Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Ragged Old Flag

Veterans Day makes me think of these two old guys, Ray and Gus, who used to go to all the Eagle scout ceremony's that I was ever at. They would give out a flag to all the new Eagle scouts and recite The Ragged Old Flag. I knew better then to smile ironically at anything at a Eagle ceremony, but it was pretty cornball.

It grew on me though. They never missed a ceremony! When my own son went to design his Eagle ceremony he said "yeah, I'm not sure what I want but I want those two old dudes doing the flag poem".

Ray and Gus kept getting older and more feeble. Ray was the extrovert and he would get up and make little jokes and recite the poem and Gus would stand there holding the flag. They did a wonderful handshake and always wore suits. Finally Gus started showing up alone. He gave reports about Ray who had had a stroke, but we never saw him again. Gus didn't have Ray's glibness and when Gus recited the poem it had a seriousness and sadness it hadn't had before. Gus wanted those boys to know that patriotism was a serious business.

And somehow it was.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Faith Journal: First entry

A friend asked me to tell the story of my beliefs and how I became a UU. It might make a nice counterpoint to my more polemic pieces.

Here is a start:

Michael and I were living in Arizona in the 80's. We had met in Oregon but wooed and married in the hot desert away from both of our families. Not being part of a church was fine with us. Our wedding was officiated by a judge. I was a former Catholic and Michael grew up without going to church.

I got pregnant and had a baby boy. Motherhood was a surprise because it was so darned emotional. I fell in love with my son and used to wonder why they didn't write top forty songs about mothers and their children. Why all these songs about romantic love when maternal love was equally as strong and true? I was gaga. I was also working full time and was often tired, stressed and lonely for my Oregon family.

One day we went to a Catholic wedding that included a Catholic Mass. I hadn't been to a mass in 5 to 10 years but I knew when to sit, stand and kneel. The prayers and responses came out of my mouth without thinking. I beat my breast in time while I said " through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault". My eyes began to fill with tears for here were the ritual words and movements of my childhood all in celebration of this lovely young couple. She wore a long white dress and was attended by five pink-cheeked flower girls. He was tall, handsome and gazed worshipfully at his new wife. Both families beamed at them from their respective pews.

When we got out to our car to drive to the reception, I burst into tears. Michael was aghast of course and wanted to know what was wrong. I told him about my strong feelings during the mass, about its familiarity and how it connected me with something I hadn't known I was missing. He listened and finally said "Well, if you feel so strongly about it. I guess we had better find ourselves a Catholic church."

That just made me cry harder, I lifted my face to him and choked out "But Michael, I don't BELIEVE a word of it."

It was only a few weeks later that we packed up our son, went exploring and discovered the UU church in Mesa Arizona.