Posted by: johnhourihan | April 6, 2014

The meaning of life

In the beginning, there was a quarter.
And a quarter in your pocket on Wednesday morning meant spaghetti and meatballs at the cafeteria at the Italian school down the street from our Irish St. Mary’s Grammar School.
Being run by the Irish, our school saw no need for a cafeteria. We could good and well just offer up our hunger for “the souls in Purgatory.”
We could eat our stale bread peanut butter sandwiches, crust and all, ruminating on the “poor people overseas,” and “woe betide you” if you left a crumb in the bag for the nuns to find.
A quarter in your pocket on Wednesday morning meant all us Irish and French boys would get to make the quarter-mile walk through town, across the tracks to the Sacred Heart elementary school, and there we could see the dark-eyed, black haired Italian girls of the Sacred Heart elementary school.
I don’t think that was the primary intent of the sisters of either school, but we pre-pubescent urchin Irish liked that even more than spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread and an Italian cookie for dessert.
A quarter in your pocket leaving home and stepping onto DeSabato’s school bus on Wednesday morning meant sometime that afternoon we would all get a chance to wave to Chicky T. the best looking girl in the Sacred Heart fifth grade, and maybe she would wave back and smile. A pack of girls on one side of the street giggling and waving to a frightened and cold-sweating pack of boys on the other side of the street was as daring as most of us got in the fifth-grade.
But a quarter in my pocket also meant a pack of baseball cards and bubble gum, or a fat piece of Boston cream pie at Ted’s Diner.
Hence the dilemma.
And a quarter in my pocket has, ever since, presented the same confusion, the same approach-approach conflict it did in the beginning.
Food , sex or entertainment.
Boston Cream Pie and spaghetti would keep me alive and happy, sex would be fun and might cause a new life, and baseball would keep us all from fighting.
And what I spent my “quarter” on throughout my life determined my happiness.
Self preservation, preservation of the species, or propagation of the species – the meaning of life comes down to hunger, enjoyment or a beautiful smile.
In the beginning there was a quarter.



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