••• Sunday, June 27, 2004

Tiny font disclaimer: Ever so often I need to tell a story. I hope to birth a new blog this summer to keep these stories, but for now, they live here. The following tale is long (it just kept telling itself, despite my brief intentions)longer than I planned and contains no knit content. It's also in need of further editing. I'm working on it.

Tiny font preface: I had been working on a tiny series of posts about my experiences with organized religion, disorganized spirituality and God. (Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.) Eventually the task became a bit daunting. Albatrossic, even. So, for now I've decided to forget the thinking and just start telling stories, as the spirit moves.

The spirit moved.

Getting Cheeky for the Lord

After my father died (in February, 1970), my whittled down family numbly stumbled through the rest of that winter, clinging to what was familiar, and hiding from everything else. Come summer, however, the woolly cloaks were ripped away, and the three of us tumbled into the bright streets of summer, like a handful of dice.

That summer, mom made friends with Ginger, a woman who had recently moved in across the street. Mom spent many an evening on Ginger's stoop, tinkling Jim Beam and water in a Flintstone's jelly jar and talking 1970 lady stuff, like Dr. Reuben, Tom Jones and the cultural relevance of the "braless test" (a pencil, remember?).

One early evening, mom stopped the stooping to yell at my younger sister, Jaye. I don't remember what Jaye did, but it wasn't a big deal, until she got mouthy. Now, without bogging this story down beyond what bogging's yet to come, it was my belief, as a child, that my mom let my sister get away with everything. ::It's cliche, I know. But it's my cliche.:: So, Jaye mouths off to my mom (in front of half the neighborhood), undergoes verbal humiliation and is sent to her room.

After Jaye stomps off without further argument(too easy, perhaps?), Mom and company resume. Nearby, I silently gloat over my sister's nearly unprecedented incarceration. Suddenly, Ginger busts out laughing and points to the second story of our house. My mom lets out a yelp.

When I see what they're fussin' over, my heart skips a beat. For hanging out our second story bedroom window, shining bright for all the world to see, is my sister's bare ass. And had I not been in the prime of my rivalry years, I would have openly admired the sheer genius of the act. For it was The Perfect Protest; highly visible and unretractable. The ultimate "f-you", with no words required.

Mom quickly excuses herself from the klaatch and marches across the street. I follow behind, keeping quiet so I won't be sent back to the porch. As we approach our bedroom, I'm getting more excited with each step. Because Jaye has really done it this time and I believe I will soon witness her greatest comeuppance. There will be no way for my mom to mitigate this deed. That half the neighborhood witnessed the crime, means that Mom has some serious parent-face to save.

When we get upstairs, Jaye is fully dressed and standing in wide legged defiance (said stance was a Jaye trademark and made it impossible to knock her down. I know this first hand.). She is unafraid as she looks my mother in the eye. Mom tries to stare her down, to establish the proper chain of command, but Jaye isn't flinching. The silence, to me, is unnerving. And for a moment, I'm actually frightened for Jaye. But the moment passes.

My mom opens her mouth, but nothing comes. In the absence of anything real to savor, my brain quickly fills the void, by fantasizing through all the delicious possibilities: "Well, Lady Jane, I hope you didn't have any big plans this summer, because you're grounded indefinitely. Actually, you might appreciate being grounded, because tomorrow I'm shaving your head, then letting your sister draw pictures on it with a magic marker...And after your hair grows back, I'm putting you up for adoption..."

My mother's voice pulls me back to the immediate scene, but it doesn't sound like her voice, exactly. It is too soft and compassionate. Unusual for her, under any circumstance, let alone when she's about to mete out the most heinous justice, upon the most deserving person I know.

Then I hear mom say "You know, Jesus was watching you. Jesus saw your bare butt in the window. I think you need to sit up here for the rest of the night and think about that."

What? That's her punishment? Jesus saw your bare butt? Think about that? What the hell?

First of all, I don't ever remember my mother talking about Jesus, as though she personally knew His daily viewing habits. Not that we were heathen or anything. In fact, my parents were every-other-weekly attendees of Sunday service at an Undenominational (but fundamentally Baptist) church, conveniently located in our very neighborhood. And as kids, we were required to attend Sunday School every week.

But we only "attended" this church. We never became official members, on account of my parents being unable to commit to the contingencies of the constitution, which precluded dancing and card playing and theater houses and drinking and toiling on the Sabbath and otherwise independent thought. ::My parents chose public, unrepentant sinnin' over hypocrisy. I admire that.::

But Jesus didn't live at our house, like He did the homes of the real Christians from our church, the "members." We said the Lord's Prayer at Sunday dinner, memorized our weekly Bible verses, and never, ever took the Lord's name in vain. But neither did we talk about Him much.

That being said, my mother playing the Jesus Card in lieu of getting medieval on Jaye's bare ass, pushed me over the edge. And before I could stop myself, I said: "That's her punishment? To think about Jesus seeing her butt? If Jesus is the Son of God, He's seen Jaye's butt before. In fact, He's seen your butt, and my butt....He can look at all our butts any time He wants!"

I must have had subliminal awareness that, while all this was going on, my mother's last nerve had been laid to rest in a private ceremony, and that I had just, unwittingly, hammered the last tiny nail into that last nerve's coffin. Because suddenly, I was scared. A shaking-in-my-wet-fitted-hariache scared.

Jump ahead a split second: Mom spins on me with the speed of a viper and the spittle of the insane. Fortunately, I recognized the seriousness of the spin/spittle combo, and ducked aside before the slap landed. My mom quickly came to her senses and didn't raise her hand again. ::She was not typically a "hitter" but every once in awhile, usually in response to poorly timed insolence,(case in point) she'd reach out.::

She was still seething, though, and told me that she had never heard such disgusting blasphemy and was shocked at my filthy thoughts and disappointed in my poor judgment to actually speak them...blahsie blah....

The situation had gone from interesting to surreal in mere seconds, and I knew when to cut my losses. I also knew I could make no further sense of this crazy. By now, I only wanted to get away from Jaye's smirky gloat, and my mother's pout.

My mom closed the deal by announcing that Jaye was confined to our bedroom and I was to stay in the living room, for the rest of the night. While I still believed that Jaye had gotten away with the perfect crime, I also appreciated that, on some deep and twisted level, I had gotten away with something too.

So as I left Jaye to bake in our tiny, hot bedroom and headed to the cooler climes of the living room, where a cozy couch and my current read waited, I had only one thing to say.

"Thank You, Jesus."

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