My dear friend, Anne, has been a second-grade teacher for as long as I can remember. She uses her class’s guinea pig to motivate her little minions.

My dear friend, Anne, has been a second-grade teacher for as long as I can remember. She uses her class’s guinea pig to motivate her little minions to achieve. If a child were especially good one week, that child would get to take Buddy, their class pet, home for the weekend. And, for Miss Anne, being especially good was not just for academic prowess. It could involve being that week’s best hall monitor, the cleanest blackboard eraser, as well as the neatest lunch eater.

We, the five youngest kids in my family, all attended the same parochial school. Our school’s equivalent to Miss Anne’s reward was a hollow, plastic statuette of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which had a screw on/off base. Inside the statue was a larger than usual rosary. The rosary beads were to be used by the lucky child’s family that weekend, with the honored student holding them.

To say, I wanted to get to take the Blessed Mother home would be an understatement. I was so well behaved in fourth grade, I annoyed myself. My sister Sandie (a second-grader) and I were each hoping to be the first one in our family, that late autumn, to be so honored.

Sandie got the prize first. She was jubilant. To be fair, I’m not even sure she knew how much I wanted to outdo her. To be even more fair, I don’t think the good nuns realized what the motivation behind my fervent wish to get the religious prize was.

Sandie’s statue’s weekend visit happened to coincide with the Notre Dame/Army football game. Our dad was an insane fan of both football and Notre Dame.

We said the rosary the Friday night that preceded the big game. The Blessed Mother statuette was then put in an honored place on the bookcase for Saturday’s repeat prayer session.

Saturday morning, we couldn’t find her. We were frantic! Well, I was. There was no way Sister Rosarita would ever let me bring a statuette home, if my little sister lost one on her turn.

When our dad came downstairs, he laughed. “I put her outside in the tree,”

he said. “ For good weather for the game,” he continued, amused by our blank stares. Obviously, his not very bright children had never heard of that particular religious practice.

We rushed outside and there she was. The Blessed Mother was not only standing in a tree, she was also going to make sure the weather for the Notre Dame/Army game was perfect.

It rained. It rained in Connecticut where we lived, and it rained in Indiana where the game was played. Our dad was so annoyed, he made us leave the Blessed Mother outside, in the pouring rain.

Sandie and I were upset.

Our mom said, “Joe, for goodness sake!” And brought the statuette in. We dried it, and checked to be sure the rosary beads inside were also dry. They were.

We avoided our dad that night and said the rosary by ourselves.

A few weeks later, when Sister Rosarita, finally, said I could bring a Blessed Mother statue home, I demurred. I told her I thought the Blessed Mother had had enough of my family for a long, long time.

I think the statuette looked relieved.