My mom often held a neighborhood party for our birthdays where she’d invite neighborhood kids and their parents over for cake. Like any good guest even when asked not to they brought a gift, (because demanding no gifts for anyone under the age of 25 and abiding is rude). In typical fashion I unwrapped presents as an event, everyone watching me open a card, and then the gift. I hated this, as I wanted to show I was grateful but being on display to show gratitude, and I still believe, is incredibly awkward.
Excuse this detour into character development but I must set the stage for you to understand the premise of this gift. Across the street lived one of the most unique family’s I have ever come across. The dad a medical professor so committed and steeped in his work that he uprooted his family from St. Louis to North Dakota, where he held a prominent position at the medical school. The wife, a devout catholic. When I say devout, I mean devout. She was one of those magnetic people, she knew herself so well and lived life to her own beat. She refused to accept that they had moved to North Dakota and would return to St. Louis regularly for things like haircuts. The crazy thing about her Catholicism was that the dad didn’t go. A Marriage that clearly found a balance between the science and faith debate. I am still dumbfounded on how this operated. They had twin boys, around my age who were trotted to daily Mass with her. Of course, they went to catholic school.
Well, the whole family turned up for my party. A tall box was handed to me. I was smiling even before I unwrapped it, the shape made it evident: I was getting a Barbie! I was pretty stoked, but as I peeled away the paper, I slowly uncovered something I wasn’t prepared for. A Mother Mary. The dad sensed my bewilderment and let down I assume so, to my rescue he chimed ‘Ooooooooh, a glow in the dark Mother Mary, Cooooooool!’ I just graciously smiled, but really, I wanted to turn to him and say, ‘I think we both know how weird this is.’
Then came the conundrum of having the responsibility of this newly acquired spiritual object. I couldn’t get rid of it, and I was convinced I would be punished for hiding it, so for years it sat on a shelf next to my chosen precious objects. And every night when I turned out the lights this statue glowed from across my room scaring the crap out of me.