It’s that time of year again. I don’t know about your family, but this time of year brings about what is probably my family’s biggest tradition.
Of course, I am talking about the Lenten Challenge.
What, your family doesn’t have a Lenten Challenge? Mine does. It even comes with a trophy. There’s a chance that this concept is a little unfamiliar to you if you aren’t Catholic. So let me break it down for you.
To my family, Lent is bittersweet. Sure, we aren’t allowed to have steak on Fridays, but it is a time when once a week, for six weeks, my family dines on delicious fried fish.
Lent also marks the one time of the year where my family becomes the most forgetful bunch of yokels outside of a memory care unit. So we made a game out of remembering not to eat meat.
For years we have relished and dreaded Lenten Fridays. We eat dinner at 5 almost every day of the year, but during Lent we call one another about a half-hour after eating our last meal of the day. We do it at this time because we wouldn’t want to warn one another.
Most failures come at lunchtime. If we are lucky, we realize that our leftover steak sandwich is forbidden before we eat it, and on that day, we might just go hungry or eat plain white bread if no easy alternative is near. We usually realize what we have done two bites into a beef taco, leftover pizza we brought into work, or some other food that was really hitting the spot until we realized what day it is.
Our reaction? We either finish the meal in shame, or pack it away in anger.
What is it all about? That’s easy. It’s a carved wooden fish with big lips, buck teeth and googly eyes glued on top of a brown beer bottle etched with our family crest and the words “Lenten Challenge.” It is a trophy that only a Grimler could love.
Among my mother, two brothers and my sister, whoever makes it to Easter without messing up gets the trophy for the year. We aren’t really sure what to do with ties, but usually we don’t have to worry about it.
We are only one week down. Two have already fallen, but I am still in the game. My sister and oldest brother both failed on Ash Wednesday, and my sister did again last Friday.
I was hoping that my mother would fall to the siren’s call of the leftover T-bone in the fridge, but, as is common, she stayed up until 1 a.m. to enjoy it as an early prize.
Some day I am going to set the clocks in the house ahead just to catch her off guard. After all, this is war.