I was not raised in a religious family. My father’s family was Protestant although I know my grandparents never went to church or practiced any kind of religious activity that I was ever aware of. My dad, his being of the scientific/engineering ilk, admitted he was an atheist but he did not go around publicizing the fact. My mother’s family was Jewish and had, in fact, hop-scotched from Holland to Portugal to America avoiding persecution.
My mother, too, did not embrace her religion openly in that she never went to Temple nor did she celebrate any of the Jewish holidays. She actually paid more attention to the childish features of several Christian holidays and those were the ones I was exposed to. We celebrated Christmas full out: tree, presents, mailing cards, Santa Claus—the whole bit. There was no Passover in our house but there were always well stocked Easter baskets for my brother and me. No religious aspects of either Christmas or Easter were ever celebrated in our house. There were a few years that we went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, but I think it was more for holiday atmosphere than for any religious acknowledgment.
My mother kept her Jewish faith to herself and I think more so than she ever revealed. When I went on a work assignment to Munich in the 1970s, she didn’t even want to see the pictures I took. She would have nothing to do with anything German and I never realized it until this particular moment that her Jewishness was definitely deeply embedded within her and equally deeply respected–she simply did not choose to participate in the “showcasing” aspects of her beliefs. The irony in all this is that my father’s family origins were German.
I remember my mother making reference from time to time that my father’s mother was against their marriage, based on her objections to her son marrying a Jew. My father obviously had no problem with the issue and my parents remained happily married for 44 years until death did they part. It is not until this very moment that I am writing this that I realize perhaps my parents’ “neutrality” on religion was based on a mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and neither wished to impose his/hers upon the other. I’ve never thought about this before and now that I have, it makes sense given their personalities and the loving relationship they had. Hence, religion was “opted out” as a family activity and that is why it was not part of my growing up. It’s amazing the insight a blog may reveal from time to time, even to its author.
I know my mother must have felt some guilt about the “sterile” atmosphere in which my brother and I were being raised. I remember a short period of time when we attended church, a Universal/Unitarian congregation whose pastor’s wife my mother had befriended somewhere outside the church. My mother appeared to enjoy the intellectualism of the experience—the sermons especially, while my father, my brother and I were hopeful she would soon tire of the weekly routine so we could get back to the ritual of sleeping late on Sunday mornings. This eventually did happen and I, for one, thanked God for it.
There are many people, I am sure, who would be sympathetic toward me because I am, indeed, a lost soul who has been spiritually neglected. Of course, I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, I am quite spiritual in that I have a strong personal regard for Mother Nature and all the metaphors for which she stands. I do sincerely believe that you cannot fool her. I also hold steadfastly—sometimes to a fault—to a strong sense of fairness and kindness to my fellow persons. And I also have a pretty standup set of ethics. These things compose who I am, albeit also serving as the acknowledged basis of many religions. So while I do not attend a ceremony in an architectural structure, I do pay attention to much of the scruples that religion expounds.
So, here it is Passover and Easter crashing together at the same time and I find myself a little lost, as usual, as to which holiday I honestly belong. In truth, I belong to neither. I’ve never been to Passover dinner although I saw much of the preparation days in advance at the homes of school friends. I always got my kids Easter baskets when they were growing up, and nowadays I usually have something Eastery for my wife…but no matzo ball soup.
Regardless, rest assured, you are not to worry; I will get through these two clashing celebrations unscathed and emotionally stable. You? Well, I’m not sure because I don’t exactly know a lot about all of you…except whatever you celebrate or believe in, may it bring you happiness and a sense of wellbeing…and hopefully enhance the spirit of togetherness for all of us. Even I will say Amen to that!