When I was a little boy in Primary (elementary) school, I remember every once in a while we would be called into a special assembly. It was only every couple of months, maybe three times a year, but it was a day we, the children, would always be excited about. They were our favourite days. On special assembly day a travelling puppet theatre troupe would come and entertain us, it would take up all morning and would always have us rolling around with laughter. There were two puppet masters, a pair of ageing hippy women, who were jolly, chirpy types who we all called Auntie Something (whatever their names were). I have a clearer memory of one then I do the others, she was a hugely energetic and loud woman, kind of scrawny, with big mad frizzy grey hair. She was the funny one. The other woman was more the stooge who I don’t really recall, I think she did the puppet voices. The puppets were cartoony, like the Muppets, only more home made. The shows were hilarious. They used big props and had a new set every time they visited. It was a fond memory.
I recently asked my mother if she remembered anything about the Puppet Theatre, and she reacted in a surprisingly disgusted way. She said she hated those idiots and would have kept my brother and me out if we didn’t love it so much. I had no idea why. She elaborated that they were too aggressively religious for her taste and that she didn’t like her kids watching it. I suddenly remembered that all of their shows were about the ignorant puppets learning about Jesus from the wise Aunties. I remembered their stories would usually end with a pretty guilt heavy dead on the cross theme, followed by the reassurance that Jesus loved us and that all we needed to do was ask Jesus to be our friend and he would come and live in our hearts and never leave. That’s what she had done, and she lived in a magical puppet world. I thought it was kind of weird that I had blocked that part out, but didn’t think much of it.
All the same, over the next few days I started to remember more specific details from some shows. The one that really sticks in my mind though is a magic trick they did at the end of one show. They told us that they were going to Africa soon, to perform to little boys and girls, like us, who didn’t have Jesus as a friend in their hearts, because this made them sad. To demonstrate what she was going to do for these’ kid’s souls, she held up a piece of black cloth. This, she told us, represented the little African child’s soul, as it is now, without Jesus. She did a trick that made the black cloth appear to turn white, showing us how the soul will be cleansed once they tell them how to let Jesus into their hearts. I now remember myself and some other kids bullying some poor boy who giggled at something during a crucifixion scene, we made him feel like a real arsehole about it, and we felt good about it. The more I think about that trick the more racist it seems, but I’m not sure exactly how…
I don’t think that I really blocked these memories as much as I’d just forgotten them. It was a rare event that happened a long time ago. I do however now contribute these performances to my hard-wired Christian views as a young teen, and my guilt when I lost my faith, but I feel worse for the loss of a good childhood memory more than anything. Don’t know why I’m talking about this really, just a strange thing that happened recently. Fucking puppets!