|The view from the front porch.|
Anyway, I got a communique from one of my aunts that she and my uncle have sold their place on Lake Metigoshe (it means "many waters" in Chippewa) in North Dakota. I was both sad and not surprised; it's been on the market for a couple of years. The whole time I was hoping it could stay in the family, or that somebody would lend me $1.3 million and I'd be able to buy it. Make it $1.4 and throw in the sailboat.
Most of the happy parts of my childhood took place in this house, and in a way, I'm glad it's gone before I have a chance to go back and see it one more time. How do you do something when you know it's going to be the last time? I've taken cats to the vet for the last time, and believe me, it is not fun. I'm not in favor of trying to mark significant endings. Buddha said people and things will come and go out of your life like the tide. Love them while they're here and then let them go. I think that was Buddha, anyway. (I'll bet Buddha never took a cat to the vet for the last time.)
They have to be out by the end of the month. Which is kind of insane, seeing as they've lived there for about fifty years. Having done it once, when my grandmother died, I can honestly say I'd have no idea even where to start. (Hint to those of you who expect to be survived by loved ones: Do the loved ones a favor and START CLEANING BEFORE YOU DIE, fer godsakes. You think your loved ones want to try to figure out who should get the 1940s era Dick Tracy comic books and the Icelandic Bible? And the piano--no, don't get me started about the piano.)
Speaking of childhood relics and pieces of real estate, it occurred to me a couple of blog posts ago that I never really explained about the whole Lutheran Church thing. I grew up in the Lutheran Church, and if you're going to be a Christian, you could do a lot worse than this particular flavor. Lutherans tend to be liberal-minded, soft-hearted, all about helping the poor and downtrodden, and just in general, very, very nice. They rarely get mad; they just get very, very disappointed in you. And yeah, there are a couple of factions that split off from the main body over literal interpretations of certain Bible verses and other strange things, but for the most part, the Swedes and the Germans have all come together and made one big happy church, at least in America and Canada.
And I grew up in it, which was hell. I don't know why it was hell; as I've said, everybody's very nice. But I had a Problem from the get-go, and as soon as I got old enough to articulate it, I was articulating it at anyone who would listen. The Problem was that I didn't want to be there. Not that I had any other grand plans for a Sunday morning -- Joan attends the High Church of the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle, but that wasn't an option for me then, much less in ink--I Just. Didn't. Want. To Be. There. And because I had to be there, I made sure to make a huge ruckus so that everyone knew beyond a doubt that I didn't want to be there.
This went on from my initial baptism, during which I made a run for it, until I was about twelve, which, coincidentally, covers most of the time we lived in Utah. You'd think there'd be nothing like being an oppressed minority to make you love your religion, and you're right, mostly. But I only loved my religion when I wasn't mired in it. When we were there, all I thought about was escape.
Again, it's hard to articulate, but it's something like this: I had figured out very young that for all the supposed importance of church, the one thing I wasn't supposed to do was actually buy any of it. You know, actually start believing that Christ rose from the dead and saved us all with his blood and that God loves us and wants us to be happy. We weren't there because we actually believed that stuff. We were there because my mother didn't want us turning into little Mormons. We needed something to do on a Sunday morning that didn't involve a day-long church service and immersion baptism at the age of eight. And to talk to people who said "Oh ya?" with the same flat Midwestern accent as we did. And that, to me, was a complete and utter waste of time. Why bother coming to church if you didn't believe it?
What was worse, I didn't. Believe it, I mean. I tried to. I was fine with the whole God part, big paternal spirit in the sky that keeps an eye on us and wishes we were nicer to each other. But the Jesus thing? Raising a little girl from her deathbed, saying "Lazarus, come out!", turning water to wine, coming back from the dead? Uh, no. Sorry. Guy was cool--long haired radical, wanted people to do what was right instead of what was popular, looked out for the widows and the orphans and so on--but all that miracle stuff? That was strictly an out-of-control press agent.
And it pissed me off. I was furious that I couldn't believe the whole Jesus thing. I was furious that my parents didn't believe the whole Jesus thing, because if they believed it, surely I'd have inherited some belief from them. But I didn't buy it. Couldn't buy it, really. It just went against some fundamental something-or-other in my brain that I can't seem to let go of. There's this whiny little voice in my head that pops up at the damnedest times and and says, "But Jen, that doesn't make any sense." Handy when you have a high fever and you're hallucinating the sounds of falling paper clips, but really annoying when you're dreaming that you're having sex with a man/woman/ fantasy creature and it suddenly pops up and says, "Uh, Jen, you've been married to Joan for 18 years." I mean, there's not much to say after that except, "I'm sorry, dude, I have to go home." I lose more somnolent dates that way.
Fast forward to Tempe, Arizona circa 1983. We've moved, so we need to find a new church. We visit three of them, and one is much bigger and more ostentatious than the others, and populated by people who appear to be much richer than us. (I don't know yet that my parents are millionaires.) Guess which one they liked best. So for about a year I put up with this church--or maybe it's two years--and in that time a bunch of stuff happens, none of it good. (Remind me to tell you the story about the new organ sometime--I'd tell it now, but this blog post is already getting overlong.) One day I turn sixteen and I suddenly say, "You know what, I'm done. I'm not going to church anymore. You want to ground me til I'm eighteen, fine." (I've already figured out that between music lessons, band practice and after-school study sessions, I'm rarely home anyway.) They didn't. Ground me until I was eighteen, I mean. But I did fight like cats and dogs with my mother about this issue every single Sunday from that day until the day I moved out. I kid you not. Every week it was World War Three in our kitchen.
Having not learned my lesson, I joined another Lutheran church in San Diego when I was 26. But that was different. They fed the homeless every night, and they had an acupuncture clinic and a doctor that came around if anybody needed one, and a lawyer would volunteer his time to help people apply for benefits if they were due them, and a social worker would come down and get the kids into school (there was a special school for children of homeless parents), and if somebody wanted help with a drug or alcohol problem they'd make sure he or she got it, and oh yeah, they had this church over here, too, if you wanted to come by on Sunday.
Less than two hundred members, I might add. Less than two hundred, and they made all that happen. I miss them to this day. But something started to happen to me the last two years in San Diego. Some of it was synod politics and some of it was just hubris, but I began to realize that I couldn't stand under the banner of Christianity and still be who I was. The problem was how to extricate myself. I'd become one of those church ladies with big breasts and a clipboard. Just try getting off a committee sometime, never mind leaving an actual church.
Then we moved to Texas. OH THANK GOD.
And now? Well, nobody in my family goes to church anymore. My brother in law does, I think, occasionally. My sister doesn't. My parents don't. I go to the temple sometimes. Hang with the Zen Center folks and the meditation group. But that's kind of it. I'm a Buddhist and I'm fine with being a Buddhist, but I can't say I'm all that religious, really. I address my prayers "to whom it may concern."
And I posted this on Facebook. But it's not getting emailed.