I am going to share a story about me that no one who has met me in high school or later knows.
I have already explained that my first church experience was because of Elvis- I wanted to experience something similar – as similar as it could be in the 1970s in Canada – so when the Southern Baptist Church opened their doors down the street from my school and sent people to stand by the school with colour paper to lure the children with promises of prizes……….or like it was some kind of nightclub to be promoted by street callers or urchins…
I mean – you can see why in a brain that is as fast and scalable – hummingbird like in it’s ability to – do what hummingbirds do …..
And I explained that my second church experience was because my Mom thought I was interested in Church and the Southern Baptist Church was racist – so I wasn’t allowed to go back – and I really enjoyed the high theatrics of that church – so I was willing to try another one.
My Mom – she had waited so long for this day – because my Mom was religious – not church religious but within the Christian ideal of believer – but my parents agreed – no teaching religion until the kids ask to be taught.
And it made me crazy for years – not knowing – and having to guess what religion or philosophy my parents are – and to this day – I cannot say that I really know the answer – because they are very different in many ways – and every same in others.
In fact – I told my family yesterday that I was going to start doing videos on my blog and Mom is coming over tomorrow to give me a haircut – agoraphobia has some advantages – and my Mom took a hair cutting course decades ago – when I was little – so to me – a haircut from my Mom is quality time.
We might even bake some of Gramma’s Oatmeal Cookies first. Not sure what tomorrow will bring. Because I still have to write the Pilot for my TV show – which I am going to start mentioning – because – as I said – I started this blog as a project – and I took a course called Flash Forward by Suzanne Lyons – and if you don’t want to google her – you can find her:
and be just as inspired by her as I am because I told her this year – that when i saw her in 1996 – when she and another speaker – from New York – came and taught women in film about how to move your entertainment industry career to the next level – that she was everything that I wanted to be –
The Canadian Sidekick to a Brooklyn Jew
And Suzanne laughed – just a chuckle – and she had no idea – how hard that I was holding that phone to my ear – because – with all respect to Elvis and his amazing stage performance, his liquid voice that reaches inside of you and those eyes and lips and everything Elvis – because – hey – I have just as much a chance with Elvis as any girl in the 1950’s had – so I have never understood why people though it so odd that I would swoon over Elvis – as a child in the 1970’s and then for the rest of my life – because – Elvis is probably the most photographed and filmed person – and those images will never change and his truest legacy – his recorded work – especially the Sun Records and those singles from 1956 – they will never die – and now that they are public domain in most of the world – Elvis’ legacy is already being refurbished and repacked and being sold to a whole new generation.
Anyways – as I said – kd lang is the closest that Canada has gotten to an Elvis of our own – but to me – Suzanne Lyons is Elvis.
Because Flash Forward is not about following rules, it’s about project management and the Project is You and your only goal is to take – not make it and not fake it – to the next level.
Elvis took the whole world to another level & Suzanne Lyons teaches people how to take their careers to the next level.
But I was feeling really – depressed – about life last year – and I was surfing the internet to try to figure out how people who claim to beleive in a religion or philosophy of love could have treated me the way that they did.
And I saw Jenny’s blog – and we exchanged a book and we continue to exchange irregular emails.
And I did not finish the book Jenny sent me – but Jenny stopped blogging because – her readers turned on her – and begged her to stop – because they could see – well – you’ll just have to go to Jenny’s blog and read for yourself.
And Jenny – here’s what I never told you – Christianity in Canada is different than Christianity in America.
The first church that I went to – to find Elvis – it delivered Elvis and my Mom said – that church was racist – and I knew even as a child in the 1970’s that Elvis wasn’t racist – so it made sense to my child’s mind – why Elvis never went back to Church and in my mind – it was not because he was famous or a rock n roll star – it was because Elvis also went to two Churches – he went to white churches and he went to Black Churches – and he saw a wide range of what we call country singers now – but country music used to be very regionally and diverse – Nashville made country bottleneck into Pop music and the joy of life is gone from country music – it’s so grim and republican now – which makes little sense to me – given that the best country music – was when the south was Democratic.
And Hillbilly, Bluegrass, Blues, Swing, Rhythm all blended and bended into each other – giving rise to Rockabilly and eventually Rock n Roll – Elvis – before Elvis – there was a lot of music – but After Elvis – when everyone tried to copy him – seriously, not so much music after – Elvis acted as a sort of global bottleneck in the music – and people are discounting him now – because they are finally digging deep and seeing how rich and varied music was before – when it is so percussive and techo dance – that it’s all collapsed again –
Diversity People – its all about diversity –
But the second church that I went to – well – that was a Canadian Church.
And I went to that church for about 3 years – from 9 to 12 years of age – by my choice – and I never told anyone – why I went.
