Ever since I got back to Connecticut, I've been rereading To Dance With God, a book I have no memory of my family ever having been without. I remember reading it before, and not understanding a word of what it was saying. Now, 20 years later, aware of the flow of Catholic mass and the liturgical calendar, it means more to me.
Yesterday Mom asked me about how to celebrate Pentecost. "Fire," I answered. By lighting a fire. Windsocks, pinwheels, kites for the wind; but when the sun went down, by lighting a fire.
At 9:53 this morning, I darkened the door of a church I left behind ten years ago.
Two white-haired men whose names I'd forgotten welcomed me back. The mother of a friend I'd forgotten about, and forgotten about forgetting about, welcomed me back. One woman, whose child was eight (which would've meant that she joined the congregation the year we all left), welcomed me back and remembered me to my mother.
My Sunday school teacher, still blonde and genki after all this time (and celebrating her golden anniversary, as part of one of the younger couples in the congregation), welcomed me back. She named me as a joy in the prayers for joys and concerns.
Pentecost is the day for the reading of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones. Pentecost is the day for remembering the upper room of Acts 2. I didn't have the chance to approach my Sunday school teacher for the Prodigal Son routine - here I am, and the only thing that I have learned is that I learned almost nothing from you, and I am sorry, because I have no memory and no excuse, and now that I am back I cannot do this thing as well as I should hope - because she left before I had a chance to talk to her, and thank her for trying, and apologize for learning poorly then.
All my Christian understanding is achieved in hindsight. Like the fact that they forgave me and welcomed me back before I confessed that I was unworthy and asked to be their servant. Which I didn't realize until just now. I also realized that I was being entirely self-centered: all my focus on ritual and such and I hadn't thought that my being there would mean something to somebody. To anybody, really.
Tonight, about ten minutes before midnight, I realized that I hadn't bothered with my own thoughts on how to celebrate Pentecost. The house is silent; the only creature stirring in it is myself.
So I struck a match. And I touched a wick.
No roaring fire, but a single tongue of flame, providing enough light to write by.
And so I have.