A few days ago(May 21st), my Cousin Leo would have celebrated his 75th Birthday. Like me, he was born in 1940, but I didn’t arrive till mid-December. I’m still a little sketchy about how, and when exactly, I was inserted into the Hart family. But, that is a part of another story altogether.
The above picture, I believe, was taken at Leo’s 3rd Birthday party in front of his house on 32nd Street, which was just one block from where I lived on the same street. Surrounded by cousins and a few neighbors, I recognize in the front row, my cousin Danny and myself with a “tow headed” cousin Leo standing in the middle. In case you are wondering about the term “Tow Head,” it comes from the tow ropes that were used in the 19th century for canal barges. They were the light color of flax which is almost white (I looked it up). Leo’s older brother and sister, Jerry and Rosemary, are standing in the back row on the left. Jerry taught me all about guppies, goldfish and making tin soldiers and later, Rose(as a slightly rebellious teenager) taught me how to smoke a cigarette at age 10. Thankfully, I never took up the habit.
I spent a lot of time with cousins Danny and Leo growing up, it seems like we were always together. Leo always had a story to tell or an experience to share. He wore a string with two cloth patches around his neck which he said was called a scapular. And, it would help him go to heaven in case he died. Well, that got me to wondering… what is going to happen to me if I were to die? I always said my prayers, taught to me by my Dad, but what is this extra insurance that I didn’t have… the scapula thingy?
The prayer of course was scary enough, as I remember it… “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Holy scapula, I vaguely recall worrying (but not using that exact term perhaps)… “If I should die before I wake”, what is that all about? Well, I recall Cousin Leo telling us then, of his twin brother Leonard who died at birth. I’m sure Leo felt a little better back then, with his scapula providing a little extra insurance.
After all of these years and out of my own curiosity, and remembering Leo telling me there were rules about wearing the Scapular, for your edification and mine, I looked them up for a better understanding.
Rules on wearing a Scapular:
“A small scapular must consist of two wool squares of cloth, connected by two strings (of any material), so that one segment rests on your chest and the other on your back. If you would like, you can wear more than one scapular at a time, so long as each scapular is complete. Once you have your scapular it is important to have it blessed by a priest and if necessary to become invested with the confraternity associated with it (A further blessing that can be granted by an authorized priest). Once you have your scapular blessed it must be worn at all times in order to share in the indulgences and privileges of the particular scapular. Should you remove the scapular for any period of time you are no longer eligible for its associated blessings, however, as soon as you resume wearing the scapular you are reinvested in its indulgences. Should your scapular wear out, you may replace it with an unblessed scapular, as the indulgences are invested in the devotion of the wearer, not the object.”
I can’t say much about these rules, it is a function of ones faith after all. Leo was always a good catholic, as I knew him growing up, and I was a bit envious I have to admit.
We spent many of our summers in cottages at various lakes, with weeks at a time of family fun. We swam, we fished and then we swam and fished some more. My cousin Leo was always an excellent swimmer and I was fascinated with the nose plug he wore to keep water out of his nose. From his home on Minock and Joy Road, we would often walk to Rouge Park and swim all day long in the many pools there. Then we would walk back to his house, in our wet bathing suits and wrinkled skin, only to do it all over again the next day. It was fun in the extreme.
After we graduated from High School we went our separate ways. I didn’t see Leo often, except for crossing paths at family functions, usually weddings, funerals or birthdays. But he still always had some good stories to tell and we always picked up where we left off. He was a storyteller, like all of the Bronikowski’s were known to be… especially his older brothers.
Sadly, my cousin Leo died a couple of years ago in a drowning accident. It is my guess he has gone to a good place… whether or not he was wearing his scapular.