Monday, December 10, 2007

a strange request for a recovering catholic



Last Sunday, I was having the lovely rare breakfast that someone made for me, and I was just about to dig into this awesome made-from-scratch waffle that weighed a pound, not including the butter and maple syrup, when the phone rang. Not one to pick up the phone in such situations, I glanced at the caller ID as I was getting up to heat up my coffee and it was my sister from Brooklyn. Why was she calling me on a Sunday morning, had she actually figured I would not be riding since it was sleeting? Maybe it was an emergency. So I picked it up.


"Hello?"

"Hi, What are you doing?"


"I'm having breakfast with someone."


"I need to ask you something," she said.

" Ok."


"So . . you pretty much consider yourself a non-Catholic at this point, right?" she asked, in a voice that indicated she already knew the answer but was just asking as a formality.


I was staring at my Christmas tree, with all of my pretty pink and red glass ornaments, thinking of the symbolism of that tree. There were about 10 pictures on the walls of various religious scenes in history, from Antoine Caron's Massacre of the Triumvarate to Gustave Dore's Vision of Death on a Pale Horse. To be honest, I loved religious art, but my tastes preferred the macabre to the divine. I was more interested in religion as the perfect example of man's desire to categorize the metaphysial, rather than a true belief in the bible and its allegories. I had really not felt very strongly about being a "recovering Catholic" since college, when for some reason I had thought going to a Jesuit university after being a carefree child of public schools was a good idea. It wasn't. But really I think about religion about as much anymore as my eldest dog Gryphon. I have my own brand of spirituality, and it has nothing to do with dogma, the Pope, or the stages of the cross in stained glass: as much as appreciate them for their fragile testament to man's refusal to deny himself the luxury af an afterlife. But this was an interesting way to start out a lazy, cold, nasty Sunday morning. "Why?" I asked.


"well because we need a Godmother for Florie, and you are the logical candidate, but it won't work if you are blatently anti-Catholic."


"Are you asking me to be your child's Godmother?" the weight of this all of a sudden struck me as funny, in that she felt it more important to question my allegiance to Catholicism, rather than question me as to how seriously I would take the prospect of becoming her child's mother, should something happen to herself or her husband. What a surprise this all was. After all, I was always out riding my bike at the kids' birthday parties, chasing my dreams that did not include marraige or children without fur. Often my family members forget to invite me to dinner, much less ask me to mother their children. Yikes.

" umm . . yes I would really love you to . . " she insisted.


I decided to use a stalling tactic. "Who is Alessandra's Godmother?" I asked. Alessandra is her first child, the one pictured above, Florie's older sister.


"Jackie," she shot back. ". . . so if something happens to Chris and I you would have to STEP UP." We both started giggling at that point. Jackie, my older sister with her big house, demanding work and social schedule, and two spoiled rotten little boys. Sabrina probably had nightmares thinking about Alessandra and Florie being raised by Jackie's full-time nanny.


"Well how Catholic do I have to be? What does it involve?" I asked, envisioning those classes I was required to attend when I got married in my early twenties. To learn how to be a good Catholic wife. And mother.


"You would have to commit to the ceremony one weekend in January when she gets baptized. . . and . . . you basically would have to lie to a priest."


"No problem," I said.


"Ok, great--I'm so glad." And with that we said our goodbyes, and I dug into my waffle, the Christmas tree sparkling in the background the the dogs looking up wistfully, like little angels around the creche.

5 comments:

sabrooklyn said...

For someone not faithful, you were faithfully accurate in recounting the exchange. And don't worry, the GUARDIAN of my children will probably be on their papa's side of the family. I can't have my kids raised in the Melon Patch. No, in the event of my untimely passing, your role is to bring them up in the Catholic faith! Sheesh. Love you, don't forget to save the date!

andrea walheim said...

I am afraid to ask what you consider "the Melon Patch." And I understand the difference between legal guardian and spiritual guardian, but I'm honored anyway : )

Anonymous said...

This blog sucks. All you write about is yourself.

andrea walheim said...

i write about what I know, so yeah, lots of introspection. sorry if it bores you, but thanks for stopping by . . .

Finnegan said...

As a long-recovered Catholic, I lean toward the notion of being a devoted guardian. That said, while it would be inconvenient to be tethered to beliefs that go against my own, I would still likely honor the wishes of the guarantors - until the kid turns into an adult, then all bets are off for the truth. Certainly one's life is judged by the path one leaves behind; not by how many Sundays were spent in church.