Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Very Christopher Christmas

Every family has their own unique holiday traditions, whether they are born out of local custom or just individual quirkiness. Mine was no different. My younger brother's birthday was on Christmas Eve and that only added to our, um, traditions.

I am the middle of three children, the only girl. We grew up in the newly burgeoning suburbs that was Long Island in the 50s and 60s. I know many of you can relate. It was an era of Vietnam, the Beatles, Woodstock and elephant bells. During the Christmas season, we all watched 'Miracle on 34th Street', 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'. We thought it was funny to do the dance the Peanut characters did when they are supposed to be rehearsing for the school pageant.

As I mentioned, my younger brother Christopher was born on Christmas Eve. I was seven that year, my older brother David was nine. I remember it well. My mother, all 5-foot-one-98-pounds of her, was pretty much bursting at the seams. She came into my room in the late afternoon to say she and my dad were going to the hospital to have the baby and that Grandma was going to take care of us until dad came home. Later that evening, the call came that, indeed, our baby brother had been born.

My excitement at being a big sister was mixed with a large dose of regular Christmas excitement. I still believed Santa was coming down our chimney later that evening and I wanted to let him know about our extra-special news. So I secretly took my Thumbelina doll, which looked and moved just like a REAL BABY when you turned the big pink knob on her back, and, carefully swaddling her, laid her on the corner of the couch in the living room right next to the tree. David and I were put to bed, where visions of Lionel trains and go-carts danced in our heads.

Now, David had his own Christmas tradition. Every year, late in the night after 'Santa' had already come and gone, he would get up, sneak into the living room and peruse the bootie. This night was no different. He tiptoed into the room and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark, scanning for packages with his name on them. Suddenly, a slight movement caught his eye on the couch. Moving closer, he could see it was a baby. It must be HIS NEW BABY BROTHER!, sleeping peacefully there. He left for his bedroom quickly so as not to wake the napping infant.

Next morning, at the crack of dawn, we ran to wake dad and grandma and hurried into the living room for the morning's festivities. Everyone was in a great mood. David said, happily, "I can't wait to sit on the couch and hold the new baby!" My dad looked confused. "David, the baby is still at the hospital with mom. They won't be home for five more days." "Then who is THAT?!", David asked, now much perplexed as he pointed to the bundle on the couch. I burst out laughing. "That's MY THUMBELINA DOLL, stupid!", I roared, delighted to one-up my usually crafty brother. "I wanted Santa to see her." David's cheeks turned red. "I didn't get to look at my presents because of your stinky DOLL?", he wailed. I moved out of range. "Come on, you two," dad said sternly. "Stop fighting and open your presents."

We did not need to be told twice. David got a new train engine and the deluxe two-lever control that allowed you to send the trains forward and backward. I got Gaylord, the big toy bassett hound complete with cardboard dog house. Grandma called us into the kitchen where we had sweet buns and grapefruit halves and the homemade Christmas cookies mom had left for us.

Five days later, the Plymouth pulled into the driveway and my once-again slim mother climbed out with baby Christopher in her arms. We ran out to greet them and spent the rest of the day taking turned holding our new brother and listening delightedly to his birth story. Grandma stayed on for an extra week to help out.

It was the best Christmas ever.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mentor, Methodist, Mother

The birds came to the backyard feeder like always. But on this day, the normally noisy crows, grackles, cardinals, mockingbirds and robins were perched solemn and silent. Only the haunting coo of the ground-walking mourning doves could be heard in the late September morning mist. It seemed they knew, as is often the uncanny way with animals, that their friend and protector had gone away.

This backyard belonged to my friend Barbara. She was 81 years old when she passed away two weeks ago, and, aside from successfully managed diabetes and the occasional ache and pain, she had appeared healthy and active. Our relationship was multi-layered and textured. She was in turns, friend, cohort and mother. She had sat next to me in church choir for the past 12 years, our alto voices - hers delicate and tremulous, mine booming and obnoxious - mixing in with the other eclectic sopranos, basses and Jon, our lonely tenor.

Barbara had a no-nonsense approach to health and life in general. She was a nurse, specializing in Hospice care, which says a lot right there. She visited unwell friends and neighbors who were often a good deal younger than she. She had little time for whiners, yet infinite patience with those whose needs and weaknesses she could see and understand.

