This morning Iona and I woke up at 7:45, which meant we were late. By the time I got her out of bed we had thirty minutes to get her lunch made, get her dressed, fed and teeth brushed, and get the rats' nests out of hair that I don't think was brushed all weekend. We got to school ten minutes late, as usual, so we took off Iona's coat and hat and scarf while we read the message her teacher posted on the white board about what they would be doing today. First, free choice, which we had missed out on. Then the kids were getting together in a circle to listen to a classmates' grandparents talk about Hanukkah. I was moving on to say that next was music, with Sheree, when Iona looked at me and said, "Mom, what am I?"
I fumbled. "We don't go to church, honey, but you could say you're Christian, Methodist, because we have gone to the Methodist church in Chicago, the big tall one. Remember?"
She shook her head, no, and looked reproachful. I said we would talk about it later, after school, and got out of there.
I've taken Iona to church maybe three times, all on Easter, and I think my parents took her last Easter while Ewan and played in New York City. She's been to church for her cousin Finlay's christening, and last year when we went to Scotland for Christmas we went to Granny and Grandpa's church, which is Church of Scotland and I think Presbyterian, on Christmas day to hear Granny sing in the choir.
Last year Iona came home and announced that she and her friend S. were doing "God's work." When I tried to learn more, she said it was a secret.
And several weeks ago, we had just pulled up in front of our local market to pick up some staples and Iona informed me that Jesus died because some people had put him on a stick and didn't give him any food or water. So we had a long discussion about Jesus, and who he was as a historical figure, and that some people believe he's the son of God and some believe he was a charismatic guy who convinced a lot of people to follow him and was crucified for it.
Lately she's been informing me that she believes in God, and she says this with a slight air of defiance, like she expects me to try to talk her out of it.
These days I lean toward the more rational belief that we are born, we live, we die, and in between we go through personal crises about why any of this happens and so we figure out who to pray to, because life is occasionally overwhelming. But since she asked, I am going to begin to give Iona some information to help her decide what she is (this will, doubtless, change a few times during her life). I will take her to a Methodist church, a Buddhist temple, and maybe to the Center for Spiritual Living. Maybe I'll find a Quaker church too. As we gather information, Iona and I, maybe we'll figure out what each of us is, individually, together.
In case you're one of those people who tunes in every day (hi Beth!) I thought I'd post quickly about how I've been avoiding writing. For fun, I'm going to format this as a list.
How I've Been Avoiding Writing Lately
1. Crafting a long, turgid letter to a friend who wants to change me into an atheist.
2. Agonizing over the fact that I don't do any volunteer work, nor do I fight for a cause.
3. Cleaning the house, messing it up, and cleaning it again.
4. Falling asleep every night when I put Iona to bed. It's doing wonders for my quest for youthful beauty, but is very bad for productivity.
5. Going to the doctor. Iona has a double ear infection so we went for that. She has a checkup today. I've been to the internist and the dentist and will go to the dermatologist next week. My internist wants me to go to a specialist to check out a minor heart arrhythmia.
6. Having parties. Toby came into town with his son Augie on Saturday and we pretty much had a party from Saturday through Sunday. Monday I had to take a nap.
7. Looking for a new source of coffee. Two days ago I broke the carafe to our twenty-year-old Braun drip coffeemaker, then I went downstairs to fish around for the old French press and promptly dropped it on the concrete floor. I almost cried. Then I went upstairs and emailed Janeen, who is an aficionado, and read CoffeeGeek and these lists on Amazon by this guy named N. Caine and then I finally sat down, MasterCard in hand, and bought an espresso machine and burr grinder and some espresso cups and a frothing pitcher. Now I am sitting here with clenched jaw, waiting for UPS.
8. Taking Iona to extra-curricular activities like swimming, gymnastics and ballet. Okay, the ballet hasn't begun yet but I took her to her first gymnastics class last night. It was a "trial" to see if she was up to the tasks of handstands and backward somersaults since the class is for five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half year-olds. The woman at check-in looked at her dubiously and pointed out the classes for kids her age. All at 3:30, which is when she gets out of school. "Too late," I said to the woman, who then pointed out the class on sacred Sunday mornings. At 9:30. Goodbye, marriage. I shook my head at the woman and handed her over to Mike, the lithe instructor for the older kids' class. He looked at her dubiously and gestured to his class. Not one kid under five-and-a-half. "I don't know if this is the right class for her," he said. "I've had all these kids for two years already." I sat down in a parent chair, feeling like this could be a painful thing to watch. They started with warm-ups, leaping sideways across a giant mat back and forth, then they did crab-walks back and forth. Iona was always last. I fought the urge to put my head between my legs. Then I began to notice something. Iona's face was absolutely lit up. She smiled every time one of the two instructors helped her. She listened and nodded, then tried to do everything. She tried over and over. She was completely unafraid. I found myself rooting for her, c'mon Baby, you're doing it! At the end of the class I went up to Mike to get the verdict. Was she in, or would we have to give up sacred Sunday mornings to get her in the younger class? I braced myself and asked him, straight up, how she did. "I think she'll be fine," he said. "She was very into it the entire time and wasn't afraid to do anything. She'll be just fine." I want to write that's my girl but the truth is that I would have been afraid. Which makes me twice as proud of her.