Reflections on growing up in the burbs
I recently moved and have been enjoying seeing the playful interactions of a couple of squirrels in my backyard . My cat, who had only seen hawks and crows fly by our urban balcony, was now on ground level to see their endless antics which I would join in and watch as well. Then one day I saw one of them die out in the road. It was dead alright and I watched as Amazon, Post Office, and UPS delivery trucks zoomed up and down our dead end street making every effort to avoid hitting it again. I felt badly and brought it to the curb using our snow shovel, but then no one came by to pick it up. I guessed it was up to me, and I tried in vain to dig a hole in the back yard using that snow shovel. I called my husband and he said he would do the dirty deed with a real shovel he would borrow from our landlord. Later that night, we buried the poor thing and when my husband returned the shovel to our landlord, he asked if I was ok. Laughing, he said,”he hadn’t seen me lately.” Ha-ha, life in the suburbs!
All kidding aside, this brought me back to when I had pondered the questions of life or should I say, I had asked many questions about this life. It frustrated me that the answers I was given had always led me to ask, “really?” “That’s it, that’s how it is?” Rather than actually saying that, I usually kept my mouth shut to avoid being seen as a problem. Later on in life I think I actually acted out my refusal to accept a lot of life’s supposed truths and values that I was taught as absolutes …but that’s another story.
This one concerns life itself and the question; where do we go from here? Being at the feet of many teachers who seemed to exude a certain amount of happiness while having empathy, I found myself listening to many versions of the same thinking only framed slightly differently. Even when I was quite young, I wondered if I would be favored with a life after death or even if there was such an afterlife.
My first experience with death came when I was told my great Aunt was not coming to see us anymore but they (my parents) were going to a service, “to see her one last time.” Well, I had no idea what wakes were as a child of three and my parents spared me that experience. I wondered about that, but then I heard it said that “people of age” would get ashes on Ash Wednesday to remind them of when they would return to ashes again. Dust to dust.. ashes to ashes. So in my naivety and childish innocence, I went home to look under my bed and thought perhaps my Aunt Tilly was under my bed but in dust form. YUP! There she was, just as the priest had said in church. She had returned as dust bunnies! And now she was under my bed! I didn’t want my Mom to clean under there for a long time and would stop her when I saw her trying to do so..
Then as time would have it, I ventured outside to start trying to find friends my age because I needed it. My two girlfriends across the street were Italian and barely spoke any English when we first met. I, of course didn’t know Italian. Their mother was raised in a convent back in Italy. The family was of the Jewish faith, although like many people of that time after WW2, they were not too religious in their practice. They observed important holidays but not with any great zest. No judgement… it’s just that they told me they were Jewish but they only seemed to go to temple maybe once year. So that was all fine. I didn’t know Italian or Hebrew and they were starting to get a grasp on English. I would say things in Latin that I heard in church to show them I knew another language too. So the competition for who knew more about what was on, because quite frankly a whole lot still didn’t make sense to me.
I would ask my cousins, what does God look like, and how big is God. I wanted to know why he had a son and how come Mary was single, but not really. Not getting answers from relatives that made much sense, I avoided the issue of religion until…
Well it seems a couple of kids in the neighborhood had gotten bee bee guns and I was told they were dangerous and not to go near anyone who had one. So, I basically avoided anyone who I thought might meet that description. Alas, one day a robin lay dead, very recently hit but dead by a bee bee gun. So we got my Dad to bury it in my yard in a shoe box…because it needed a coffin.
Then another bird was killed, and then another, but the robin killer could not be found. Pretty soon another one; but by then I think my Dad got sick and tired of having to bury them and my Mom was running out of shoeboxes. Well…this last one was shot at my girlfriend’s house, so we were going to bury it there. I was aways praying for the robins and baptizing them. My Mom surely didn’t know I was performing baptisms because she would have admonished me plenty. But that’s what I did. My girlfriend then insisted that the next bird had to be buried as a Jewish robin. So on we went, taking turns in between trying to find the killer. We also created what may have been the first interfaith ceremony ever because we decided we both could pray and make it Jewish and Catholic so it would have a sure
ticket to nirvana in the afterlife.
I believe oft times that the simple wisdom of a child is supreme and with that inner child, you may find some joy in your life anyway you want to. Now, you can make up your own story.