Saturday, December 10, 2011
It’s been long enough, I think, to have kept you waiting on a fresh post. If you’re looking for news, the big development here is that I have finally finished the fifth of five 900-page novels that I’ve been reading compulsively for months. They really distracted me from my writing, but that’s okay. Now that they’re behind me, I can come back and get extra loquacious with y’all. It’s my special gift, and dammit this is the season of giving. In the spirit of which:
The morning was already hot - a beer-drinking morning, hair of the dog. We lounged in shorts, barefoot and languid, full of breakfast and devoid of responsibility. It had taken a few days, but all of us felt well and truly on vacation at last. The in-laws’ house felt like home to me, and our little boys were acting like they owned the place; their uncles and aunts and grandfolk delighted to let them own it or anything else they liked. Lassitudinized by the humid summer, we sheltered from the swelter in the comforting shade of the split-level ranchhouse where my wife had been raised from tender years, leafing through old magazines and waiting for our next nap.
The doorbell’s ring caused a general stirring - eyelids fluttered open, nodding heads rose up. Some of the family had yet to arrive for that day’s rich schedule of lying around and doing nothing; maybe someone had wandered out the back door and needed to be let in the front. There were plenty of good reasons, I supposed, for someone to have rung that doorbell. Since I was the guest nearest the door I figured I’d take it upon myself to see which of those reasons applied. So I hauled myself off the sofa, shambled down the half-flight of stairs to the entry foyer, and breached our sanctum to see who felt it necessary to make such noise at such an ungodly hour.
It was much too bright outside, and hotter than hell. I could tell how hot it was by the way the big woman was sweating - which was prodigiously. I didn’t recognize either of them - neither the big black woman, nor the slight fair-skinned one. They were both young, dressed in long skirts and modest blouses, with no makeup and unsophisticated hairdos. They carried voluminous purses and wore earnest expressions. Both were sweating, but the big one was sweating a lot. When I opened the door upon them, they stepped together, assumed unconvincing smiles, and greeted me in the name of Jesus. I had been hoping for my brother-in-law with a couple fresh cases of lager. Needless to say, the church ladies came as something of a disappointment.
I was still a little fuzzy in the thinking department and caught very much off-guard, so I don’t recall exactly what they were saying. Actually, only the smaller one spoke, while the big one stood with a look on her face that said to me that if I wasn’t paying close enough attention Jesus would be very disappointed - and she’d make sure he knew about it. The pitch was pretty standard - something about wanting to know if I lived with Jesus in my heart, or something like that. It was a chance for me to let them know whether or not they ought to stand on those brick entrysteps in the pre-noon sun, sharing the good news - or if they ought to hightail it on over to the next house down the street.
I didn’t even think about playing with them, handing a line like how I’m an animist or that I express my relationship with god through belching or anything like that. This was not my home, not my town, and not my place to make trouble. Plus, it all felt like too much effort, and it honestly seemed a bit uncalled-for. These were women truly on a mission, and I didn’t want to disrespect them. I just wanted them to go away, unless they had some beer - in which case, I wanted them to give me a beer and then go away.
Again, my response is not etched in my memory, but it was something along the lines of “I’m a guest in this house, and a visitor to this town. I appreciate your bringing this message here today. This is a house of people with faith in Jesus, and it’s not necessary for you to reinforce that. We’re all set up, Jesus-wise, already.”
I feared they’d respond with enthusiasm, wanting to get into the son-of-god talk and personal savior stuff and all, none of which is really my bailiwick. I was already thinking sluggishly of my next tactic to move them along, but that turned out to be unnecessary. Once I was done with my demurrer, they both just sort of froze, their paltry smiles withering on their lips; stepping back, they thanked me in the name of Jesus Christ and walked away quickly without further encouragement on my part.
I was pretty impressed with myself as I closed the door - I’d heard these folk could be hard to dislodge, yet I’d been able to do it quickly and diplomatically, without resorting to cheap jokes or feigned outrage. I’d done well, I thought as I turned back into the house to climb the half-flight back to my couch. But even before I’d completed that turn, peals of laughter made me wonder if I’d had as much to do with this escape from evangelism as I initially believed. By the time I was facing the stairs, I knew it had not been my doing at all to drive the strangers from our threshold.
Before me, at the top of the dozen steps leading to the living room, proudly stood our three year old son. His pride may have had to do with how he’d apparently singlehandedly removed his own trousers and undergarments, so as to display his delicate manhood for all and sundry to appreciate. I’d seen it before, of course, but not in this context. He stood before me and above me, unconcerned and curious, wang a-dangling with a big happy smile on his broad flushed face. My sister-in-law was giggling hysterically, holding him back so he didn’t tumble down the stairs. I appreciated her solicitude but I could have told her it wasn’t really necessary. He wasn’t going to fall. He just wanted to share the good news about his special bodily equipment. I hustled back upstairs and packed him back into his pants. We’d all seen well enough what he was showing us, and it seemed a little risky to let him wander about just as his creator had endowed him.
Moral: Just because you think it’s good news, doesn’t mean other people want to be exposed to much of it.