I get by with a little help from my friends…

17 09 2008

I dig iconic art.  I wasn’t raised with iconic art in my church unless you consider a semi-tropical river scene in the baptistry iconic art.  I always felt a bit like the baby Moshe being put in a wicker basket about to be floated down the Nile during the 8:30 a.m. sleepy service on Sundays. 

Pictures of our Jesus were not on the walls or in statues – just in those carry- home papers we were supposed to read with our parents.  They were always the same pictures and when I look at them now I seriously hope Jesus doesn’t look like that at all.


 A tad creepy really.


And I didn’t know my heart   had an Arts & Crafts             decorating motif… I thought it’d be a bit more like door at Bilbo Baggins’ Bag End.


When we showed up at the funeral home for Billy’s wake and did the first “walk through”, I noticed that everyone did a little imperceptible shudder…it wasn’t like when my Mom first saw her father “dressed out” in the casket and realized that his moustache had been shaved off while in the hospital down in Tennessee…but it was a shudder nonetheless.

On a side table near the casket was a glass pillar candle with a picture of my dad superimposed over the background of a flag that the funeral home had prepared. It was like the ones you can buy in the grocery store – at least I can buy them in my grocery store in the hispanic section – but I imagine some of you don’t have large immigrant communities in your neighborhood. 

Baptists don’t get into the candle thing so much – at least the way good Catholics do. Sometimes I’m pretty sure when Martin threw the baby out with the bath water there were lots of things that Protestants might think about reclaiming. One explanation of the candle part is:

Vigil Lights (from the Latin vigilia, which means “waiting” or “watching”) are traditionally accompanied by prayers of attention or waiting. Another common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the votive is placed. Lighting a candle is a way of extending one’s prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered.

Mom has begun to really enjoy her St. Billy candle.  She couldn’t have candles lit around Billy much in the end – he’d freak out thinking they were going to catch the house on fire and would go around behind her blowing them out as soon as she had lit them.  Now, I appreciate that Smokey the Bear mentality but those little battery operated tea lights that I bought them as a substitue – don’t really cut it much.  

For as long as I can remember, when the weather starts to turn cold and the days grow shorter – she enjoys having a candle on her kitchen table to light in the early hours of dawn.  So maybe she’ll be sharing that space with Billy’s face flickering in front of her.  Yesterday something she read got the well of tears pump primed and she has had a hard time capping the flow.  That is a good thing.  She needed that and it is healthy.  I’m a bit jealous actually. And she said she likes to be alone to get it out her way – on her timetable.  What a smart woman.

One of the first days I came home after the funeral, I was at the grocery store and had to bring some friends home with me to share my space.  And in case you don’t recognize them by their faces, know that I’ve got it covered here with the patron saint of hopeless cases on my side.  I know you’re relieved.

the times they are a changin’

29 07 2008

In the early 60’s, listening to WLS radio in our house was a misdmeanor. Good Baptist kids didn’t listen to that kind of music, but my sister was six years older and apparently quite savvy to the ways of the heathen. Sharing a room and a 3/4 sized roll-away bed where a line was carefully drawn down the center, I remember a small beige transistor radio being stuffed under a pillow and with the volume barely above a whisper, we’d be carried away to where we’d never be caught dead in the daylight…only to dream of being able to dance to those tunes. Dancing was, after all, a crime punishable by death.

Clark Weber and Larry Lujack were two of that era’s DJ’s who were our hosts on the forbidden airwaves. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the best of Motown and so many more. God help us if we fell asleep without first moving the dial to disguise where we’d been wandering around in the dark.

So it really caught my attention the other day while at the house, walking by the garage to hear the “oldies but goodies” playing on a radio tuned to WLS/Chicago. I laughed out loud to see my parents now oblivious to the fact that it was the same music once deemed an anathema. And the real kicker is that the radio was there for their dog – may she rest in peace – who apparently was a classic rocker in her last days.

It may be that old habits die hard and her presence with them for 17 years can be evoked with the hook of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”- but it plays on. For noone. This radio comes with a special set of instructions – written in my father’s distinctive block print… it’s own tell tale sign that the times they are a changin’. Just like the old house rules about what music was acceptable …there are certain things we just let slide ‘coz the “button” really has 2 “t”s.