She chaired the United Methodist Women (UMW) committee and hosted meetings poolside at her house. At one such meeting, this past year, she had the women over for an end-of season barbecue. Now Barbara was a fine host, but she liked to have things a certain way and could get grumpy when they weren't. On this particular summer evening she was planning supper and a swim. When some of the other United Methodist women wanted more of a spiritual meeting where devotionals would be read - Barbara saw red. "This is supposed to be a party!", she exclaimed. "Save the the readings for church!"

Despite her self-proclaimed grumpiness, Barbara was a wonderful mom, grandma, neighbor and confidante. She had four kids and six grandchildren. Most of her grandchildren were already grown but there was one young granddaughter who lived nearby. This elementary-age girl adored and counted on her grandmother for everything from homework help to swimming lessons to special school night dinners at the kitchen counter.

Barbara's backyard pool was a mecca for several families, including mine. My partner and I and our teenagers would spend Sunday afternoons every summer there. We were there the week before she died. Barbara was in good spirits, bringing out drinks and snacks, admonishing us to take all leftovers home or she would end up eating them. It was a simple thing, these afternoons, but a memory each of us will keep.

It was one such summer two years ago that Barbara learned my partner and I were actually a couple. She had known and loved both of us separately, and now, not only did she not appear surprised by the news, she took both of us in her arms and hugged us close, saying how happy she was for us and our kids. When this breaking news spread throughout the congregation, it was largely because of Barbara's love and visible support that we were consequently embraced by the others.

Our semi-weekly book group also met at Barbara's house. In between discussions of books, each member found safe haven for the telling of more personal things. Traumas, triumphs, hurts, hopes, losses and loves spilled out around Barbara's table as the fire she always had going crackled nearby. Although she herself often listened more that she spoke, it was clear to all that she could contain the sum of the concerns of our hearts and hold them carefully.

The choir meets tonight for its weekly practice. We will be working on music for two services. One is this coming Sunday's regular morning service. The other is for Barbara's memorial service, to be held later in the afternoon after church. In the choir loft, we will sit in our usual spots. Tonight I will slide over just a little to the right in order to be where Barbara sat for 50 years. I will listen hard to hear her voice still there among us as we raise ours in hymn and song. On Sunday, I will wear her green choir robe and process down the church aisle with a different alto at my side. The anthem chosen for her service is one that is a call-and-answer with the youth choir (the same teenagers who spent summers in her pool) and the adult choir singing together. 'Through the Window' by Ruth Elaine Schram paints a picture of children playing outside while parents prayerfully watch them from inside. It is a moving piece, one the choir - with Barbara - has sung before.

"Through the window, I can see you, You are playing, I am praying . . . Praying for your future, praying for your friends. Praying for your family, may those faithful prayers never end." I hope Barbara will hear us and see us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cafe au Lait (Coffee Old Lady)

You can already smell it in the air. That turning of the seasons, the scent of pine mixed in with the honeysuckle on the cool evening breeze. The sound of rakes skritching crisply over fallen leaves. The waiting behind school buses as they stop to pick up and drop off their charges, breathing in toxic diesel fumes as you idle behind them.

Autumn is just upon us. I love Autumn for all the same reasons most people do. And I know many parents welcome September because the kids are back in school and out of their hair for at least six hours a day. My daughters are also back. The oldest, who I just last week escorted to Santa Barbara to begin her second year at UCSB, needed help feathering her new, shared off-campus apartment. She is living with six other girls a quick walk (or skateboard ride) away from her classes in an enclave called Isla Vista, or I.V. for short. To give you a true picture of I.V., please note that I was the oldest person in the entire town by 30 years. This obvious fact, however was not immediately noticeable to me.

Early the morning after we arrived, I rose and dressed quietly (not necessary, since college kids sleep like rocks), anxious to ride into town to find strong coffee. As I pedaled through the palm trees past the hippie Food Co-op and the Yuppie Sushi Hut, I had happy thoughts. "Oh, how cool is this town?!", I mused, glad that the bike I borrowed from my daughter was a groovy tropical green beach cruiser, which allowed me to blend in seamlessly with the locals. I rode up and down the streets believing I was a young blonde surfer out to procure java and perhaps catch a rip curl.

