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  • I was baptized Catholic.

    My first memories are of being left behind in the pew during the Eucharist. Feeling left out, my twin and I offered each other Necco wafers instead. We cupped our hands, and with bowed heads, pretended to say something solemn.

    I wore a hand-me-down dress for my First Communion. It looked yellowed and home-sewn, which it was, next to my twin sister's new, puffy-sleeved dress from JCPenney.

    Coming of Age
    My Dad became was the head at noon mass. and liked to get there early. Sometimes we'd arrive before the earlier mass let out and I'd feel totally embarrassed. Later, I'd see his name posted in the narthex as head usher and feel pride. This was one of many conflicting feelings I'd have about going to church.

    My family sat in the same pew every week: mid-way down the nave, right of center. I wanted to sit in the front row and assumed the people who did were better than the rest.

    I was confirmed in 8th grade, but it was anti-climactic. To celebrate, my dad brought us to Wendy's for a Frosty afterward. It was a school night so we went through the drive-thru and ate them in the dark car on the way home.

    A year later, my dad died. My family and I finally got to sit in front row at his funeral. Sitting there was not as great as I had thought it would be years before.

    I only went to church once a year, on Christmas Eve. Still, my psyche was irrevocably imprinted by my Catholic childhood so I insisted on a church wedding.

    I dragged my fiance to Pre-Cana, pre-marriage counseling administered by priests. We took a compatibility test and scored particularly low on the Jesus section. Our scores prompted the priest to draw a picture of a canyon. Labeling the right cliff "you" and the left "God," he encouraged us to use Jesus to get to God. I left feeling dejected. I worried I'd have to learn to fly or risk falling into the abyss.

    9/11 happened. In a fit of grief and worry, I memorized the Apostle's Creed, relearned the Catholic catechism, and resumed going to mass. Pregnant with my first child, I worried about the state of the world.

    We moved to the suburbs. The priest at our new parish baptized our first-born. He didn't like people in general, but especially kids. We spent several weeks shamed in the cry room. When our daughters were born, we traveled out of state to have them baptized by childhood priest. He is currently in jail for embezzling money.

    We go to church once a year, on Christmas. My husband calls us 'C & E Catholics, hold the E.' We try to integrate rituals, smaller rituals, into our daily life. We say grace before dinner and nighttime prayers before bed. When an ambulance crosses my path, I make the sign of the cross.

    I keep saying I'm going to back to church but I never do. I miss the sense of community, the ritual, and innocence of believing that I was one of the chosen. The problem is that it is no longer my community, I can find other rituals, and none of us chosen.

    Yesterday my daughters asked me what religion we were. I reminded them that they were baptized Catholic but that it would be up to them to figure out what they believed when they're older.

    "What do you believe?" they asked. "I don't know," I said. "I'm still figuring it out." What I didn't tell them is that I'm still looking for a different way across the canyon.
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