It wasn’t for the service – and I stayed as long as I did – because in church – I was one of the very few girls who was willing to act in plays and sing in front of the congregation.
Now in school, I was the tallest girl – so I didn’t get picked for the lead girl rolls because I was taller than all the boys – but in Church – I was the only girl who was game to play – and I got to play all the girls – and there are not many girl parts in church plays – so that I was taller than all the boys – really made me – blonde and from the audience – blue eyed – angelic – and if I couldn’t sing purdy, I sung loud to make up for it – volume and emotion over precision and grace.
But as I said – it was a Presbyterian audience – silent and dour – so I learned precision and grace.
And while I have talked a bit about my family – there is one figure, one role model who is absent in my family village – the Grandfather.
You see – I had three – one on my Dad’s side and one plus a Step-Grandfather on my Mom’s side.
My Step-Grandfather was as close to a Grandfather as I got – so when I went to Knox Presbyterian Church in New Westminster – where – as of 6 years ago – that table with my name on it is still in the downstairs round meeting room –
the Reverend Dr Bell – who lead said congregation – was my ideal grandpa – So Dr Bell – he knew he talked to when he looked out at that dour crowd and he knew how to make people chuckle and smile and shift a little in their seats.
And I paid attention to how he told stories that moved that silent audience.
And I – I knew who my competition for his attention was: his 2 grandsons – who sat in the middle of the first pew and paid respectful attention to him.
So I sat in the first pew on the left side of the church in the first place on the aisle seat – right in front of the pulpit.
I quite naturally sat in school with my hands folded on my desk and I saw how his grandsons sat – hands folded in their laps – and without a desk, my hands naturally fell to my lap.
So I would stare adoringly at my Ideal Grandpa who was a gifted and eloquent story teller – with the same capacity for grace as Dr Gregory A Boy – the son who wrote Letters from a Skeptic – that Jenny sent to me last November.
And when I read – the passages about love – I was transported backwards in time – to long forgotten memories – of the Reverend Dr. Bell – who was my ideal grandpa.
Now – Dr Bell – he knew how to read and work an audience – anyone who performs in front of people – be it a church or from a stage or just roaming around the workplace or out on the playground – and he knew that he could talk to his 2 grandsons anytime – but I did not come to church with my parents – sometimes my Mom would attend, but mostly she did not.
So, as far as Dr Bell knew – the hour I spent gazing adoringly at him – as only a blonde blue eyed girl can – he knew that he only had one hour a week to teach me anything – and he knew when I paid attention most of the times – because I spent most of my time – looking adoringly at him when he told me how to be a good girl and when he told funny stories – that often – were simple country stories out of his life in Saskatchewan – not bible stories – but told to illustrate the bible stories and to show how you could apply the lessons – not the words or specific stories – in real life situations.
Now, Reverend Dr. Bell had no idea that he was my ideal grandpa or that my Mom’s family came from Saskatchewan – sort of Canada’s Kansas – wheat belt prairie – but every elderly person that talked to me at church knew how much I loved listening to any story they wanted to tell me about their lives – something their own grandchildren were bored or tired or resistant to listening to.
So when Reverend Dr Bell decided to do something to bring some liveliness into the church service – he asked for children willing to form a junior choir.
And that dour audience – a small church in New Westminster in the 1970 – watched us on the stage:
Me and the Older Grandson
My Younger Sister and Younger Grandson
In a pair set – and the boys had brown hair and eyes and me and my sister were blonde and blue eyed (appearing, our eyes are in fact, grey)
So when all those elderly gentlemen and ladies – and from my experience and memories of church – the whole congration was gentlemen and ladies – people dressed up for church and sat quiety and paid attention.
I think it wasn’t until my third year that Reverend Dr Bell got a microphone.
So they watched the four of us on stage and I am sure they were imagining the generation after us being some later edition of the junior choir.
So we sang our hearts out – because very few children can sit sit for an hour – but i came from a family of people who paced and solved complex problems by thinking about them – so I am a natural meditator.
And Rev Dr Bell – was my teacher – and when he handed the morning over to the Junior Choir – he became the most important person in the room – to me – because everyone was now watching us children and indulging us our singing and smiling and nodding or hummed along.
And I knew that Rev. Dr Bell could get people to laugh – so I knew – that they were all capable of laughter – so I don’t know how they resisted the charming site of me and my three back up singers – well, that’s how I saw the junior choir.
So while they didn’t clap – they smiled and nodded and watched us with adoration and indulgence – and to me – Rev Dr. Bell had handed over his stage to me – so he wasn’t my teacher anymore – he was my mentor – and my competition for the same audience and I was determined to win over that audience.
And then – a Christmas miracle happened – in 1979.
You know that big moment in Sister Act – when they perform for the Pope?
