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Other's Day

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May. 8th, 2011 | 12:47 pm

I have a Mother's Day Story.

When we lived in Memphis the first time, we were Lutherans. There was a Lutheran church literally within biking distance of our neighborhood; however, they were the "happy-clappy" kind of church, which did not please my dad. He insisted on driving into the city to go to a church that did more traditional music. It's hard to explain how big a deal this was to my dad. Lutherans don't even have High Mass; I'm sure he's never been happy that he could find a church with precisely the right mix of conservative theology and traditional services that he really longed for. Catholicism with Protestant theology and Conservative politics, basically. Such a church doesn't exist in the South; we've looked.

But anyway, he spurned our next-door-neighbors in Christ and drove us to the inner city to suffer through church services. Being six or seven at the time, I reserved most of my thoughts at grumbling that we had to get up 45 minutes before the service to make it on time. He always made us go to early service, too.

My dad's a dick sometimes.

On the occasional Sunday, however, we did go to the nearby church, which I'll call Faith because that was its name. Faith was happy-clappy, vaguely liberal in its service, which meant it was pretty conservative in everything else, because that's the way it goes. (And vice-versa: conservative service, liberal theology.) Anyway, on Christmas and when we were especially tired, Dad would let us sleep in slightly later and haul us to Faith instead. And on one of those days, my older sister, who is a natural social butterfly, filled out an information card on us and checked the little box that said we desired a call from the pastor. And somehow, the pastor of Faith found out Dad's secret: he's a musician.

A pretty good one, too. He wanted to be a composer or a musician for real when he was a kid, but then his dreams got dashed because of another long story I don't want to go into here, but he's both deeply religious and deeply musical. He used to play piano at the church he grew up in, and he sang for years before he got self-conscious because someone told him his voice sucked and he believed them. People crushing my dad's dreams: his life story! Anyway, he was also into choral music a big way, and was currently a member of the really good choir in Memphis. So my dad, despite being an electrical engineer working for the phone company, was actually a fully-qualified music director with everything but the degree. In other words: cheap.

And they needed an organist.

And a choir director. Basically, they needed a music director, bad, but they didn't have the budget for one. So somehow - I still don't know how - the pastor got my dad to commit to being their organist and their choir director.

This had immediate consequences for the rest of us. For one thing, we (the children) had to join the children's choir, where we made up most of the chorus anyway. We didn't have anyone to babysit us on Wednesday night during choir rehearsals, anyway, so we might as well. After children's choir, we would retreat to the nursery where a bored teenager would watch a video while we tore the place apart. This is where I saw Star Wars for the first time.

And on Sundays, we went to Faith.

I was actually pretty happy about it, though I agreed with Dad about what kind of music was preferable. In general, the happy-clappy contemporary music offended me, because it made demands on the congregation to emote. I hated that.

But it had a great advantage over the other church, aside from its proximity. Public school kids never wanted to socialize with homeschoolers; they always stuck to kids who went to their schools. There weren't any other homeschoolers at the other church. But the Devans, another homeschool family, also went to the nearby church at least some of the time, and they would play with us. They were a lot like us, actually: mostly girls, around our ages, one mischievous boy who got into trouble with Suki. We were quite close to them. It was nice going to Sunday school with at least a couple kids who would talk to you.

Then they stopped going. Because this church - Faith - was an ugly mess of local politics. A power struggle between the pastor and some of the powerful moms in the church. LCMS doesn't ordain women - I think I mentioned that? - so women would become unofficial leaders in the church, secretaries, youth directors, choir leaders. I think not allowing women to officially be leaders creates this kind of atmosphere of backstabbing and hatred, where women are forced to try to work behind the scenes to get their way and the ordained pastors/deacons resent them for it. But whatever.

It was pretty toxic, man. And Dad reacted to all of this by refusing to switch his church memberships. He stayed with the other church, even though he could rarely attend. He put his tithe into a little envelope and put it in the mailbox every other week, probably while yelling "I CAN'T BE TAMED!" It was his not-so-subtle dig at the local pastor (though we did have like two babies baptized there, which you'd think would be more important. Whatev.).

And then Mother's Day rolled around.

That fellowship time, the pastor brought out a few bouquets and announced he would give them to the superlative moms of the congregation. He started to name categories - mom with the youngest child, mom with the oldest - and after about three bouquets, we all started holding our breath with embarrassment. Because Mom had more children than anybody else in the congregation. It wasn't a secret. Anybody who could count already knew this. And if you give out a bouquet for Most Grandchildren, you knew it was coming, it was the most obvious category anyway.

