Friday, February 17, 2006

Handbasket Reservations

I'm going to hell, y'all.

I've been bad & I don't mean in that "naughty" way that guys like to hear described in detail over wine and soft music. I'm mean bad as in doing something my pastor would have a fit over if he knew about it. I'd be getting dunked in holy water and olive oil like that kid in "The Good Son" needed to be. Well, I would be if my pastor remembered me. I haven't been to church in so long, I'd need to Mapquest my way there.

See? Hell. I'm going to hell. And with my luck, the handbasket will probably be coach or steerage.

It's been a long while since I've been to church, but I was raised there. Matter of fact, when I was growing up, my mother had us in church so much we should have been paying rent. Bible Study, choir practice, YPWW, Sunshine Band, Tuesday Prayer Meeting, Thursday Night Worship... Don't even get me started on what Sundays were like. We were there at 9 o'clock (8 o'clock until Mama let me outgrow Sunday School), and the sign outside said "Morning Worship 9 - 10:30. That must have been there just to lure in unsuspecting newcomers. There was NEVER - not once in at least 4 years - a service that ended at 10:30 (not in the morning anyway). If we were lucky, we might actually stand to say the closing prayer at around, oh... 11:00...11:15... And every time we made it to the "Amen" and I felt my hopes rising - every. single. time. - Sister Somebody or Brother So-N-So would get a hit of the Holy Ghost. Usually it was this one lady - Sister Euletta Walton was her name. I'd be standing there, one eye shut for the prayer, the other one checking the nearest exit, and then I'd hear it: "Mmmmm..." Sister Walton would start humming. I'd go on and open my other eye and look over at my cousin. She'd sigh, shake her head, and we'd both sit back down. Might as well. Once somebody started humming, moaning, rocking, or swaying their hands in the air, it was on then.

The pastor's son (Sam), who played the organ, would get that glint in his eyes. Now, this boy was so ugly that he should have pitched a tent and charged admission, but he could rock that organ like Larry Dunn used to do for Earth, Wind & Fire.

The only reason Sam recovered from his Saturday night drunken comas and made it to church was so he could teach that organ new tricks. His favorite part of the service was at the almost closing. You know - when somebody (like Sister Walton) got that hum going? Sam told my other cousin that he knew just which note to hit at just the right time to get some shouting started. (He told Peaches this while I stood lookout so they could smoke cigarettes out behind the church.)

Sure enough, one sister or brother would start a hum going and another sister or brother would join in. Sam would pick the right moment to ease in a few random notes, then - when the timing was just right - he'd hit a high note. Just something kind of bluesy like to send a little thrill down the hairs on your neck.

At that point, you might as well forget going home. Evening services started at 6.

I stopped going to church when I stopped living at home. My mother never criticized my decision, but she'd drop "subtle" hints whenever she could. I would go by every couple of weeks to have dinner and she would make the grace into a ten-minute prayer for the salvation of my hell-bound soul. After she'd said "Amen," she would urge me to heap up on collard greens like she hadn't just scared me out of an appetite.

My mother passed away five years ago. I'd give just about anything for one of her dinnertime prayers now.

So, If you couldn't tell by now, I was raised among folk who other people called "Holy Rollers" and "Charismatics." In our church, it was easier to list things that weren't sins than to list what was.

Sins:
Secular music, dancing and singing, cussing, smoking, drinking, playing cards. Women had a few others: wearing pants, makeup, nail polish, skirts above the knees, elaborate hairstyles.

I think that whoever came up with the Sin List just copied another list called "Anything That Might Possibly Be Even Remotely Halfway Fun." The other things on the list came straight out of the Bible as read by the pastor. One of the big no-no's was astrology or horoscopes. This was not something you messed with if you didn't want the pastor to have to perform your excorcism.

Now, I've done my share of everthing on the "Sin List" (except for singing because, well... I can't), but until about a year ago, I never even paid attention to astrology. Until a friend of mine pointed out to me that I am "such a Cancer." She said, "You're so Cancer, the symbol should be a picture of you, not a crab."

Yeah. Right. Sure. Uh huh.

My friend brought over a copy of Linda Goodman's Sun Signs. She'd bookmarked the sections for Cancers.

I ignored it.

It was laying there on my coffee table for three weeks.

I dusted around it. Stacked mail on top. Hid late bills underneath.

My friend came by one day and put the book on my night table.

I hid it behind the lamp.

Then...

I think I had to take a peek - just so I could prove to myself that horoscopes are nothing but generic personality profiles. Then I could go back and tell my friend that she was wrong. But...Wow.

I am SO a Cancer. The generic profile thing just doesn't pardon how exactly that book describes my personality. Not only am I a true Cancer, but one friend of mine is a definite Virgo. This guy I dated a while back is Gemini to his soul, and I KNOW that my GWA is a Taurus...

Now, I wanted to toss the book out with the trash. Then I could find a church and convince a minister to bless and pray for me, but... I'm going to hang on for a minute. I need this book just for a little while longer. You know - for purposes of future reference when dating...

--Free

My words for the day:
"Thank God that forgiveness is not what we do, but what we are given." (Free 2/2006)

Music I'm listening to:
Rolling Stones - "Beast of Burden"
INXS - "Live, Baby, Live!"

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