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Saturday, 22 October 2011

singing sisters, women priests, and sniggering (not drowning)

The girls and ad myself went to mass on Sunday morning. This is a weekly gig since being ambushed by my pius first daughter, as we were haing a pleasant stroll and a chat  (I thought)  on a Portuguese beech, during the summer.  We were actually having a barbeque on the beech that day, as part of a cruise along the coast, and I was post a very nice lunch (which I did not have to prepare myself) and a largish glass of white wine.  I was pleased to be walking on a most beautiful beech with my beautiful daughter, chatting of this and that, when the conversation took a turn for the reproachful,  as in ,  "why do we never go to mass  anymore mum, (she, having had a challenging year, with the junior cert exam amd various teen related matters. had been attending mass on visits to her beloved grandmother, and felt that  this was the way to go, spiritually speaking. ) But back to why.  Though born into Irish catholicism, so to speak, I shed the practice  in my teens, after some shattereing confrontations with  my father, as being  or not being a  catholic was  certainly not an option,  a choice, in those days.  I left the church by degrees, as a young teenager, a slow shedding, which started with the  surreptitious  non taking of communion.  In time this was noticed by my father who told me that every barrel of apples has one bad apple, which CONTAMINATES THE REST.  (parents in those days  were armed with an endless supply of sayings like "if you lie down with dogs, you get up with flesa" or "birds of a feather flock together" , or "children should be seen and not heard"  most  of which was quoted to myself , solemnly.) ( the birds of a feather one was certainly true in my case)  I persisted though,  driven by a a teenage  imperative to be my own person.   And also because I found the religion to be oppressive and sometimes terrifying, the mass itself  tedious and irrelevant. The attitude to sexuality and women was deeply damaging. I felt that then and I know it now.

Like I say, I persisted, and never again took communion. (never forgot the contamination remark either)  Which is not to say that I did n't  set out for mass with the rest of the family on sundays, and  sit in the  family car reading the sunday papers in the church car park, on weekend visits home, even  after  I left home .  Not to do so would have involved tearful scenes with  parents.  Another Irish solution to an Irish problem I guess. And, when my own children came along, I found myself actually sitting IN the church on a sunday morning, in the months leading  up to communions and confirmations, not wanting to make waves for the child.  I made my own accomodation with it , as you do.  It is a peaceful space,  and there is one priest I  particularly like  whose sonorous   voice is positively  soporific, and it is  restful.   (and I need the rest ,  I REALLY DO) and , I like watching the children playing their part in a  gentle  harmless  play, and it  is light years removed from the church of my childhood.

So, when the first daughter wrecked my buzz on the beech,  I resolved to renew attendance for a while, particularly as the boss was to make her first confirmation this year.  Which had the dual affect of taking the pius one aback, as she now has to extract herself from the bed of a sunday morning, and of  putting myself beyond reproach on at least that front. There are certain battles you should always concede,  save your firepower. And, as I telll my children regularly (to major eye rolling),  I did n't get to where I am today by failing to learn  to bend with the breeze.

Today, we listened to a rather sad and reproachful  (more reproach) speech from the alter,  the priest was having to move house to cover two parishes effectively, due to a shortage of personel. (priests)   But Why? Why is there not enough priests when there are enough people going to mass to neeed them? asked the elder daughter.  Yeah,  The eternal why.  "Well ..ah.. uh"  I puzzled over  how to pitch this  (its complicated) until I decided what the hell,  its not actually complicated at all." WHERE ARE THE WOMEM PRIESTS,"  I asserted." that would surely solve their  problem for them , why , I can think of any number of women  who might be interested.   And what possible reason could they have not to recruit female priests. It is,  in fact, deeply insulting to all women, when you think about it,  that they do not".  "But why.? Why wont they allow women priests"  my first daughter asked plaintively,  now that it actually occurred to her that THEY  would not.  " Why? Why? Becuase they are an hierarchical anachronistic male club, incapable and  unwilling to adapt to current realities, not even to save their own motheaten pathetic scandal staintained  hides. That's WHY. "  My daughter blinks and asks why this is never mentioned by anyone. After all people clearly need to have recourse to a church, a spiritual space thats organised and accessible to them. " Why dont women INSIST. ."  A good question that.  There was some debate about this is the nineteen sixties and seventies, I think. But no more  as , probably, the debaters have left the building in the past few decades. In fact,  I really dont know why I aqm getting so excercised about this, as I was  there under sufference anyway, but, as I have said , and when you think about it (dont think about it) the continued exclusion of women IS just plain insulting.