Soon the pastor lifted the last bouquet, and said ... "Last but not least ..." (We squirmed in our seats) "... the most teenagers!" Everyone else laughed, while we sat confused. Whatever your definition of teenager was, we knew we didn't qualify; our oldest was under thirteen. We'd been snubbed. Our mom had been snubbed.

Dad was livid on the drive home. "He didn't want to give a bouquet to someone who's not a member," he fumed. "Why don't you just become members here?" I asked. He told me to be quiet. I was always full of questions that weren't easy to answer.

Edit: PLOT TWIST! So my mom says that the reason we started going to the nearby church was because she got tired of driving to the far-away church. So my dad's refusal to become a member was like a passive-aggressive swipe at her or something? This is confuseling.

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Comments {9}

asakiyume

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from: asakiyume
date: May. 8th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
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What a story. I feel sorry for your dad (and annoyed with him, too; that's what real life is like, though).

You know, I bet one day you are going to be a great novelist.



Edited at 2011-05-08 08:12 pm (UTC)

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Sex and a dog-eared paperback dictionary

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from: redcoast
date: May. 8th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
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I can't believe you read this. It came out a lot longer than I wanted; I was distracted, though.

You know, I bet one day you are going to be a great novelist.

Eh, maybe. I want to do a book of stories about my childhood, because I guess it was sufficiently ... different, you know? But I can never get the tone right on these stories. Things that I think are funny come out depressing. Maybe I need to add funny illustrations.

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asakiyume

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from: asakiyume
date: May. 8th, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
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This post didn't feel long at all--it was great to read!

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Sex and a dog-eared paperback dictionary

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from: redcoast
date: May. 8th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
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I bet it would have felt shorter with funny pictures!

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asakiyume

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from: asakiyume
date: May. 8th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
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By all means, add some! I still remember how much I enjoyed your hand-drawn, handwritten LJ entry from several years ago.

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Pitten \\ Chaotic Serenity

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from: wrongly_amused
date: May. 8th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
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Man, I can think of so many things like this that happened in my childhood, which you only realize how insane everyone behaved when you look back it several years removed.

I think not allowing women to officially be leaders creates this kind of atmosphere of backstabbing and hatred, where women are forced to try to work behind the scenes to get their way and the ordained pastors/deacons resent them for it. But whatever.

I know, it's crazy! It's almost like what's been going on for the last several thousand years in patriarchal societies everywhere, leading to this idea that women are naturally backstabbing and two-faced!

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Sex and a dog-eared paperback dictionary

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from: redcoast
date: May. 8th, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
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You cannot empath with my family at all? I think you're fucking up that verb, but I can't put my finger on why.

It is kind of frustrating to me that people can't understand my family. Only certain people from very special backgrounds - and then, I don't think they could understand the current me. You know, the flamboyant, atheist, modern me. So I'm kind of stuck. I think A. understand me, though. ... I kind of want him to meet my family, just to see what would happen.

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Sex and a dog-eared paperback dictionary

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from: redcoast
date: May. 8th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
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Empathize or sympathize, I guess.

mitfühlen

"feel with"? German is awesome sometimes.

If A understands you, wouldn't there be a good chance that he understands your family, too? Since they are the reason you are the way you are, right?

I don't understand my family. I certainly don't understand my parents. I understand my siblings, most of the time ... I know where they're coming from. ...but there are some things, like we kind of speak in code to each other, and nobody can understand it but people in the family. I don't expect A. to be able to understand that.

D'you think he would get along with anyone?

He already met Clairbear and my mom, actually, and they got along swimmingly. I think he would get along great with everybody as long as they minded their manners.

I think I would be scared shitless by your family. I'd probably feel totally inferior next to them. ;)

I don't know about that, but you probably would be scared, if you are intolerant of loud noises and lots of yelling

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A Quirky Undead Chick

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from: ardys_the_ghoul
date: May. 11th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
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I guess we were lucky that Mom was friends with our priest.

There is considerably more backstabbing at the local church than there was at the church we went to when I was a kid--or at the least, it's more obvious. Up until recently, there were two Catholic churches in town, but then they closed one down and demolished it, and everyone had to start going to the other one. The people who belonged to the church that was closed are bitter about it.

I don't think anyone ever gets snubbed outright, though. That is...distinctly un-Christian...?

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