I don't think I've talked much about religion, though I know I've mentioned my church, so I thought I'd lay out a few details leading up to learning moment 98.
I am newly a Unitarian Universalist. I came to the religion on my own over the period of seven years, but just this past year did I join the church. Daddy Honey does not go to church. He is an atheist, but I think he'd also easily be classified as a Naturalist Humanist, if he cared about such categories, which he doesn't. On Sunday mornings, I wake up and go to church while he stays home and makes the boys elaborate, all-morning breakfasts with plenty of cartoons and soldier battles and zombie drawings intermixed. This arrangement works out nicely for us, since Woody said he would only want to attend the religious education at church if I would attend with him, and I prefer to be in the service myself.
So, I go to church and bring bits and pieces home to talk about. I sing songs I learn in the choir, and the boys learn them with me, Woody even helping me to find the right notes when I lose them. I read articles online and call Daddy Honey over to read and tell me what he thinks. My friend Brooke has a similar arrangement with her spouse and calls it "over-the-shoulder church." I think that's a nice way to put it.
But UU is my own thing right now, and up until this point, Daddy Honey and I had been mostly cobbling together holiday traditions and practices and rituals from our own backgrounds, which are both Catholic, and the earth-based religions whose warm reverence for all life and the natural rhythms of the world resonate so strongly with us.
About a year and half ago, I began a rather clumsy effort of building some small regular ritual into our lives, a gratitude-based practice that would be, if nothing else, a starting point. So, I nestled a tea light into the center of an overturned cockle shell that I had found at Cape San Blas State Park and I asked that we go around the table before a meal and state something we were thankful for.
Naturally, the first couple times the novelty of the candle captured Woody's attention far more than the ritual. Wanting this little practice to take hold in our family, I started lighting the candle before the meal was served, letting him blow it out a few times before I lit it "for real" for what he called "Our Thankfuls." That worked just fine, and he was eager to be the first one to share his bit of gratitude each go around. At 4 1/2, Woody was thankful for Spiderman and dessert. Later, he was thankful for his Daddy's good cooking and his friend, Nathan. Recently, he shared that he felt thankful for his family and thankful for the pig that we were eating in the form of our Christmas ham.
It's a small thing, and we don't do it every night--more like two or three times a week, sometimes three days in a row then not again for a week. But I think its simplicity and openness has made it meaningful for Woody from very young, and might grow with him yet.
This past New Year's, as we ate our Southern traditional plate of black-eyed peas with rice, greens, cornbread, and whipped sweet potatoes on the side, I thought to try something new. I said a blessing.
I had not said a blessing since I was 14 and left behind, amicably but irrevocably, the Catholicism of my childhood. But my friend Brooke literally put this blessing into my hand that morning, and it seemed just perfect as a New Year's benediction. It's traditional Unitarian-Universalist, but as I am new to this religion, this was new to me:
It is a blessing to be.
It is a blessing to be here.
It is a blessing to be here now.
It is a blessing to be here now together.
And do you know I screwed it up? I said "together" in the third line, then I got confused when it came to the fourth line, and so I accidentally asked, as if I were unsure, Is it a blessing to be here now together? And of course Daddy Honey chuckled because he wanted to know if I was seeking confirmation from above that I was in the right family. And the boys giggled at my discomfiture.
In other words, it was perfectly fitting for our family's first blessing. What is love if not good intentions plus heart-connections, creating happiness and contentment like an invisible but crackling current passed between us through laughs and smiling eyes? And what is religion, if not love practiced together?