Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Through a Freshman's Eyes: Post-Millennium Edition

Another graduation season is upon us. Its another reminder that time is a gradually moving circle, and that inch by inch we're all getting a little older. I remind you of this because this year's high school class was the first born entirely in the 21st century. Their entire lives have been, technically, "the future." Without further navel-gazing, I present my annual mindset list.

If you are a graduating senior... have only a vague memory of a Clinton in the White House. have only a vague memory of the World Trade Center.'s commonplace to complain that the President of the United States spends too much time on vacation. has always been possible for the results of a presidential election to be disputed.'ve always assumed that politicians in Washington sleep with interns on the regular.
...there has always been Wikipedia.
...Google has always been the dominant search engine. were born *just* before Nuvaring was patented.
...Robert Hanssen has always been in prison. has always been possible for a non-astronaut to "visit" space.
...your first memory of watching Weekend Update on SNL was with Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon. MLB team has ever won the World Series in consecutive years.
...there have always been at least 30 teams in the NHL.
...Albert Pujols has always played in the majors.
...Jamal Crawford has always played in the NBA.
...Tom Brady has always been the Patriots' starting quarterback.
...Pierre Trudeau, Richard Mulligan, Steve Allen, Richard Farnsworth, Ben Orr of The Cars, Gwen Verdon, Hosea Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks, Werner Klemperer, Kirsty MacColl, Pops Staples, Jason Robards, Victor Borge, Ray Walston, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Morton Downey Jr., Robert Ludlum, Joey Ramone, Douglas Adams, Perry Como, Imogene Coca, Anthony Quinn, Carroll O'Connor, Timothy McVeigh, John Lee Hooker, Jack Lemmon, Korey Stringer, Lorenzo "Garfield" Music, Aaliyah, and Chandra Levy have always been dead.


Friday, May 24, 2019

"Like a Bar Mitzvah That Sucks"

Twenty years ago this week, I was confirmed. Its a Catholic rite of passage, but it was the beginning of the end of my relationship with the church.  I normally avoid delving into religion and spirituality on this blog. (Politics is one thing, a higher being is another.) Additionally, while I have discussed my mother in a mostly flattering light, our relationship was slightly more contentious than I've let on.

My mother, like almost everyone on her side of the family, was devoutly Catholic. It was par for the course for descendants of Polish immigrants, living in the Chicago suburbs. My grandparents' house had a cross on the wall in almost every room. I remember a clay bust of Pope John Paul II (again, Polish) sitting in their dining room, giving me a vaguely creepy glare was I walked past the doorway. My grandmother was the 13th of fourteen kids. My Uncle Jim was an usher at Saturday mass for 20-plus years, and he even went to church on vacation.

My father was nothing like that. His parents were Methodist, but he was an agnostic who only begrudgingly got married in a Catholic church. His contempt for organized religion was reasonable, but I never implicitly said that to either of my parents. Any discussion of spirituality in the household was highly discouraged. It was a mixed blessing that my father was undergoing training in Arizona during my first communion, but he was at work the day my sister had hers four years later.

The whole process was laborious. I had been in CCD since first grade, and eighth grade was all confirmation prep. I was goaded into asking Uncle Jim to be my sponsor, and sitting through the classes and lectures were a chore. There was one all-day session at church, one that was allegedly mandatory, that I got out of because my father objected. Then when the big day came, I was sitting in the middle of a packed church with 200 other uncomfortable eighth graders. It was early May and 80 degrees out, and the AC didn't kick in until 30 minutes into the two-hour mass.

After that, my feigned interest in Catholicism and spirituality further waned. I was confirmed in 1999, and I think my family stopped going to church on the regular around 2002 or '03. The fact that the Catholic child abuse scandal broke out at the same time was a mere coincidence. My mother was skeptical of the allegations, but she felt more and more inclined to sleep in on Sundays (as was I). In the last decade, I've only been to St. Mary's for funerals (including Ma's) and the occasional Easter mass. I tell people I'm a lapsed Catholic. At least I know I'm not the only one.