no longer go to church, but, like the growing number of fellow heathens in this
country, that doesn’t keep me from celebrating religious holidays. Christmas and Easter provide a much-needed
opportunity to celebrate family and spend time with the ones we love. And I must confess, I also enjoy the
excuse to eat frosted sugar cookies and marshmallow chicks.
confession, it’s perhaps one of the few religious rituals I miss–well, that and
being encouraged to sing loudly and poorly in public. Though I must admit, I didn’t appreciate confession as a
kid. A few times every year our
CCD teachers would tell us we were escaping our regular classes and heading up
from the basement into the church.
We were thrilled–until we realized we were being shepherded like cattle
being brought to the slaughter to spew our every indiscretion to God
himself. As a little kid, I
remember sitting in the pews nervously tapping my feet trying to perfectly plan
out my disclosure. But without
fail, I would practically forget my own name, never mind my beautifully worded
confession, as soon as I sat across from the priest (there was no anonymity
allowed by the bulldozer who oversaw our religious education-she fed off
children’s fear). So instead I
spewed, like Chunk from the Goonies as he faces having his hand mutilated by a
blender. And I left feeling
embarrassed and ashamed.
the time I was a teen, I had smartened up a bit. Or perhaps I had just become cynical and bitter over having
to listen to the bulldozer preach morality for so many years. Let me get this straight, you want
me to tell a guy you claim has a direct link to God everything I’ve done wrong
in the last six months? Riiight. That’s likely. Like
most of the rest of my confirmation class, I picked a few minor, typical kid
sins, rattled them off, and tried to master a look of appropriate
remorsefulness. But at this point,
the Catholic guilt was ingrained, so once my smugness wore off, I eventually
still felt ashamed.
I was never able to connect as a kid, though, was that outside of church, I
loved to confess–not only my sins, but also my friends’ and especially my
brothers’. Poor Matt could never
get me to shut up about any kind of trouble we got into. My parents were never the type to grill
us into fessing up–maybe because once I learned to talk, they never had
to. One suspicious look and I’d
tell all, like a guest on the Springer show. The burnt hole in my new sweatshirt? Yup, we were lighting fires in the
woods. I even confessed to things
of which my parents wanted to remain ignorant. The mopped floor?
Yup, there was a party here this weekend and beer was spilled all over the off-white tile.
brother thought he figured out a way to muzzle me when he was in middle
school. He discovered
leverage–find something your sibling did wrong and hold it over her head every
time you want to get away with something.
So when a neighbor and I spilled on the new rug in the playroom (after he slammed the door to lock us in, knocking the jar of
Miracle Whip down the stairs), he thought he had the perfect
get-out-of-jail-free card. And it
worked, for a while, months actually, if I remember correctly. Every time I was about to rat him out, he would simply
whisper, “Whip,” and I’d bite my tongue. But Matt overestimated my willpower. He had clearly not learned that I was a
compulsive confessor. So one night
as he was torturing me at the dinner table, I finally just told my parents,
who, as soon as they heard the spill was cleaned up, could not have cared less. Matt learned I was too much of a dork
to barter bad deeds with, and I had my belief in the beauty of confession
is simply better to admit having eaten nearly a dozen cream-filled eggs in the
name of a holiday you no longer really celebrate than to try to convince
yourself or your Weight Watchers’ leader that the added pounds are simply water
weight from the salt in the one thin slice of ham you consumed. Confession takes the weight off your
shoulders, even better than a few thousand extra sit-ups will take the Peeps
off your thighs. So my post-Lent list of sins: I eat sweets too often, swear too much, correct not frequently enough, and thoroughly enjoy all of the above. Damn, that felt good.