Thursday, February 23, 2012

Losing My Religion: Two Views

Now that our country is in the throes of constantly reminding itself how Puritanical it is, it seems that all things Christianity-based are News, so even if I wanted to remain unaware of the arrival of Lent, I could not.  I am a Recovering Catholic, so Lent is still a Presence in my life, and while I do not traditionally observe it, I use it as a catalyst for reflection and renewed resolution.  This lax attitude would have dismayed the nuns at St. John the Baptist's back when I went to catechism classes, but I blame my mother, St. Patsy, who Longtime Readers have met here before.

My mother, who was born and raised a Lutheran, converted to Catholicism in order to marry my father in a scandalous liaison more than sixty years ago.  She immediately became a pariah in her own family and a better Catholic than my father, who sporadically attended mass, if at all, for the rest of his life.  To this day, however, I have no idea if her Catholic Rules are based in The Church, Vatican II, or simply a combination of Maternal Common Sense And Frustration. Under her spiritual tutelage, all four of us siblings learned the following tenets of Family Catholicism in the Church of St. Patsy:

1.  You could still take communion if you didn't eat 15 minutes before mass.
2.  On Sunday, you could have what you gave up for Lent.
3.  A headband counted as a head covering for girls at mass.
4.  Going to the Lutheran church with Grandma counted as going to mass.
5.  It was okay if you missed confession; you could still take communion. What, did you murder someone?
6.  If you were sick, Lent didn't count.  You're sick!
7.  If your birthday was during Lent, Lent didn't count.  It's your birthday!

As you can probably imagine, these rules were vastly different than Sister Marguerite's rules for Lent.  Sister Marguerite was a tough old nun of choking wimple, voluminous black skirts, and in spite of her impossibly tiny stature, intimidating mien.  Every Monday from four to five in the afternoon, we Public School Children trudged into St. John's classrooms to be instructed in religious doctrine.  Sister Marguerite started every session by telling us that our parents did not love us enough to make the Ultimate Sacrifice by giving us a Catholic Education, so she had to save us.  Here are Sister Marguerite's Rules For Lent:

1.  We cannot love Jesus as much as He loves us.
2.  No matter what we may sacrifice, it is Nothing compared to His. He gave His LIFE!
3.  We must do more.  And then even more.  Is that all we are doing?  There must be more.
4.  Come now.  Think of our sins.  How terrible we are! We will go to confession as a group each week during Lent.
5.  We must tell our parents that we want to go to Catholic school.
6.  No eating after midnight on Saturday before mass and until the communion wafer is in our mouths.  Not even a breath mint or aspirin.
7.  Absolutely no meat during Lent. Ever.
8.  Only mass in the Catholic church counts as mass.  Observe all high holy days, which also do not count as attendance at mass.

Is it any wonder I had a debilitating headache each and every Monday?  I could not wait to get home to my mother, who was cooking one of her wonderful, comforting dinners.  I would walk in the side door and into a steamy kitchen, smell mashed potatoes and pan gravy and see my mother in her apron at the stove.  I don't remember ever telling her a blessed thing that happened in catechism, but I do remember telling her the day I made my confirmation that I was never going back.

And I didn't.  To her credit, she didn't even try and make me.  My father didn't even weigh in on the matter.  My religious life was complete, my basic sacraments accomplished, and I was free to coast home on Mondays.  Free!

But those of you who are In The Club know that Catholicism is the original Gift That Keeps On Giving.  Hell, there's even a teeshirt for us.  Despite our best efforts to the contrary, we all suffer (now and then) some pangs of residual guilt.  The whole religion is built on it.  It and its twin, Shame.  Just look at Sister Marguerite's diatribe--and that was primarily for Lent!  She had quite a repertoire of standards at the ready for all occasions, be it Lent, Easter, Christmas, or anything that might arise, such as tardiness, incorrectly defining name it, she could reduce any elementary school kid to a blushing, teary-eyed bag of guts with ease. 


I don't feel guilty for leaving the church.  Not one bit.  That's not what I mean.  What I mean is that, like the Puritanism of colonial times, living the code of a religion that proscriptive, that harsh, that strict...well, it's defeating.  It makes you feel as if you can never truly live in its image, never meet its demands.  You are destined for failure.  That, of course, was the eventual fate of the Puritan church in America.  And while the Catholic church is enduring, it goes without saying that it is gasping for breath.

