a square. As I remember, it was large—probably 2 x 2 inches. Beneath the square was the catechism question for that week.
The right-hand side of the two-page spread provided the answer to the question along with a story about that answer.
My favorite two-page spread was the first one. It asked, “Who created the Universe?” In simple words, the right-hand text recounted the story in Chapter 1, Verses 1-11, of the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures.
From freedigitalphotos.net/Idea go
During the first week of school, I memorized not only the answer to the question but also the entire text of the creation story. Sister Mary Anne would award a sticker to those of us who answered correctly. The sticker for the creation question remains vivid even today: Against a sky of cobalt blue speckled with distant stars floated the green earth and its vast indigo oceans. Swirling over all were wisps of cirrus clouds.
The depth of color, the vastness of Universe impressed both my mind and my imagination. I was so overjoyed when Sister Mary Anne called on me and I answered her first catechism question—“Who created the Universe?”—with the correct answer: “God created the Universe.”
Joy surged through me as I licked the sticker and attached it to the blank square on my catechism page. Throughout all of second grade I’d frequently return to that first two-page spread to gaze at my sticker. My mind was unable to grapple with the distance of the starry skies or the rounded perfection of Earth, but the intensity of its beauty enthralled me.
Today I searched Wikipedia and the free site I use for a photograph that would recreate my memory. But none were the cobalt blue, the indigo. And so I’ve given you four photographs. Each captures some aspect of what I remember.
The artist who painted the Earth from space for the catechism sticker left such an indelible mark on my memory that when I first saw the NASA photographs from space, I thought, “Yes! That’s exactly right!”
I’m wondering what vivid memory you have of first or second grade. For me this one is a treasured blue bead on the necklace of remembrance that encircles my life.