After trolling the streets, I finally found an open coffee shop called I.V. Drip. Perfect. Give it to me in my arm. I pulled up, expertly flipping the kickstand with my foot, locked the bike and sauntered in. "A tall cafe au lait,", I said casually noting the impressed look on the sleepy-looking barista. As he turned to steam my drink, I scanned the room. A couple of girls in college hoodies sat in one corner talking and texting. A boy with major bedhead sat in the window with his face pressed up to the screen of his laptop, skateboard propped against the leg of his distressed jeans.

I got my coffee and sipped it slowly. When I was done, I thanked the guy and sauntered back out. Yes, definitely cool.

Until I caught my reflection in the shop window. There was white-haired granny, her wrinkles clearly etched into her face, elbows and knees. Who was I kidding? I sighed and got back on the bike, winching at the twinge of arthritis which had recently settled into my hips.

My daughter and her friends were awake when I got back. we spent that day and the next shopping for food, kitchen stuff and a twin mattress set. We went to lunch at the local taco place and walked down to the beach, putting only our toes into the freezing cold Pacific Ocean. Confident she was settled and secure I hugged her goodbye and got on the plane for home. My baby, all grown up.

I have heard it said that we are not only the age we are at any given time, but also every age we have ever been in the past. This would account for my delusions of youth in Isla Vista. And my groaningly immature jokes at the dinner table. And my childlike tears of abandonment at the loss of both my parents within the last two years.

I am nearly 56. But I am also twenty and fifteen and five. Sometimes it seems I am a jumble of many ages and its hard to figure out exactly WHAT I am feeling. I am glad to be alive. I am glad I can still ride a bike. Maybe I'll take surfing lessons next year.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lunch On a Bush

As I was walking toward my front door today, I passed by my recently-trimmed forsythia bush. My peripheral vision caught a slight movement on the rounded top and when I looked closer I saw an adolescent Praying Mantis perched there. She was busily munching on the head of a brown moth and did not notice me at first. I called to my son inside the house. "Come out here for a minute!" He came and spent a few moments trying to focus in on where I was pointing, since the mantis looked so much like a folded leaf. "Ah" he said finally. "I see it." The mantis was chewing. We could see her mandibles moving. She lifted her front leg (hand? claw? paw?) to put in another morsel when suddenly she looked up and froze. "Who are you?", she asked us, somewhat annoyed. "This is MY moth and anyway, you are not supposed to see me here." "So sorry," we said, hastening to add in a friendly tone, "go on with your lunch. We won't bother you."

Her name was Helen and she was about three inches long, with brown wings and lime green head and legs. Helen was unconvinced about our benign intentions. Giving us backward-glancing dirty looks, she clutched her moth, wiped her mouth (I think it was her mouth) and walked away on the top of the bush. "Hmmmff!'" she mumbled, her mouth still full.

Now, I love to watch spiders in their webs attached to my clothsline, butterflies on my zinnias and bees in my honeysuckle. But watching a mid-summer Praying Mantis is especially thrilling, maybe because spotting them is such a rare occurrence and because they are so large and alien-like. But unlike other bugs who seem to love flying and buzzing around humans, the mantis (what's the plural? Mantii? Mantes?)always seems annoyed and put out when noticed.

So I asked the retreating Helen. "Why don't you like us watching you, even when you know we mean you no harm?" Without stopping or looking back, she answered. "How would YOU like it if a giant bug-eyed, antennaed buzzing thing watched YOU eat your lunch?"

I thought about this. Helen was right. No one likes to be caught with their mouth full, especially when it is full of moth head, or worse, mate head. In teenage Helen's case, I have a feeling eating the moth's head was just practice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Teenage Drama Queens

My second daughter (fourth child) is into drama. I mean at school, onstage. She has been in every musical, dramatic performance, dinner theatre and young playwrights show since elementary school and she is now going into her senior year of high school. By her own count, that adds up to some 35 or so performances.

All her friends are part of this same thespianic circle. Her boyfriend too. They sing at my table and dance in my living room. Our four dogs include themselves in the mix, barking and circling the vertical players. Needless to say, my house is seldom quiet and we are often out of food but never bereft of dirty dishes. It is not uncommon to enter the kitchen in my pajamas and find someone - who I may or may not know - with their face in my refrigerator. "Hi, Mrs. L!", they say with cheerful ease. "I'm Maggie. Is this the last of the milk?"

