This morning at breakfast, Stella announced that today was her Saint's day. Mom was first to react, as usual. She said facetiously "Saint Stella? Doesn't exist! Certainly not in this house, at any rate!" Then I - Henry that is -, who always reacts second, quickly set Stella straight : "Yesterday was Saint Ella's day. Here look."
To prove my point - in our family it's always best to have some book handy with which to prove one's point -, I pulled out my official national education datebook (given freely to all French school children on the first day of the school year - or shall I call it Saint Ingrid's day?) and showed them the official list of Saint's days printed in the front and back for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011.
"Ha! You see! Saint Ella! There's a girl in my class called Ella!" I was proud to have been so efficient. Proud that I was right? Naw, that goes without saying.
That's when Miss Crankypants walked in. She looked something like this :
(Mom showed me how to make a link so you all can see that we got her picture from here. Thanks very much Mr. Schultz and Ruby Persson too!)
We here at Paret Match know Miss Crankypants well. She usually shows up when Mom's not happy about something that happened at school today...
So there we were, eating English muffins with jam and innocently talking Ella vs Stella and Saint's Days and such when Miss Crankypants suddenly bounces up from the couch in a shower of sparks!
"Let me see that thing!" she shouts holding out her hand for my official national education datebook. I give it to her, of course. She pages through it wildly then begins waving it furiously under Papa's nose. "What do you think of this?!!! An official list of Saint's days handed out by the national education system?!!!"
Now at this point you have to understand that here in France we are EXTRAORDINARILY proud of (and touchy about) our secular, republican school system which dates back to the French Revolution and Napoleon and all of our gloriously enlightened French past... Mom was OK with secular back before 1992 - before Max's birth and soon-to-be admission into the aggressively secular French school system. Mom thought secular meant what everyone here pretends it means : nonconfessional, egalitarian, separation of Church and State, that sort of thing. But then, Max went to school.. And, voilà! After La naissance de la République Laïque in 1789 (the birth of a secular nation), behold the birth of Miss Crankypants, September 1995!
Ever since, Miss Crankypants has been pointing out, and decrying at the top of her lungs, all the inconsistencies in the "secular" French republican school system. For one, school on Saturday mornings - and tough titties if you're Jewish and aren't supposed to work or use electricity on Saturdays! You're just supposed to adapt!
Back in the naughties, when the gouvernement wanted to do away with school on Saturday for some reason and make kids study (at school no less!) on Wednesday afternoons instead, Oh the uproar! That's when Mom discovered that many kids go to catechism on Wednesday afternoons and if they didn't go then, when would the poor dears go? It was unthinkable to take Wednesday afternoons away from the clergy... Oh, really? No one was asked to adapt this time...
So there was Miss Crankypants waving my datebook dangerously under Papa's nose. Papa, who's a pacifist, said "There is probably something showing the dates of religous holidays of other religions..." At least that stopped the waving while Miss Crankypants quickly looked through the book to see if he was right.
"No dates for Ramadan in 2010! No dates for Kippur! Secular my hiney!" she shouted.
(Thank you The Comic Stop here.)
Miss Crankypants raged on : "Secular in the République Laïque de France just means 'Get with the Roman Catholic agenda, folks, or get out!' Oh, and here are all the Saint's days to help you right along... Take off that veil! Take off that kippa! And if you happen to be Protestant and you don't celebrate Saints, well, better keep that quietly to yourself or M. Brice Hortefeux, minister for National identity, might have to create a commitee to see if you actually qualify. But don't worry too much, folks, we républicains haven't thrown any dead heretics in the Seine since 1958..."
Once again, poor Papa didn't know what'd hit him!