Of the four of St. Patsy's children, two of us have left Catholicism.  The remaining two are, shall we say, extremely liberal Catholics.  Just like St. Patsy herself.  She would laugh and be dismissive were I to call her a radical, if I were to tell her she was ahead of her time, in the avant garde of the new Catholicism.  So maybe I will tell her, just to hear her laugh.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Weekend At Nance's

Every so often, one or both of the boys will decide to have a Spendover at the Dept.  This is usually initiated by Jared, who is a less frequent visitor because he hates driving almost as much as I do.  He decides that he has had enough of the Fraternity Atmosphere of his place on the weekend, or that he wants to watch Cleveland Cavaliers basketball with his father, or that he wants real home cooking, or that it's someone else's turn to assume full responsibility for Othello, the household cat.  Invariably, Sam appears, and we are a Whole Family once again.  Once it's all over, I discover the following:

 Things Which Occur After Sam & Jared Have Spent Time At Home

1.  We are out of potatoes
2.  And the fancy pretzels
3.  And barbecue chips
4.  I have to clean up beard trimmings around the sink and soap dish again.
5.  There are way more recyclables to go out
6.  Oh, and we are out of salami, too
7.  I have inherited some miscellaneous laundry

Briefly, allow me to comment:

1.  The boys--and yes, they are in their twenties, but will always be boys to me--exist on restaurant food and pasta.  Jared will make baked potatoes, but neither one of them makes mashed potatoes with gravy (why would they?), so when they are going to eat here, I make sure they get a Traditional Sunday Dinner, if possible.  I roasted a turkey this past Sunday for them, and made a ton of mashed potatoes and gravy.

2. & 3.  Kind of self-explanatory.  We have a cupboard devoted entirely to snacks, hence its name "The Snack Cupboard." They both hit it pretty hard.  As far as fancy pretzels, they are Snyder's of Hanover Pretzel Pieces.  I highly recommend the Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper variety with a nice chilled Chardonnay.

4.  For some reason, they trim up here and cannot see those teeny tiny hairs behind the faucet and on the wall-mounted soap dish. I am positively manic about it--always screeched at them concerning it when they lived here--but still this skill eludes them. 

5.  The Pepsi consumption is unbelievable.  Jared is observing Sober February, or there may have been several brown bottles in there as well.

6.  Sam and his girlfriend stopped in yesterday.  He had a headache, and neither had had any lunch.  I told them there were coldcuts in the fridge, including salami.  Except...that there wasn't.  Jared had eaten it.  All.  In a day.  Okay.

7.  Where did this white sock come from?  Whose teeshirt is this?  What is this pair of boxers doing in the towel hamper?  Is that Sam's work outfit under the livingroom chair?  Sigh.

Why did I have all these bigass children?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Mothering In The 21st Century via Microsoft Outlook With A Side Of Basho

On a fairly regular basis, my eldest son Jared takes time from his busy workday and corresponds with me from his desk.  You all remember Jared, co-author of the relatively shortlived blog Stuff On Our List, where we took turns making random lists of things and then commenting upon them.  The blog is still extant, though dormant; perhaps one day we'll take it up again.

But I digress.

This correspondence between us, via email, is largely initiated by him and takes the form of a Haiku Throwdown.  One morning, I sent him a quick email about the Cubs trading wacko pitcher Carlos Zambrano (a favourite of ours for sheer entertainment value) to Ozzie Guillen's Marlins.  He responded: 

You are on your shit
Today with all of the sports.
Nice work outta you.

How’s your matchup looking this week?

He's talking about our NBA Fantasy League, and as this was early in our enterprise and I was, as I am wont to do, obsessing over it and hating the learning curve, I returned:

I am looking for
Someone else to take my team.
I’m not having fun.

It is like a job.
Too much stress and follow-up.
I’d rather consult.

Needless to say, he had none of that.  We moved on from there, and like most moms, I can't even stop nagging via the Interwebs or in verse:

On another note:
Did you leave all those cookies
To rot in your car?

And I keep at Dad
To pack up some leftovers
As lunch for you guys.

I have probably
Enough lunch stuff in the fridge
For at least a week.

Bless his heart, Jared at least keeps his sense of humour (but really, you should see all the crap in this man's car!), and I get this:

No. Cookies half gone.
Noah liked them and had some.
They are delicious.

Imma tell that man
That I want more ham salad.
Enough for a week?

I bet that y'all have
Some flyass dinners that make
Bombass leftovers.

I really do make some flyass dinners.  Y'all would love 'em.  Noah--one of the housemates--can vouch for my cookies.  And my ham makes Bombass Ham Salad.  Just sayin'. 

Every once in a while, I have to get on Jared about his accuracy.  I don't nitpick too terribly often, but accuracy is important, and you know how we Defenders are.  Once, I felt kind of lousy about the nit I picked, so this brief flurry of email occurred:


Hey. Don’t you just hate
How these retired idiots
Nitpick all your shit?

Three minutes later from Jay:

Sometimes it’s good though
Or I might start to think that
I might know something.

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