Growing up, my friends came from a fairly wide variety of religious backgrounds. Especially relative to, say, rural Wisconsin. We didn't have any Hindus or Muslims that I knew of. There was one girl in second grade who didn't say the Pledge of Allegiance because she was a Jehovah's Witness. She was Asian and seemed otherwise normal. Now that I'm a little older, I wonder what Jehovah's Witnesses are doing sending their kids to public schools when the grownups aren't allowed to fraternize with non-Witnesses.
But I grew up with a few Jewish kids, one or two Greek Orthodox (I didn't learn anything about the religion, but boy did I learn about the families), and a bunch of Catholics. Springfield, Massachusetts had pretty sizeable Italian and Irish populations when I was young, and while they didn't necessarily get along (my older brother had stories of the Irish and Italian kids sitting at opposite ends of the cafeteria; on the other hand, for a long time there were alternate Irish and Italian mayors), there was a whole lot of Catholic going on. My Catholic friends had to go to CCD/catechism class on Saturdays, which earned them unending pity; but then their First Communion rolled around and they got more than enough money from their enormous Catholic families to buy lots of candy or that radio-controlled car they wanted or whatever.
Of course Communion should be a really special thing. It's just that, Communion with God, the merging of your flesh with the flesh of Christ (it will vary by person exactly how literally you take that), and that seems like a good thing to be prepared for. For me, though, First Communion was kind of a mystery, because I'd been taking it as long as I could remember. The minister of our Episcopal church was a sweet guy from rural Florida named Dennis. He likes to hunt and fish, and he's smart and well-read and seemed to fit in well with a generally laid-back Episcopal diocese. The story goes that when I was little I went up to the altar rail, and instead of waiting to blessed, I held my hands out to get Communion like the grownups.
Apparently Dennis looked at me a little funny, thought to himself that as a minister of God he really shouldn't deny Communion to someone who wants it, and that was that.
It was a really, really chill diocese.
Off to Denver tomorrow for another aikido seminar. Phew.