Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Raised a Heathen

My good friend Jane, who lives in Philadelphia, emailed me the other day and said, "Hey, I work with a woman who was at your school and in your sorority at the same time as you. Do you know K?"

According to Jane, K is incredibly bright and funny, and someone I would really like. Or maybe someone I did really like; I simply can't remember. Her name sounded familiar, although as I've described previously, college for me was miserable, and I've practically erased if from my memory. It's almost as if it didn't happen. But since the world is small, lately I have fewer than six degrees of separation from Carolina.

So Jane told this woman that she thought we might know each other. She told her my first and last name, and that I had a blog. The next day K came to her and said that she definitely didn't know me. She'd found (what she thought was) my blog on the web.

She very diplomatically said, "I found your friend Lisa's 'faith-based' blog. I wouldn't have known her in college. We would've run in very different circles. She would've been home studying while I was out drinking and partying."

My faith based blog! I looked up the blog that she had found, and the woman states up front that she's a Christian writer.

Now, this wouldn't be so funny except that I tell people that my brother and I were practically raised heathens.

Our dad was Catholic and our mom was Lutheran, and it was a scandal in both families when they got married. So although they promised to raise Catholic children, they didn't raise us with any religion. And then we spent the bulk of our childhood in India and Bangladesh, so we knew more about the avatars of Hindu gods and goddesses than about Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

I mean, we had Christmas, which is my favorite holiday on earth. But for us Christmas meant a variety of things having nothing to do with religion. It meant we (usually) got to see my Gramma Lillian, my favorite human on the planet. It meant stockings that she'd made for us (and that we still have). It meant julekake and other Norwegian Christmas treats.

Christmas meant a tree with colored lights and too much tinsel - but not necessarily a "real" Christmas tree. One year in Bangladesh, my mom bought two of the closest thing to pine trees she could find and tied them together. And we hung our lights and ornaments on it and thought it was amazing. We always used the ornaments that we or friends had made, ornaments that my parents had collected from various countries we'd lived in, ornaments with incredible sentimental value. We still use the same ones, and I LOVE them. And of course Christmas meant presents galore! We didn't actually realize that Christ had anything to do with Christmas.

And then we had Easter as well. Which meant chocolate! And candy and dyed Easter eggs! Easter for us wasn't too different from Halloween, except that we didn't wear costumes. As I said, practically heathens.

We only wound up being baptized because it bothered Gramma Lillian so much. When I was around 8 or so we were in Minot, ND visiting her for the summer. She took us down to her church to have her pastor baptize us. Incidentally, when my grandmother died, this same pastor, this very old Norwegian man with a thick, thick Norwegian accent, unintentionally provided the only moment of levity in the whole funeral. The first thing he said, in his lilting English, was, "Lillian knew she vass a sinnner!" I almost laughed out loud. My sweet little grandmother? A sinner? And she knew it?

When we went back home after the summer of the baptism I wore the dress she'd bought me, and my dad complimented it.

"Thank you. It's my baptism dress."

"Your what?!"

And then, when I was 14 and my brother was 10, our parents started hauling us off to Mass. They suddenly freaked out, fearing that if we didn't have some kind of religion in our lives, we'd grow up and join the Moonies.

We were too old, though. We were sullen. We were bitter. It was a fight every Sunday. The following year we only had to go every second Sunday, and the year after that I think it dropped to Christmas and Easter. And then to never.

College, in fact, was the first time I'd been around people my age who voluntarily went to church. There were women in my sorority (and I know that K was picturing me as one of them) who had weekly Bible study. It being the South, there was a lot of "accepting Christ into your life" around. The only time I'd ever said "Jesus Christ" was when I did something like drop a brick on my toe. As I've said before, I was aberrant in Chapel Hill, hotbed of liberalism for North Carolina, home of Jesse Helms.

Jane knows all of these things. And so of course got a great laugh out of this "Lisa has a faith-based blog" idea. And then she pointed K to my actual blog, starting with my post on foot prostitution.


  1. So I suppose you don't bleed Carolina Blue, huh? :)

    Love the baptism dress - grandparents should always remember - out of the mouths of babes there is truth! Too funny.


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