This hot August morning, when I got up and went downstairs, I found sleeping bodies sprawled all over the living room. Three on the couch. One in the Lazy Boy. One on the floor in a sleeping bag. As I tiptoed around, taking stock of who was who, I saw that I had the entire core drama club right there. They had just come off a successful weekend run of 42nd Street in which they sang, tapped and snappy one-lined their way into the hearts of a large portion of the townspeople. They greeted adoring younger fans in the lobby afterward, signing autographs and taking pictures. As the mom of one of the stars, I also got to bask in her peripheral light, accepting lauds and praise for her talents with feigned humility.

Most of the time they are regular healthy teenagers. They complain too much, clean up too little and often treat their mothers like pariahs. But they are good active kids, serious about school and loyal to friends of whom I am lucky to say I unanimously approve.

"These are the days to remember, though they will not last forever," is a line from a Billy Joel song. As Billy's voice reverberates in my head, I attempt to make the day stand still for a moment. Savor the noise. The mess. The living, breathing, scattered organism that is the healthy, happy teenager, God bless 'em, every one.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Letting It Fly

So, I am in what is often called Middle Age. If that is true and I am at midpoint in my earthly existence, then I should die at 110. This a happy thought, since it has only been three years since I came out and I would like to think that I have a long time left to enjoy my new sense of identity and freedom.

Now this 'coming out' event was not so much of a pronouncement (except to husband and kids) or even an event at all, as a gradual awareness dawning on most people I know. I, myself, knew it always to be true. There were many years that I thought a change of team was possible, but not really, if I am perfectly honest. Doing this sort of brave new thing at any point is hard, but factor in five kids, a (then) husband and 50-plus years of relationships with family and friends, I'd say it is positively heroic.

I look the same as always. I think. Well, I did cut my hair pretty short and I do favor sports bras over regular hook ones. I have a small bumper sticker that is a navy blue square with a yellow equal sign on my car. I can play 'Closer to Fine' by the Indigo Girls on the guitar and I think Jane Lynch is wonderfully funny. But I still believe in the importance of shaved legs and armpits (OMG!) and my main incarnation as mom has not changed.

My partner and I and our daughters went to the beach on a recent blazing hot day. We go regularly in the summer and sometimes like to walk up and down the shoreline holding hands. On this day, umbrellaed directly behind us on the sand was a group of four friends. These girls looked pretty gay, especially two who were obviously partners. One of the two was sunbathing on her stomach with her swimsuit top untied, like many girls do, usually careful to not prop up too much. This girl didn't care. She sat up, chatting with her friends and spooning with her girlfriend on the blanket, letting her womanhood out for the world to see.

Our daughters were amused and slightly scandalized by this and the event was the topic of much discussion as we sat there. They didn't think such exposure was acceptable behavior. We looked around. Several men of various shapes strutted the shore in tiny Speedos, their bulges clearly defined. How was this somehow okay? Oh, and a couple of them were sucking face with their girlfriends on the sand and in the water, their hands groping at will. No problems here, right?

I admire that young woman on the blanket - for her bravery and for her honesty. She was at the beach. It was hot. Womens' swimsuits are tight and uncomfortable. She was more covered up still than those men, and her public displays of affection toward her girlfriend were careful and G-rated. Okay, make that PG.

This later-in-life Rainbow Connection has many many benefits. My partner and I are slowly becoming more affectionate in public situations. We walk arm in arm and hand in hand on any street that is not right in our own town. Our kids see us hug and kiss each other hello and goodbye. Our friends, families, pastor and church people know we are a couple. Our kids refer to us as 'the moms'. I feel like the me I was born to be (pardon the dumb rhyme). I stand a little straighter. I wear two piece swimsuits for the first time in my life. I sing louder in church. I dance in the house and accept all ridicule happily. I fall asleep with and wake up to the person I love. I am learning to let my freak flag fly.

Make that my free flag.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A eulogy For My Father

My father was something of a stoic. When he sliced across the palm of his hand with his chainsaw while cutting up the big blue spruce which had come down in a storm, he did not panic or yell. Calmly, he wrapped his profusely bleeding hand in his jacket and stuck his head in the door (no further in order to not drip on the foyer floor) and said softly to mom, “Terry, I need for you to drive me to the emergency room now.”

