Remember When There Was No Pope?

When I was a boy I decided that I wanted to be the pope. To show my enthusiasm, I pretended to play the part for a while. I locked myself in my room, and when my parents knocked on my door to tell me it was time for dinner I would blow black smoke at them. Except since I was too youngpapal headgear to play with matches, instead of black smoke I had to sprinkle the black crayon shavings that collected below the crayon sharpener that was built into the base of my giant box of crayons. The white crayon was never pristine, so when this cardinal college of one had made its decision, I had to blow bubbles instead of white shavings, and hope the faithful would forgive me.

I rolled the Sunday comics into a tall hat and wore my Superman robe all day. I walked around, blessing my parents, and making changes to the canonical laws that governed our household. I would no longer drink milk by itself, but only in combination with a suitable cereal such as Cheerios or Kix. Chuckles, the gummy candy that came in five equal pieces, each of a distinct color and flavor, would have to be consumed according to a rigid formula: black, green, orange, yellow, and finally red. I would wear pajamas with feet on weekends only.

My parents and hangers-on had some challenges with these abrupt changes, but eventually their faith gave them the strength to adjust. And just in time, for while chewing a red Chuckle one afternoon, I decided that it was time for me to inject myself into a controversy.

At school a battle had been raging for months over which version of a particular toy sword was the superior weapon in battle. One version had a silver plastic blade and gold plastic handle. The other version had a gold plastic blade and silver plastic handle. The two sides would battle it out in the middle of the classroom during morning recess, and our teacher refused to get involved in anything that did not involve paste.

I could see that divine reason was needed. Taking burnt sienna crayon to a piece of manila construction paper, I issued a papal bull that deposed the leader of the silver blade army and the leader of the gold blade army. I could see that both leaders were contemplating an alliance against me, but by serendipity they and their followers were whisked away to the nurse’s office to be checked for lice.

During outdoor recess I insisted that I be placed inside of a clear plastic box in case any one wanted to draw His Holiness into a game of dodgeball. Amidst the kids skipping rope and plummeting from jungle gyms to the lush concrete below, I sat in my plastic box and read Pope Gregory I’s commentary on Where the Wild Things Are.

My papacy was not immune to scandal. The classroom had only so many toy trucks to go around before boys had to dip into the far less popular toy vacuum cleaners. I was caught selling my influence over distribution of the toy trucks for chocolate milk, and as penance had to pay a large settlement to the families and then sit in the corner.

But at home I still reigned supreme in my regal vestments and pajamas with feet. I looked with pride upon my flock, even if it did consist mainly of stuffed animals and He-Man figurines. I believed that being pope was my future, and that absolutely nothing would get in my way as long as my faith remained strong. And strong my faith remained…right up until the moment that my parents dropped me off at Hebrew School.