Monday, August 28, 2006

Tales of small town life

I always hated going to church, for much the same reasons I hate going to work. It's boring, and boredom is worse than pain and death. I was raised Catholic. It was important to my grandmother that her children and grandchildren be raised Catholic, and the non-Catholic spouses (like my dad) didn't care one way or the other, so we were raised Catholic. My grandmother is a devout Catholic, in the best possible way. She has a deep faith in the religion that is mostly personal. She doesn't proselytize to any of her family or friends, and she hasn't let it interfere with her sense of humor or her open-mindedness. When I told my mother I didn't believe in organized religion when I was 14, and when I decided not to get confirmed when I was 17, my grandmother was upset but never once tried to change my mind (with the partial exception of sending me a book in college called "Why Be Catholic?" with a note attached saying something like "Just skim through it and I'll never bug you again.") My aunts, uncles, cousins, and second-cousins mostly still attend Catholic services. Even my uncles who aren't big fans of church make their children go. A cousin who was in my high school graduating class baptized her little girl a few weeks ago. It's a big part of my family life, but hasn't been a part of mine for years. I never felt comfortable in church. I never felt any connection with what happened there. I didn't like it, I didn't believe it, and I didn't need it. And I still don't. And I probably never will. But we're not here for a theology lecture. We are here for the story of a ridiculous lie I told to try to get out of Sunday school (or CCD, as Catholics know it). When I was about seven years old, CCD was right before church. On Sunday morning, I had to attend a 90-minute lesson before mass. This was an indignity and an injustice, I felt. It was bad enough that I had to go to church. Why the additional punishment? Give a kid a break. Give him more of his weekend. He earned that weekend. The church and parish center were about four blocks away from my house, so I started walking. It was a beautiful spring day, and I passed the school playground on my way to the parish center. I took a detour, sat on the merry-go-round for a while, probably pouted, then realized that I had spaced out for longer than I had intended. I was most certainly late for CCD, and I might have missed it entirely. My mother would be heading to church soon and I needed to think of a plan. Shortly thereafter, a large dog who had escaped its pen ran through the playground. That's it, I thought. I'll run home quickly and tell my mom that I was attacked by a large dog and couldn't make it to CCD. No, wait. I reconsidered. Mom might be skeptical. I liked dogs and wasn't particularly afraid of them. I better kick it up a notch. I then proceeded to run home and tell my mother that I had been forced to miss CCD because I had been chased by a bear. That's right. A bear. This might be the stupidest lie I've ever told. My mother took turns laughing at me and yelling at me, then drove me to CCD. I had only missed forty minutes of the lesson. I got carried away by my web of lie. I should have gone with the dog.
I told an even stupider lie once, but I had the good excuse of being three. My brother was a baby, only a few months old. A window in our living room was cracked, and my dad asked me if I knew anything about it. I told my parents that my infant brother, who could barely make a fist, had thrown a hot dog at the window, cracking it. Oddly, I hadn't been responsible for the crack in the window, but I apparently wanted to see my new brother get punished. That must have been some hot dog.

No comments: