Some people got to discussing grace — as in “the prayer before eating,” not “the love of God” or “elegance of movement” — in the comments yesterday. It reminded me of one of the pitfalls of not raising our child in any religion, i.e. she can’t say grace when called upon. On the summer to-do list: Teach her one or two.
At camp with the girl scouts a couple weeks ago, we were asked to “take an attitude of respect” for a short blessing before every meal. A different troop was called forward to lead us each time, and some smartass Brownies called for the Addams family grace:
Na na na nah (snap fingers twice)
Na na na nah (snap fingers twice)
Na na na nah (sing three times then snap fingers twice)
We thank the Lord for giving
The food we need for living
Because we really need it
And we like it too!
Note to self: Not that one.
We said a grace in our house, on holidays and special occasions only, that I have come to think of as “Catholic grace:” BlessusohLordandthesethygiftswhichweareabouttoreceive
throughChristourLordamen, and a lunge for the mashed potatoes. Grace is frequently said at breakneck speed in Catholic families, because families tend to be large and if you don’t move fast, you go hungry. In Alan’s Methodist family, they say Protestant grace: Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen. I know it’s Protestant because I later found it cross-stitched onto a set of placemats made for our family by my mother’s Lutheran aunt. Anyway, no one makes the sign of the cross first. It always bugged me because it rhymes. Prayers shouldn’t rhyme. (Google attributes it to Martin Luther, the famous rhyming heretic, but that sounds like a crock. What’s the German version?)
Even though I was raised Catholic in a WASP-y neighborhood, I really didn’t experience the untracked territories of grace until I started eating with my best friend Becky’s family. Her father was a United Church of Christ minister and her mother was southern, which meant a certain hybrid style — a prayer in which hands weren’t folded in front of us but joined around the table. I’m not a hand-holder under any circumstances. Remember Larry David in the prayer circle on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” trying to get away with no more than a fingertip of human contact? That’s me. But her mother was a great cook, and it seemed a small sacrifice to make in the name of being a good guest.
And then the Jesus Revolution came to our little suburb, and all of a sudden we were into the free-form prayer, to which there’s only one reaction: God help us all.
One night, in the very earliest days of the televangelist era, I was asked to stay for dinner at my friend Jeff’s house. Jeff was heavily into the then-unknown Jim and Tammy Bakker, particularly Tammy. (Of course Jeff was gay; do you even need to ask?) We would talk to one another in Appalachian accents for long stretches, asking one another to cast out the demons of multiple sclerosis from a lady in Iowa who was holding her hands on the TV in hopes of a cure. So we sat down at the table, and Jeff’s mother said, “Did I forget anything?” and I said, in my best southeast Ohio hillbilly twang, “Nope. All we gotta do now is thank the Lord.” As soon as my tongue touched my palate to form the L sound, I remember that Jeff’s father had recently become a born-again Christian, and was inclined to be a real pain in the ass about it. Too late!
“Yes, let’s,” he said, smiling beatifically, reaching for the hands on either side of him. And he commenced to make a long, long, long extemporaneous prayer, asking that not only the food and the company be blessed, but that God protect Scott (another son) on the long cross-country journey he was preparing to make, and thanks for the lovely weather, and have we mentioned how happy we are to all be together around the table and —
This was too much for me. Jeff’s hand, holding mine, was crushing it with the effort of not laughing, but I was defeated and started snorting, high up in my sinuses. Would he never get to the goddamn amen? My eyes filled with tears; I’m sure my face was purple. By the time it was over, I had to throw down my napkin and rush to the bathroom to shriek into the towels, which sort of spoiled the mood. It remains the single most mortifying social faux pas of my life, and queered me on non-denominational Christianity once and for all.
My parents’ ashes are interred in the same cemetery where Jeff is buried. He’s just two doors down from Woody Hayes, so his family plot was easy to find. The last time I was there, I saw his father’s name had been added to the stone. I’m not much of a knee-bender, but I stood for a moment and threw out some silent vibes of apology.
So, bloggage? Yes, bloggage:
It’s customary to refer to the local constabulary as “(name of city)’s Finest,” but I bet they don’t say that in Dearborn, not anymore. A cop lifts some pot off a suspect, takes it home to make brownies, eats the whole batch and then bitches out on the maryjane rollercoaster. The 911 call, embedded in the page, will make you feel 17 again. Make sure to stick around until he asks the score of the Red Wings game.
From the Why Didn’t I Go to B-School file: Pasadena website outsources city council coverage — to India.
The weekend, it’s here! Have a good one.