Well, summer draws unofficially to a close here as the kids start school tomorrow… I’m still having flashbacks to Syd’s back-to-school shopping trip to a tween store called Justice. Bubble gum pop videos piped onto flat screens, lots of glitter and hearts everywhere you looked… and not a place to lean much less sit down save for a long flat display of girl’s underwear from which I decided I should keep an appropriate distance. That was the problem in that store: every which way I turned was something that it would be inappropriate or just weird to linger over… glitter gloss, beginner bras, hello kitty backpacks… so there was a dizzying amount of perpetual strolling and turning going on. I couldn’t even joke around with Syd who was very anxious and self-conscious about picking out outfits, and my helpful comments of “Cool!” and “Now that is killer” were only met with icy stares before she stormed off intent on making her own fashion discoveries. Hey, who can blame her? I did the same at her age when my brother and I were dragged to some little-known shop called the Rugged Bear, where we were mercilessly outfitted with brown and gray corduroys and a subtle range of oxford button down shirts… outfits that remained our standard mom-imposed uniforms from grades K thru 6 or 7, or probably grade 8, because I remember getting a denim jacket for my first day of high school and feeling like it was so not me to be wearing something approaching fashionable that I had no idea how to behave in it. Anyway, Syd isn’t destined to have that problem, since we’ve been unable to re-locate that Rugged Bear shop much less get our kids to listen to us.
Well, that’s not entirely true. We were in Chicago recently for my brother-in-law’s baby’s baptism, and we did manage to get Isaac into a pair of pants and a t-shirt without a picture of a car or a shark on it (grand applause). Karen and I were a bit terrified of how the kids might behave in the church during the baptism, as they haven’t quite kicked the competition for our attention that’s been going on since Isaac was born, just six short years ago. But they pulled through, with Sydney even adopting more of a parenting-type role and keeping Isaac calm when Karen and I were part of the ceremony. Yes, it’s true: I am now a godfather! Is that supposed to be capitalized? Godfather? Anyhoo, there was some advance notice to the priest that I might be Jewish, which I think may have induced some sort of “agree-to-disagree-as-long-as-you’re-not-one-of-these-postmodern-post-religious-types-that-seem-to-have-taken-over-in-this-bowling-alone-America” respect that I certainly don’t deserve but wasn’t about to proactively dispel. I needed to profess my allegiance to the Lord and specifically renounce “Satan, the Prince of Darkness”, which I found quite easy to do. Then there was a tense moment when the priest called the two godfathers up (me and one for another baptism that was being performed) and lit baptism candles for us to hold. There was a significant draft down the main aisle from the open doors at the end of the church, and my candle went out pretty quickly due to this. As soon as that happened I knew what Karen and possibly the rest of her family were thinking. I debated asking the Godfather next to me for a light, but then, luckily (divinely?) his candle was blown out as well. Whew! Off the hook! When the priest turned and gave us permission to blow out our candles, I made a small gesture to the faith by pretending to blow out my candle that was already out. What mattered was our belief that it was still lit, no? Anyway, in all seriousness, it was an honor for me and Karen to be named godparents for baby Blake.
Speaking of religion and being mistaken for Jewish (not that I’m not, just that that’s not all I am… and being half of one thing and half of another sometimes makes you feel less like either, or, dare I say, my own person?), this recent war in Gaza has had a lot of interesting discussions and posts flying by on my Facebook feed. Sadly this is how we are “reading” the news sometimes, with our busy lives… and I should be blamed for going to my fb page ahead of and usually instead of a reputable news source on any given day… that alone says a lot about our me-focused culture. But anyway, the recent violence in Gaza and the unrest in Ferguson and the stories of a Liberian slum being cutoff from the rest of the world to contain the Ebola virus… they all just have this new slogan going through my head: “People are people too.” There is no reason to ever mistreat another person… if they are mistreating you there are hopefully peaceful/nonviolent ways to stop that behavior and then there is likely a history of mistreatment that led to their bad behavior. I’m more than ambivalent about religion because I feel like too much of religion seems to be about claiming some exclusive privilege for devotees or some entire group of people and some special knowledge of that which we clearly know little about, i.e. how we got here in the universe and how long we’ll be around as sentient beings. Isn’t just being alive enough for us to know that life is a good thing that should be treasured for each and every person? So any organized belief that some are entitled to some rights and privileges and that others are not seems selfish and mean-spirited to me. People on the other side of the globe are people too. People crossing our borders and seeking a better life are people too. People who live in that “bad neighborhood” are people too. And yes, even people in other cars in the same traffic jam as you are people too. Sure, there will be competition for limited space and resources, but let’s hope we can address our collective needs in civilized way. I’d like to think that’s what a civilization is all about.
And those are my first pronouncements as a Godfather. I really think this is an offer of worldly wisdom you can’t refuse, no? (Cracking walnuts with my bare hands)
Ok, hope you all had great summers and are avoiding some of the heat and humidity that finally arrived here in MA. Until next time,