I come from a long line of churchgoers. Believe me, our halos would not blind you. However, the halos of our congregation who have bravely tolerated our gang would. When I was a child, we drew straws to see who was going to sit next to my Gram in church. Looking back, I now believe I know the source of the inherited ADD/HD that has popped up in the current generation.
As if her constant jiggling of her oversized necklaces wasn't enough to send worshipers over the edge, the fact that she was a genetically challenged whisperer would. She would continuously inquire where we were in the service and make random observations on subjects ranging from the nervous tick of the man sitting in front of us to her belief that someone must have “goosed” the soprano for her to have hit that high note. She also had the uncanny ability to recognize the quietest moment of the service. It was then that she would fumble through her purse, find her stash of wrapped candy and begin to loudly CRINLKE CRINKLE CRINKLE until she procured her little chocolate treasure.
My brother and I had our own issues. He dressed in cherub-like attire, but my brother Jim was far from angelic. Glowing with the honor being an altar girl, I stoically walked down the center with the candle that would be used to light the altar candles. I saw him in my peripheral vision but unfortunately too late. In one hefty blow he extinguished my only source of light to carry out my task as I walked past him.
I guess I wasn’t a total angel either. Some of my most heated games of Uno were played in the back room that Margo Johnson and I snuck into after lighting the candles (that is if I could get by “Mr. Blow Hard”). On one such occasion we got into an intense game of cards and neglected our responsibility of handing the collection plates to the clergy. I sheepishly emerged from the back room and returned to my chair by the choir and received the “evil eyeball” from an adult choir member I sat next to. He had that “You’ll be sitting with Satan” judgmental look on his face and I just knew he was going to rat me out to my parents after the service. Fortunately, a periodical that did not look very “holy” slipped out of his hymnal and onto the floor. We locked eyes and immediately knew that what we had here was an ecclesiastical “Vegas moment.”
You would hope that generation X would take things to a higher level but alas the torch, or in this case candle, has been officially passed. When it comes to providing a religious experience for my offspring, the smallest member of our family provided the biggest challenges. You would think with the name “Maria” that I would have a fighting chance. One of our most challenging periods of our family’s spiritual journey was when Maria’s “I refuse to wear underwear" stage simultaneously occurred with our church hiring a director of children’s education. She was a dead ringer for Dana Carvey’s “church lady” and our Mrs. Church Lady could suck the life and the humor right out of you with one of her steely looks. I was on the receiving end of many: “I see we think a soccer game is more important than being on time” or the ever memorable “How nice to see all of you with a tan.” Translation: “You will be getting plenty crispy where you’re headed!”
The ultimate encounter with Mrs. Church Lady happened when I went to pick up my little angel from Sunday school. She cornered me with a “Mrs. Darah, we need to have a little chat.” I knew this couldn’t be good. She firmly stated, “I realize how difficult it must be to get three little ones here on time, well, at least here on Sundays. However, we do insist that the children wear undergarments. I have purchased a few and put them in a bag for you.” I quickly explained that not only had I put the Barney big-girl panties on my youngest child but lifted up her little dress to do a double check! Unbeknownst to me, the little nipper had taken them off in the car. Once Maria could talk, our church improprieties were taken to a whole new level.
One serene Sunday the children were asked to go to the front of the church and sit next to the clergy for a special children’s time. Maria walked up the altar steps with the other children, and without hesitation, sat right next to the man in black she thought was in charge. I was proudly sitting in the third row beaming with satisfaction when my child did the unthinkable. In an earsplitting voice she yelled “Mom! Mom! Mama! Mom!” Trying to stay composed I mouthed “What?!” She responded with a deafening inquiry — “Is this guy God?”
My other children caused a few moments of perspiration especially during the Christmas pageant. I still ponder how one child could perfectly deliver four paragraphs full of words such as “frankincense” and “myrrh” while the other screwed up one word; “HARK.” We are now attending a new church. Thankfully, the great thing about religious establishments is that even though we are a zany family, they let us in and look at us not as the rumpled, tardy crew that we are but as souls in need of saving and constant prayer.