I think I’ve been attracted to different religions because of the rituals more than the beliefs. When I was a child I wanted to be Catholic to smell the incense and watch the priest walk down the aisle swinging the thurible. Even the fact that there was a special name for that incense holder thing was fascinating to me. When I heard about some junior high boys preparing for their bar mitzvah, I wanted to be Jewish. Girls became a bat mitzvah at the age of twelve. That clinched it.
Around the same time I took to wearing an invisible sweater of guilt because I didn’t really want to learn about my family’s Presbyterian background. I did it because I was supposed to. And we went to church as a family. But I squirmed. I fidgeted. I resisted praying.
One summer Sunday morning I wanted to stay in my shorts and t-shirt and climb trees instead of getting dressed up to go to church. My dad ok’d the idea. “God doesn’t mind if you wear a dress or overalls, or if you talk to him in church or up in a tree. He’ll listen anywhere.” Huh? I don’t think it changed much of what I felt at age twelve, but these days I certainly enjoy talking to God when I’m hiking, washing my hair, or putting on the laundry.
The full story of “The Sunday Climbing Tree” is in my memoir, Thinking of Miller Place, recognizing the power of family, twinship, and places of the heart.