This stoicism sprang from a number of places. He was one of two brothers, brought up in a small apartment in Brooklyn during the Depression,. It was a time where most everyone around had to suck it up and move on with things. The Patterson boys had no father around and were raised by two women – their mother (my magnificent grandmother) and HER mother. They called their grandmother ‘mom’ and their mother ‘mother’. Don’t ask me why. I believe they were protective of these two women’s emotions and were not inclined to accept much babying or sympathy.

My father’s father left his young wife and two tiny boys when my father was two years old. Saying he was headed out to California to find work and would send for them when he was established, he left and never returned. Both my dad and his brother Ed went on to have successful and long marriages. They did not repeat the abandonment trend despite not having any real fatherly presence in their lives from which to copy and fashion themselves.

Dad’s stoicism had a bit of a flip side. His outward strength could turn to anger and, although he loved my brothers and me, he could not show much affection beyond the occasional game of catch. And there were unbendable rules. No radio playing in the car. No twisting electrical cords. No slamming doors. No leaving the table until dinner was over. No talking back. Once I asked him something and he did not hear me. I repeated my question and he said “what?” mildly annoyed. “Oh, forget it,” I said. SLAM! His hand whacked my cheek so hard my head hit the wall. “Never say ‘Forget It’ to me!”

William Flynn Patterson was born on June 24th 1926, in Sacramento California. His mother followed her new husband out there where she had grand dreams of Hollywood success for herself. She had, on her lunch hour one day, tried out for the Ziegfield Follies. She got a callback, but did not go. I’m not sure why.

From the get-go, little Billy was destined to become an engineer. He tinkered with crystal radio sets and salvaged old appliance motors from the trash. One such motor was so covered in tar, rendering it unworkable, that he had the bright idea to melt the tar out of it. He put the motor on the stovetop in a saucepan, added water, set it to cook and went to do his homework in the apartment living room. After a while, he noted that the fire engine sirens outside seemed awfully close. He looked out the living room window to see two scary things. One was firemen running into HIS building. The other was smoke pouring out of HIS kitchen window. The motor was no longer tarred, but Billy got the tarring of his life!

Bill and Terry met at Our Lady of Refuge, where both of them were parishoners. They were married there and I was baptized there. They moved to Long Island when I was a week old and never left. They were as devoted a couple as one might ever find and in many ways, typical of the times. Bill went off to work each day and Terry took care of house and children. They traveled to Europe on vacations and took a cruise to Alaska.

I like to think, in some ways. I was my father’s favorite, not so much because I was the only girl, as I was the one who liked working alongside him at his basement bench, hammering, drilling and sawing. We borrowed a cigarette from the neighbor to sodder a small piece of metal and he let me smoke the rest of it. He taught me how to mow a lawn, keeping even rows and overlapping just enough to get a clean carpet. He took me to the local liquor store where the eccentric owner had a large monkey cage in the middle of the floor. He took me to Carvel and taught me how to eat an entire cone without dripping a drop. He ran alongside me as I learned to ride my brother’s cast-off two wheeler. And later, he taught me to drive, clenching the armrest and gritting his teeth the whole time.

Eventually, we three grew up and out, heading off in different directions. I married and had five kids, dad’s only grandchildren. In his own dignified (some might say stiff) style, he relished this new role and, I believe, found a renewed sense of the joy of life in their growth and development. All five tell stories about happy times at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Grandchildren grew up, and mom and dad slowed down. Mom was diagnosed with Altzheimer’s Disease and left us quite a while before she died. Dad lost his eyesight and became lethargic and depressed. Without Terry – even a sick Terry – he was lost and lonely. We visited him in his dark and quiet house where the ticking of the Grandfather clock seemed incessant and loud, but he was fading away from us.

It’s a strange thing. My mother died two years ago and I grieved. But it was only when my father died too, this past February, that I truly felt them both gone.

It is true, and thankfully so, that we remember mostly the good things in people. My mind re-visits times with the good mom and the fun dad. He never left us, even in his mind, my dad, unlike his own father, who abandoned his young family.

So now, I am an orphan. First in line at the pearly gates and sitting behind the desk where the buck stops. I walk through the empty house where I grew up and hear children's voices - mine and my brothers' - and those of my own children when they were young and running into the kitchen for Grandma's brownies. Thinking of the times I was home sick and my mother would buy me a Venus Paradise Coloring Set to work on in bed. Thinking of the times my dad would let us climb the ladder to the roof to hammer nails into the shed he was building onto the back. Thinking about learning to ride a bike and dad running alongside, letting go just at the right moment as I pedaled away.