"Besides" says the boss sternly "WHY  would women be considered unsuitable",  as the first daughter looks at me indignantly. WE have been down this road before, the why oh why WERE women excluded from work, public life,   financial matters etc  in the past, and could that have  really been  true?  My answer is a work in progress, but the overall bullets points are,  that men did it because they could,  that they, (my girls and all their little friends)  owe their liberation from such exclusion, and from a permanent  proximity to   the kitchen sink, to  some  grim faced  persistant   and heroic  women  who wouldn't know  Jimmy Chou from a hair extension,  and that they might not believe me but the price of freedom is eternal vigilence (they dont). My first daughter tells her now red faced mother, serenely,  that anyway  people should insist on women priests, and she might take the matter up herself. Hmmm

The boss wants me to buy a ticket  for the church lotto. She is very insistant. Because she explains it is not for too large a sum, and she would like to win it. She want to win enough to pay my debts, send her sister to Harvard,  and have a stash for her own college years. (until she gets her fabulous JOB, gets her various business ideas up and running)  "Eh My what?"   "I mean your  mortgage, and your car loan". I think she may also  have decided that she and I will  go travelling  together in comfortable companionship, when I have got rid of  (launched) the others.  And, in her opinion, too much money, winning millions,  might DRIVE YOU MAD MUM, I mean like you would not need to have a job, or a career, and like there would be no point, and it would be boring,  and you would not know how many cars or houses to buy, cos you wouldnt like  need anything, if you won millions in the lotto, would you?".  The boy, who has been shifting impatiently in the back seat, mutters  "s ok, take the millons, you are mad already"!  "Muuuummm". I reflect that she never offered to do anything for him, as I pour oil on proubled waters.  Dear Lord, let them be long grown and not in the back seat of the car should the day come when she is allocating a lotto win, and I wonder if, in fact, most people don't  actually want to win fantastical sums, and so they don't.

The first one smiles seraphically at her would be benefactor. She sits beside me in the front of the car, and I make a silent resolve to bring her shopping as I glimpse her bare legs, and inadequate tee shirt from the corner of my eye, on this cold winterish  day.  She is so little engaged with such practical matters as warm or, God forbid,  substantial dress,that I am constantly  plagued with the  urge to cover her up and keep her warm.  She will not wear anything heavy, loose or warm, beause it feels.... heavy loose or warm, and or might make her LOOK FAT. She returns with some ethereal, impractial though oh so  pretty item, when sent off to buy some clothes.  She is one of those peoople who have a favourite  outfit,  worn day in and day out, for years,  if left to herself. There was a skirt, in primary school that I eventually stole away. These days theres  a white hoodie  donned with everything, washed till  the fabric has worn thin. Of course I should simply buy an identical one, (like replaceing a sadly deceased hamster) and I will, when I track the identical one down. I shiftily introduce more practical garments (warm coats, stout boots) with a mix of threats and blandishments, and she is coming round to a broader range of dress as she gets older. She is a commited vegetarian, for the past three years, despite the  raucous cynicism of her meat eating family (Irish farming folk don't DO vegetarianism), who decided to go the full hog, and become a vegan about a year ago,. This I would not allow, and we are agreed that that decision will wait until she reaches her majority.  I had , barely, enough  authority to enforce this stay, but she  carried out extensive research of  the subject  on the internet, mostly,  and decided against a range of animal based products, like, dear lord,  leather shoes.  As a result , her schools shoes are shabby and exhausted, purchased as they were in the good old days when animal products were an unknown, and she loved to buy new shoes like the rest of us.  Even then , however, she was simply  not  particularly acquisitive, never a girl who wanted a lot of stuff.

Back at home she askes the boss to come sit with her , as she eats a scone, at the kitchen table.  She hates, as she tells the boss, to eat alone. The boss  rolls her eyes but sits down, and proceeds to talk at length, while the older one sits listening quietly, as she often does, chin in hand, her beautiful brown hair brushing  the table.  Later on she takes out her guitar and  asks the boss to sing with her, which the  the younger one  agrees to,  from her vast store of good nature, though complaining that they sing at a different pace and pitch, which they do, the older one a soulful soprano and the boss a rich contralto.  They sound incredble when they get it together. I know you might think I am biased, but   they really do.  One of my more embarrassing mummy masks is stage mummy,  who first had an outing when they persuaded me to let them enter a national talent competion, at the regional stages. Well I  started out as tolerant, obliging amused mummy, who brought them to the venue, and sheparded them through the day, becoming  misty eyed mummy as they sang like angels when their turn came,  and on to enraged, muttering madly, stage mummy when they didn't win. (they were yery young at the time). On holiday , in the summer, I sat with them at the hotel  on karaoke night,  the boss being dispatched up, from time to time,  to the host with the chosen songs  on   slips of paper,  me swelling with pride like a lovesick frog, as they sang all night long. The first daughter brought down the house with "Hit me baby ine more time" (Britney) (cringe) but it was quite simply fabulous, to hear this reserved softly spoke girl harness the firmly contained inner  power,  to sing like a gradually building hurricane, startling in range and power. The boss belted out a string of songs, note and word perfect,  like  a pro.  Hanna Montana/Milet Cyrus  graduates both. Oh yes, they might not spit on her now, but many was the car journey enlivened by tuneful renditions of the entire  Hanna Montana cannon. Why, even I can sing the song "The  Climb" from start to finish,  a song for which I have a sneaking regard, so beautifully did they sing it.  Alas poor Miley, whose concert we went to see on one never to be forgotten occasion, when we sat wondering and stunned at the scantily clad, raunchily gyrating  teen ( Where oh where was sweetly blonde and wholesome  Hanna Montana,  where?, whom we had seen on TV only the day before, and what had this over sexed womanette done to her ). Quite  discarded as she is now,  Hanna/ Miley languishs  in the graveyard  of discarded fads,  along with  various boy bands,  TV shows, once favourite toys, beloved books,  (Barney lies there too)  tended  only by my sentimental nostalgia.

