Monday was library day at preschool and Chooch came home with this bright pink book about praying. Either they don’t have any secular books to offer, or my child has chosen a decidedly different path than my own.
I’ll admit, I had my reservations about sending him to preschool at a Catholic school. (He’ll be going to a public elementary school, though.) We just don’t really do religion here. I mean, he came home from his first day and told me about the song that they learned, which included an “Amen.”
“I don’t even know what that means!” Chooch said. And I didn’t really know what to say, to be honest.
It’s not that I’m a devil worshipper. Yes, I make my sacrilegious jokes and I take the Lord’s name in vain almost as much as I kick Henry in the nards. But I guess a lot of that is just part of my facade.
When I was a kid, I was into that religion shit. I went to church every Saturday night with my Pappap. Even when I was a teenager. On a Saturday night. It was usually just the two of us, though sometimes my step-dad would join us if he wasn’t going to make Sunday mass (and we hated when he would he would tag along because that meant we couldn’t blow that popsicle stand straight after Communion like we normally would; with my step-dad there, we’d have to leave after the Priest). And sometimes my aunt Susie (my Pappap’s youngest daughter) would come along depending on which restaurant we’d be dining at afterward. (There’d be a 99% chance she’d grace us with her presence if we were going to Napoli, because she lived for their osso bucco.)
But I just went because it was something that my Pappap and I did together, so it wasn’t a drag. It was nice.
It was tradition.
It also wasn’t something that was forced on me, and it wasn’t used as a threat against me. (Although I do remember a particular scene of my childhood where my mom sat me down and made me watch “The Exorcist,” saying that this was what was going to happen to me if I didn’t stop being an asshole.) I was enrolled in CCD (a/k/a Sunday School) because I was part of a Catholic family and it was the natural course of things.
And I enjoyed going to CCD. Especially around the time fifth grade rolled around, because the focus shifted from prayer memorization and learning Confessional formalities to more of a Biblical history lesson. We had an instructor who would give us tests. Isn’t that sick? That I actually enjoyed taking tests on Biblical times? I guess I never really looked at it in terms of faith or spirituality; to me it was more of a history course. Learning about Moses and the Red Sea, Noah’s Ark, the Ten Commandments, Cain and Abel – all that shit fascinated me. Some of it was horrifying, all that murder and pestilence – and even as a child I loved my horror. My Grandma Kelly (who is extremely devout) caught wind of this and started buying me these little religious books for children. I ate that shit up.
I was baptized, made my First Holy Communion, and did the whole Confirmation rigamarole. I had a rosary and knew how to use it.
I think I did believe in God as a child. But then my Pappap died when I was sixteen. Whatever stock I had in God? It was replaced with soul-crushing resentment. Weekly mass stopped for me. Even Christmas mass was eschewed. My mom and I would pretend to go to midnight mass so we wouldn’t get stuck going in the morning with my step-dad. Meanwhile, we’d go to my mom’s office and just sit there for an hour.
I never really found a way to get that faith back, if I ever had any at all, so I began making disparaging comments and insults about “your God” as a lame defense.
As an adult, I believe that we carve our own paths. I don’t look to some imaginary astral projection to help guide me through life. I don’t need the fear of God to get me to choose right from wrong. I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell. But that’s just me.
Even though I’ve been on this atheist path all these years, I never really lost interest in the history part of religion. In college, I took some classes on the origins of Christianity, and still found that I was fascinated by it. This obviously wasn’t your grandma’s Wednesday night Bible Study. I was so thoroughly sucked into those classes (I never even sold back the books) that I even considered minoring in religious studies. Then, you know, I never finished college. Because I never finish anything.
“Today we did that thing you do when you exercise, Mommy,” Chooch said from the backseat of the car on Wednesday. “Except it was a little different. We didn’t say ‘Namaste.'” And sometimes, while he’s on the floor playing with his Batcave, I catch him murmuring pieces of Jesus-y songs that he’s being taught.
If my son chooses to believe that there is a God and decides to explore that further, I will support him. Because sometimes I do wish I had something to believe in.