November 9, 2008

Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and Dinosaurs

On the way to the airport this morning, my visiting friend, Amir, asked me if our family goes to church. That might seem like an odd question from a close friend, since that's usually the sort of thing that close friends already know about one another. But we are both sort of floundering spirits, not espousing any particular religion or belonging to any single church, although we kind of wish we did. I'll speak for myself, at least.

We did attend a church here for a few years, awhile back. I started going to women's bible studies and we signed up to be door greeters, in an effort to get involved. As a girl who grew up in a home completely void of religion, organized or otherwise, choosing to follow one as an adult wasn't easy. I wasn't drawn so much to the actual religion as I was to that church; I was all about the rock band at the start up of each service and the attending families who appeared to be perfectly normal. I even enjoyed the bible study groups, interestingly enough. I'm a horrible skeptic, plus, I'm not very good about taking the parts I like and leaving the parts I don't - a strategy my husband taught me for surviving church as a non-religious person. Sooner or later, though, I knew I was doomed to fail. In the end, I think every organized religion is going to offer something I don't agree with and I won't be able to get past it. This one was a four-week sermon on fixing gay people. See ya!

Since then, I haven't put much effort into trying a different church. I'm not sure what I'd look for, or what I'd hope to find. How can you choose something like that, if you have no idea what you're in need of? Part of me just likes the thought of having that Sunday morning ritual, giving Jack some background at least, from which he can explore other things later in life. I don't fault my parents at all for not raising us in church, but it would be a lot easier to be something if I could say what I did or didn't want to be.

Amir's seven year old daughter, Ellie, has it right, I think. In a conversation loosely based on how Jewish people don't believe in Christmas, she defined the perfect religion, as far as I'm concerned.

"Daddy, I believe..." she said, " Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and Dinosaurs."

Amen. Sign me up for that church.

November 1, 2008

Lesson Learned

There's my kid, a football player for Halloween, the second year in a row. You'd think he would want to be something different, but no. He'd wear this costume to school if I'd let him. It didn't bother him one bit that he had a Seahawks helmet and a WSU jersey, or that the pants were actually baseball pants. What mattered was that the Halloween rule I told him about, the one where you can't be the same thing twice, was a lie, and he found out just in time.

Our neighborhood's a little crazy on October 31st. In the beginning, when all of our houses were brand new, we had a lot of kids come through here. It's a safe place, and just the right size for a night of trick-or-treating. We had no way of knowing that, 11 years later, it would look like Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Every year, I have taken my kids out with one neighbor or another; early on, we held the toddler's hands all the way up to the doors and coached the "thank you" when we left. As time went on, we moved out to the driveway and waited, still coaching. Suddenly, one year, we found ourselves not even making the driveway trek with them, just shouting "What do you say?" as they sped past us, on the way to the next house. Before long, we just went out walking for the fun of it; we knew our kids were somewhere within a four-house radius or so, and that we'd find them eventually.

This year, I let Jack go it alone. He took his friend across the street and off they went. It was definitely a mom moment, one of those bittersweet first-time-on-the-school-bus moments. It was the first year that I didn't go out, with my travel mug full of wine, talking to the hundreds of people wandering up and down my street, for hours. Nope, I stayed in. This is usually a job reserved only for my husband, who loves it. He chats with all the kids and moms and dads and just has a ball. I kind of cut into his fun because it seemed awfully humbuggish to just park my butt on the couch and watch t.v.

I probably had more fun than I would have watching CSI reruns, but in the end, it wasn't that great. I missed all the trick-or-drink houses (I heard my brother was passing out killer margaritas, his signature) and the various haunted porches and dead bodies that came alive at the sound of the doorbell. I missed the total chaos of it all - the running and screaming, the sleepy babies in strollers and zonked out toddlers on shoulders. Sure, I saw all the costumes and stayed warm and dry for the first time ever, but to be honest, I feel like I cheated myself out of a tradition I didn't realize I was a part of. There are parents who go out, and there are parents who stay in. I totally messed with the balance of things last night, and I'm pretty bummed about it.

Even though Jack will go without me from now on, I won't stay in next year. I understand my place in the universe now.

Shamelessly judgemental thought for the day: WTF kind of parent lets his/her 10 year old dress up as a pimp?