Anyhow, the singing duo break apart, today,  in a flurry of mutual recriminations,  because the soprano keeps going off into  her own version, says the boss, and she is  NOT  singing any more because she JUST DOESNT WANT TO.  I remind them that they are lucky to have a sister to sing with, which is true I think.   I myself have four sisters , and have found sister hood, to be an unbreakable bond, regardless of differences in personality, tastes  or worldview,  probably on account of having survived childhood together, and the whole other little shop of particularly female horrors tha you first experience together,  from  the insane longing of first love (infatuation) to relentless visitations of zits,  and a communal  briefing  (pooling of incredibly inaccurate information ) in THE FACTS OF LIFE,  as sex was refered to in those days. My older sister certainly minded me, and delivered periodic admonitions tactfully ( me being easily roused).  Sisters in general,  know more about you than you might like,  remember things about you that you have decided to forget, and this I suppose is not a bad thing.  At least one of my sisters, who speaks sparingly, delivers herself , from time to time of the devastatingly caustic comment about the past, which, while it may or may not be true,  rips  through  the unconcious gloop you do not have time to visit so often,  like a dose of salts.  "Sisters, Oh sure its better to have one, than not,  I tell the my warring  girls , as they glare hatefully at each other across the  kitchen table, or pass icy messages through the sniggering boy (Ah yes, we do schadenfreud in this house,  never doubt it),

                                                      WATCHING

                                              Pink and Red,
                                                                  handsheld,
                                                                                 my daughter merge.
                                              Leaning in to
                                                                 a sister
                                                                           they stride to school.
                                              Tethered each to the other
                                                                            they lumber, they lurch
                                                                                         till they flow.

                                              Blood sings through a circuit, sustains, as they fall into time.

                                              This elastic heart cuts its infinite slack on the shore.
                                              (Don't look back to the shore)

On Sunday evening, on our way home, we stop at the drivethrough (Supermacs). This is a testing operation. I have to break off a heated discussion on the relative merits of the Presidential candidates in the up coming elections. The Boy:  "I am voting for Martin Mcguinness,  a lot of (real) men are  voting for him you know."  Me: apoplectic tirade, ending with a thank you to the lord that he can't actually vote. The Boss: "Why s everyone picking on Dana  Mum, I think she speaks so nicely, don't you think everyone is being so mean to Dana Mum? dont you think she is a very NICE person......don't you Mum? Mum? "Eh......well darling , of course she  does have a nice voice, and ....and yeah she's an ABSOLUTE SWEETIE.  Now tell me QUICKLY what you all want"  as I break hard , roll down the window and aim my face at the intercom, from which the electronic voice is already emanating  "Yes"? ...."Yes?   "And remember, no ten ounce triple burgers now, this is junk food with a caution" I warn. "Well? What? What?"  The boys yells for the forbidden burger anyway, the boss humms and haws and lets sees on a loop, the first daughter faintly agonises between a zero coke and nothing, because its ALL just  unhealthy,  fattening. " Right," I say and shrilly order the usual permitted ration of junk, against a cacaphony of protests from the back.  "Sorry? pardon?"  the electronic one intones  . I firmly repeat the order to howls of laughter. (apparently I am shouting ). This is a well oiled groove for the terrible threesome, the hilarity, the screwing with the asylum  keeper, oh yeah,. I swing around to the serving booth and shove an old electricity bill at  the middle aged woman whose smiling face looms over  me, puzzled,  instead of the fifty euro note I was aiming for,  from the bowels of my handbag, quite lost in the crowd of bills, receipts,  combs, brolly, papers from works,  lip salve,  notes to self  and about a ton of small change. "I am sorry, " I say, "my children have driven me quite quite mad". "Oh I know dear, I know all about it" she  smiles kindly at  me. I want to step out of the car, take her hand and go home with her where she 'll tell me all night long that she KNOWS.  Anyway. she tells me that the boy's order will take eight minutes, and we'll have to park and wait.  "Oh hey, is this  a drive through, or a park through" barks the boy.  I park the car and deliver myself of an enraged speech on how I cannot be expected to drive under these conditions, and no one could be expected to drive while a bloody war of attrition is going on in the back seat, and it is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. And  it had better stop.. And I will not tolerate this appaling carry on...... I will not...DO YOU HEAR ME?....WHEN I'M DRIVING. And. Silence, then tittering. "Mum" said the boy, you 're  all right, you 're not actually driving (snigger) You 're parked. (snigger)
Oh, snigger
                 snigger
                            snigger,
I ought to have  gathered the mud encrusted potatoes from the field, hunted down  the cow, and cooked the meal in the deep deep peace of my own kitchen.
Snigger. (not drowning, I'm sniggering).