Sunday, November 23, 2014


We haven’t been to church for a while – the whole summer, in fact. This doesn’t bother me or Bub. It definitely doesn’t bother Peanut. He has no use for church at this point. Fine. We are good people. We don’t hurt others. We are teaching our kids the same.

But Meatball. He is a different story. He is our sensitive guy. He is so smart (they both are). He prefers conversations with grown-ups. He sometimes doesn’t fit in with kids his own age. He has struggled to make friends. He has strange interests for a seven year old (researching tornados, making potholders, reading about how dogs’ noses work, and worrying about cancer). He can be loud – but that’s just his natural voice – you know how some people are just quiet and others are not. Well, he is not. Definitely not. He has a sense of what is right and wrong, ordered and disordered, correct and incorrect, structured and loose. He makes no effort to hide that he wants things to be right, ordered, correct, and structured. When those things don’t happen, he is uncomfortable. So, in other words, he is in uncomfortable situations quite frequently.

So, when he says that he wants to go to church because he likes the people there, I will do everything I can to make it happen for him.

And, he’s right. The folks at SVUUS are awesome. Seriously awesome. The grown-ups are, without a fault so far, inclusive… End. Of. Story. The description of the church is “an intentionally diverse religious community.” Despite my awful social skills, even I have managed to be welcomed. It’s a relatively small congregation, and on any given Sunday you will find straight, gay, bi, male, female, trans, poor, very affluent, abled, differently abled, and a multitude of skin tones.

Given all of that, it’s not hard to imagine that the kids are loving in a way that is surprising – at least in my experience of kids in these parts. There is not a sense of superiority or entitlement due to any number of factors that are flaunted by so many who are part of the majority in this state. (Majority = religion, color, gender, neighborhood, whatever.) The kids (and adults) at this church seem to see through everything and directly into a person for who s/he is. (Shouldn’t it be this way always?)

And, honestly, some of the kids are odd – well, in the conventional way of looking at things. They are odd because those around them are odd. I’ll not mince words here. It’s still not an everyday occurrence for most people to hang out with a transsexual or someone transitioning. Around here, it’s still very strange to be gay (although it is getting better). And, probably everywhere, it’s frowned upon to be poor. So, marginalized populations have always had a tendency to gravitate towards each other for support or comfort. So, these odd kids – being raised by odd parents/guardians – don’t care that Meatball is sometimes odd. He feels comfortable with them. They are friendly towards him. They respect him.

I’ll do anything to help him feel this way. So, he wants to go to church? Great. Let’s go.

Once per month – usually the first Sunday – the whole congregation stays together for an “all ages” lesson. Other Sundays, the adults stay together for the sermon/discussion while the kids go downstairs to their age-appropriate lessons (which are awesome and I’ve learned quite a bit – For example: Walls of Jericho. I had no idea…) I realized that this Sunday would probably be the “all ages” sermon, but I didn’t give it another thought. It was two days after Halloween – the last day of The Day Of The Dead.

Oh, I’m all for The Day Of The Dead. Great idea. It’s important to remember those who have left our lives. It’s appropriate to meditate or quietly reflect. It’s healthy to grieve, to celebrate, to feel. It’s NOT THE DAY TO TAKE MEATBALL TO CHURCH!!!!

Holy shit.

The pastor (love her) started out by talking about her mother-in-law who had just passed two days prior. The pastor’s wife (kooky, awesome pianist/musician) was having a difficult time, but she soldiered through. My little Meatball was very quiet.

The director of kid’s instruction gathered the kids together at the front. “Some of you may not had someone die who you were close to like a grandparent, but maybe you’ve had a pet die. Raise your hand if you’ve had a pet die.” Meatball’s right hand rose, and although his back was to me, I still saw his left hand wipe come up and the tears from his face. The kids returned to their seats.

The choir (and the kooky pianist) did an awesome number about a journey through life. The pastor continued with the sermon about life’s journey and how it’s like a steamer trunk. Through our journey, we collect things from others, and we put them into our trunks. At the end of our trip, our trunk (heart) is full of love and memories and compassion and beauty.

Then, we all sang a hymn. The point of the hymn: those we have lost are never really gone. They are in the music of a mountain stream, the wind through the trees, and pink and orange in a sunset. Meatball didn’t really understand this while we were singing – mostly because he LOVES the singing, LOVES trying to follow the hymnal, LOVES the collective voices. So, I explained it to him in a whisper at the end of the song. Not my brightest moment because, well, instant tears.

As if the little guy hadn’t had enough yet, the pastor invited folks up to light a candle for loved ones lost. If they wanted to, people could mention to the congregation whom they were honoring. Thankfully, Meatball didn’t realize this microphone bit.

So, he got up and headed up to where the candles were. He waved me off when I asked if he wanted me to go with him. (Proud but bittersweet mommy moment as my boy grew up just a little bit in front of my eyes.) He was second in line and was crying before he even got there. The pastor, bless her heart, was on her knees helping him light his candles (three of them!) and comforting him. It seemed to take forever – for me at least. As he came back to his seat, his tear streaked and splotchy face just broke my heart – and the hearts of just about everyone around us.

We took our leave to the back of the room to breathe, get a tissue (or 17), and calm down.

We returned to our seats and there was a long line of people who wanted to light candles – most of whom wanted to mention the name of the person(s) lost. Some were calm. Some were celebratory. Some were crying themselves.

With every “I light this candle in memory of my grandma,” or wavering voice offering love to a departed sister or “my dad was a good man,” Meatball choked back another sob. And another. And another.

We returned to the back of the room – and then out the doors entirely for some cool fresh air on our faces. I learned that he lit a candle for our neighbor, Virsel, who died when the boys were five, our aunt Bernice, (who is actually still alive but apparently he is confused), and of course, our dear, sweet Lizzy – the best dog EVER. She was my dog, for sure, but she very nearly became his dog, and no boy adored a pet like he adored her. She loved him back – almost as much as she loved me.

I told him that we could leave that instant if he wanted to go, but in a typical seven year old fashion, he wanted to stay for treats! (Coffee, tea, and food are always served in the “café” after the services.) So, we returned to the chapel in time for half of the final song. Then, we headed downstairs and got him a nice big cupcake.

On the way home, he informed me that he is never going to church again.
Now, we have a problem...

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