And with that image as metaphor, I will close this entry. I am pedaling away. Dad has felt free to let go. I ride down the block and turn the corner until I can no longer see him waving.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Riding Away

My father died in February. He was 84 years old. He had been ailing. He was blind and his kidneys were shutting down bit by bit. In the last few weeks of his life, his occasional dementia became full time. He was twitchy and agitated and did not want to eat or drink.

My sons got to visit with him shortly before he died. It was unclear whether he knew they were there or who they were. But I think somewhere he knew and let them know he knew. My youngest daughter also visited, as it turned out, the day before he died. He was unresponsive and did not seem to hear us as we spoke to him and held his hand. It is a hard honor to be present at the deathbed of someone you love. I want to believe he had already put one foot over the line in previous weeks, communicating with my mother, and, perhaps his own mother. I arrived at the nursing home a half hour after he passed away for good. I sat with him and stroked his cheek and head for a while as the warmth drained from him. It seemed like his soul left with the warmth. I felt him there . . . and then I didn't. He may have re-appeared during funeral services, just to see what we had arranged for him, and to make sure I sang the song he had requested I sing at his funeral mass, about six months ago.

Dad was stoic and proud. He was even a little bit of a despot, wanting things to go the way he wanted them to go and having little patience for anyone else's view. With the exception of my mom. It was a fearsome and wonderful thing to see how that tiny woman could control the heart of this big impatient man. In her final days, when Alzheimer's ravaged her brain and left us with a stranger, he showed his most patient and loving self as he gently steered her around the house to get dressed and eat.

It is true, and thankfully so, that we remember mostly the good things in people. My mind re-visits times with the good mom and the fun dad. He never left us, even in his mind, unlike his own father, who abandoned his young family when my dad was two.

So now, I am an orphan. First in line at the pearly gates and sitting behind the desk where the buck stops. I walk through the empty house where I grew up and hear children's voices - mine and my brothers' - and those of my own children when they were young and running into the kitchen for Grandma's brownies. Thinking of the times I was home sick and my mother would buy me a Venus Paradise Coloring Set to work on in bed. Thinking of the times my dad would let us climb the ladder to the roof to hammer nails into the shed he was building onto the back. Thinking about learning to ride a bike and dad running alongside, letting go just at the right moment as I pedaled away.

And with that image as metaphor, I will close this entry. I am pedaling away. Dad has felt free to let go. I ride down the block and turn the corner until I can no longer see him waving.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Great 'IM'

Many people across the globe and throughout human history have worshiped God. God has many names and at least a couple of genders. God has had a history of being schizophrenic - that is, alternately angry and punitive and lovingly forgiving. We have been His minions and Her beloved chick brood, held warm and safe under her wing. God has lived on Mount Olympus, in Heaven and has romped the Elysian Fields. God strikes down enemies and clothes the lilies of the field.

When I was a Catholic school first grader, we had to memorize the questions and answers in the Baltimore Catechism. The first question was: "Who is God?" The correct answer, as any good Catholic school child will tell you is, "God is the Supreme Being who made all things." Simple enough. Sometimes the school Principal, Sister Mary Sebastian, would pop in for a surprise visit and make us all stand up and answer the catechism's questions row by row. It was always better to be in one of the later rows, for there were more kids than questions (we had fifty in our class) and after a while, questions were repeated. If you had been listening, you would be given the answer sometime before your turn.

Robert Ruggles was in a middle row, and did not know the answers, but was listening intently. When Sister Mary Sebastian got to him, he was asked that central question, "WHO IS GOD?" Robert frowned and scratched his head. Suddenly he brightened. "God is the STRING BEAN who made all things!" he shouted triumphantly.

Silence. There is no laughing or snickering in front of Sister Mary Sebastian.

I think Robert's response was, at least partially true. If God created everything, animal, mineral and VEGETABLE, who are we to decide what incarnation He may choose to take at any time?
The Hebrews of the Old Testament feared and revered God so much that they would not even say His/Her name. "I AM WHO AM," G-d thundered to Moses. Okay. IAM sounds a little like a dog food brand and dog is god backwards anyway.

Nowadays, kids worship less at the church altar and more at the laptop altar. Facebooking, tweeting, instagramming, snap chatting and instant messaging are prayers, both sent and received. The Great IM.