Well – the Christmas Miracle in 1979 – was that after almost 2 years of junior choir – someone brought a family member or friend who was from out of town.
So the 4 of us – sang our hearts out and I did my Little Heart and Soul Act – on the step above my litter sister and beside the Preacher’s Grandsons – and the audience was smiling and nodding, bobbing their head and tapping their fingers along – and the song ended – and there was the usual silence.
Then, the miracle happened – from the back row – someone, some stranger, clapped – once, medium firmness at an average volume – and then there was a half clap and then more half claps and then full clapping and finally – applause.
And this is what the miracle was – right in front of everyone’s eyes – I stood – shock still in astonishment and in humble gratitude – and I guess all those adults – had never seen a child – be shocked into stillness because – in my mind – the applause got louder after that – and the three other members of the choir were bowing and being pleased and surprised by the attention – but I was dumbfounded – I did not think that they had that much applause in them.
It was an amazed moment of clarity in my young life.
I mean, I knew that I was good – church was only one of my audiences, after all – but I didn’t know I was dour to joyous good.
Well –before anyone starts to get too nervous and thinking that I might be a Christian – I have to pour some cold water on those sparks.
I didn’t believe in anything the church taught – I went once a week for my grandpa fix – because the stories that I learned in church were inconsistent with the history that I learned in school. More than that, I knew at home that church was one thing and a person’s religion another – and church is church and school is where you learn about the world – history – the story of humanity, which includes many things – and knowing history as I do – I know what role religion has played in the story of humanity – and it’s not a loving story – it’s the bloodiest story of all the stories possible to tell.
Because people who are guessing only feel good about what they think if they can convince other people to back their version or story up – Religion os the schoolyard code for grownups.
I went to look at the stained glass windows and what a different story they seemed to tell when the sun shone through or didn’t because of clouds and when the rain came down and made it look like everyone was crying.
And Rev Dr Bell would see me stare adoringly at him and he would talk to me while everyone else thought he was talking to the room – and he would see me – siting calmly and starting in deep contemplation at the windows – and he would smile and talk to the congretation – because he thought he knew what a good girl that I was.
And all the while – I was happy to stare adoringly at my ideal grandpa telling me stories about his life and reminding me to be the best little girl that I could be and when I got bored with whatever story he told next – I would stare at the windows and let my mind wander to other things.
I thought about church and I thought about school and I thought about Elvis.
And I realized why that Southern Baptist tradition of hell fire and jumping around and hollering came from – hot small stuffy windowless shotgun tiny churches – with all those people crammed together – without a breath of fresh air to cool the throat or the mind or the tongue down.
And it made sense to me – how people – crazy from heat and dehydration – would starting – well – having siezures and act up – and when one person starts – it’s not hard to see how fast everyone else will follow – because you have to go a little crazy to out compete the minister or preacher – who sets the tone for the whole congregation.
And I could see why people in earlier centuries went to large stone churches and Cathedrals – because stained glass windows – are basically the same as movie picture screens – but like a photograph – one image – but with the sun and the rain and the clouds – those stained glass windows – came to a kind of life – much like a movie is kind of reality – images and stories – that touch your heart and maybe make you think.
Now there was two reasons why I stopped going to church.
And the only one that I am going to share – is that when I was 12 – I was no longer considered a child so that was the end of Sunday School and Junior Choir – and I can only imagine how hurt and shocked the Reverend Dr Bell was – when I did not turn up again in that first seat right in front of his pulpit anymore.
But – he had to have known – because the last year that I went – it was easter and the clocks had changed and I can’t tell time on analog clocks anyway – so I arrived early – and they were preparing the bread and the – well – they gave us kids grapejuice and I don’t know if the adults had wine.
I arrived early because I was in a play after the service and I was so nervous that I showed up early because I hadn’t been in a easter play before and I was the only girl and I was going to have a good time with this play – and when I walked in and saw this big table covered up – and platters of bread cubes and small crystal shot glasses of purple liquid.
I stood at the back of the church looking at REv Dr Bell and some other adults scurrying around – and in a clear high voice – reminscient of my Dad’s Mom – vaguely disgusted at the confusing site – what’s with the buffet being covered up – people are starting to arrive and we have a show to do people, seriously,
So in my most haughty adult tone in my child’s voice booming through the empty church with the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows – I roared
“What the hell is going on in here?”
but is was Canada and I was the angel of the play and the star of the junior choir and Rev. Dr. Bell directed the sermon in less than his usual fashion – with puzzled looks at me – probably wondering – how could I have sat in front of him for all that time – and not understood what easter was about
and I sat there, looking at him, wondering what he was talking about in the sermon that he was paying such close attention to me that I could not let my mind wander out the stained glass windows and what a drag it was to be inside on such a sunny day – especially when I knew – that at home – there was a warm television set and a basket of chocolate with my name on it.