Friday, January 13, 2006

The Pieces of Cake Memoir Continues

Chapter Three

The first two chapters of Mrs. Linklater's riveting memoir have been toddler memories, but this one will be about a memory from high school. 

Is there a rule that memoirs must have recollections in chronological order?  I didn't think so.

The reason I want to skip to a high school memory is that The Book of Daniel is on TV again tonight. This new show is about an Episcopal priest who has a pretty crazy family. Plus he talks to Jesus, which isn't so odd, but Jesus talks back and looks like one of those sanitized and westernized pictures you see hanging next to a photo of Jack Kennedy in homes of people over eighty. There are those who find the show offensive and not funny. I'm not one of them.

I was raised in the Episcopal Church. If you ever want to see where white people who can't sing congregate on Sundays, this is the place. Episcopalians are the Protestants that claim Henry VIII as their patron saint.

While most Episcopal priests are so nondescript that no one could pick them out of a lineup -- not to mention that we have female priests who are lesbians -- the pastor at my church was Hollywood handsome -- sent from Central Casting to minister to the denizens of one of the wealthier suburbs of Chicago.

The summer after I graduated from high school a letter was sent to members of the church. Our handsome Protestant priest was leaving to pursue other interests. I read the letter as a 17 year old virgin and didn't think much about it, until the newspapers ran a story about how the leader of one of the country's wealthiest Episcopal dioceses had left his wife and four children for a woman in the parish. This woman had a husband and children of her own. She was also the heiress to a famous fortune. Oh geez, rich white people are going to look really bad when this one is over.

My mother, who was usually circumspect with gossip, revealed that our minister had grown up in the country town next to hers out east -- a rascally place that had a reputation for women of the evening. She was aware of this probably because her own father may have frequented some of those spots doing research for his own Book of Daniel. Jack Daniel's. She implied that our priest might have been the son of one of those women. She had no proof, just something cryptic her own mother had once said about him.

Meanwhile our disgraced pastor and his lover moved as far out of town as you can go and still be on the continent, where they live to this day as man and wife, as near as I can determine.

However, the upheaval of two families and a church wasn't the end of it. A couple of years later, when one of our former pastor's children was a senior in high school, she went out with some friends to collect door to door for a canned food drive. There were several young people riding around in a car together, which was an old limosine. They had also been drinking. At some point during the evening, the driver lost control of the car and hit a tree head-on. No one was wearing seat belts. One of my brother's friends, a star swimmer, was paralyzed from the neck down. Another young man, a gymnast, suffered several broken bones. The driver wasn't hurt.

Our former minister's daughter was killed.

Her dad came back from his new life across the country to attend his daughter's funeral at the church where he used to work. Imagine how he must have felt when one of the vestrymen, the guys with the programs, wouldn't let him through the door. Apparently he lost his membership card for behaving badly.

I don't know what ultimately happened after he was refused admittance. Did they change their minds? But my mother went ballistic at the hypocrisy of it all. "The church is supposed to be for the sinners!" she ranted. Still locking him out was typical of a place that could get all hinky about who had the right credentials to be in charge of the coffee hour. Naturally people like that would want to keep out anyone who wasn't their kind, forgetting that Henry VIII had created the church for his own convenience -- so he could continue his own bad behavior.

Anyway, after forty years the scandal has finally died down somewhat. But there are those who still remember. Me, for instance. Telling this story helps fan the flames again. Someone has to keep a candle burning.

This memory is why The Book of Daniel, the TV show, seems more like a reality show than a fictional sitcom. Everything on there is within the realm of possibility as far as I'm concerned.

Which brings me to one final thing I later realized about my particular church -- forgiveness is based on your ability to pay. 



mosie1944 said...

I think any of us who love the Church, and are part of her, have learned to block out certain things.  I love God.  I love attending Church.  But if I pay too much attention to the flock (including, and maybe especially, myself), I'll never darken the door again.

thinkingoutloud said...

I was raised Catholic and the similarities are similar.
ha ha

I missed The Book of Daniel last week but caught it tonite.
I think it could be the new Friday nite sleeper.
We'll see.

ksquester said...

I love that television show. We ALL have secrets and we all have sinned, so just who will be casting that first stone?   Anne

mombzbe said...

This will border on sacrilege, and I'm sure someone will put a black mark by my name in some book, somewhere, as a result of what I'm about to say...

But I figure there is a place saved for me in both Heaven and Hell, because on any given day, it could go either way for me.
I do the best I can, and that's all I can do.  Whether or not it's always the right thing, well, there's the basis for the two reservations.

Guess I better go say my rosary now. ;)

onemoretina said...

    I can just imagine what some of his former parishioners were thinking at the time that this happened:   " God is punishing him for what he did."  How sad.   I don't believe in a God that would seek to punish us by taking the life of our child.  But, the very saddest thing of all ?  I'll bet that priest was thinking the same thing, himself.   Tina

bosoxblue6993w said...

hey, this makes Peyton Place look like Bedford Falls.

sunnyside46 said...

I hate that they wouldn't let the man in... i wonder what they said to him. How cruel and self-righteous!

suzypwr said...

I didn't read the original book, because it looked boring to me, but I am enjoying your version :)

nancycfac said...

i have no memories of where iwas when my brother and sister were born,three an five years after me, 1942 and 1945.......i know we lived in two places in romney, west virginia and that both grandmothers were in or close 'round town.  i have a vague memory of being punished for arguing with my lder brother bob.  we were made to stand on opposite sides of a glass door and look at each other.   our home was in part of bulding next to the new century hotel,sort of a landmark, inromney, the county seat of hampshire county.  during world war 2 it was aplace where soldiers were fed on their way to camps they were drafted for.   i became afan of the soldiers following thme  and pulling my little red wagon;; maybe they patted me on the head or gave me a penny or a piece of cndy....when i was 9 nine or ten whenwe went to grandmother k's farm it was a trick for us to gointo the pantry behind her iron stove and snatch biscuits to put in our grandma willie's small house i would go on saturday for breakfast which was most noted for hot tea in a clear glass mug which i added a lot of milk(and sugar 2) and having heard of the bombing of hiroshima pronounced the tea "tomic bomb...if i acted up i was sent to the back yard to pull a switch from the weeping willow tree.. my aunt bety belle had a ford complete with a running board.. i do not know why this car was needed as the bank where she worked was walking distance(hindsight, when it hink of enrgy conservation).......anyhow  those were days of relative warmth....and every sunday was church and sunday school; almost no excuse was allowed....