For three years, Mom was a nun. Then one day she found herself in a convertible VW Bug with another nun, habits flying in the wind. They drove to the city and rented an apartment, and a week later, she met Dad.
Dad was Jewish, divorced and wore his curly hair afro-style. Since mom was no longer a nun, she became a rebel.
I was conceived on New Year’s Eve. Marlo Thomas said we were “Free To Be You and Me” and according to Morrison it was “The End,” so naturally, I was raised “nothing.” Mom and Dad said I could choose my own religion someday, and until then, I should spend Sundays at movies and museums.
But I wanted a faith and I wanted one badly.
So, at six, I declared myself a “Pick-a-paleon” like my friend Jenny. She and her family dressed in angel costumes and made breads for bake sales. It sounded like fun. Mom and Dad said I could go to church with Jenny, but I never did.
Instead, I joined the Girl Scouts.
I memorized all of the laws, earned every badge, and wore my uniform with militancy and pride every Tuesday to school. Mrs. Grazer, the troop leader, became my minister. I eagerly paid her my weekly dues of one quarter, squeezed her hand extra tight during the Friendship Squeeze and sold 200 boxes of cookies in a single week.
I devoutly followed Mrs. Grazer and the do-good girls in green until I was fifteen. And then I quit – I felt like a geek.
Instead, I glommed onto the Grateful Dead. Traded my sash for a stash, my flashlight for a black light, my beanie for a box of bootleg tapes. Mrs. Grazer was lost in the purple haze of a new phase, and Garcia became my God.
Mom and Dad became nervous. The camping trips had changed. I no longer trudged off to plant seeds with the troop; instead I smoked weed in the woods.
I followed the Deadhead rules to a wavy “T.” I didn’t shave my armpits, resented the rich and learned all of the lyrics on “Blues for Allah.” I tried to be as good of a Deadhead as Jenny has been an Episcopalian. But eventually, it became too defined.
The same year I ditched The Dead, Mom and Dad got divorced. They had never been happy, so Dad finally put his books in boxes and moved to a one-bedroom abode. Mom bought a condo and started wearing a cross. They both went back to smoking, but they also went back to smiling.
And suddenly, I didn’t need a particular order anymore, so I gathered my favorite parts of my past religions and created something new.
I now see it as a delicious mix of Thin Mints, Caramel Delights, Shortbread, Samoas and Peanut Butter Patties in one box. It’s just not so black-and-white anymore; rather the entire spectrum swirls into a tie-dye, a kaleidoscope, a parade of colorful dancing bears.
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