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Do you remember the days when we actually believed in things wholeheartedly? When we listened in the dark for ghosts and sleighbells alike, until our childish attentions tired us to sleep? The days when stained glass and crosses and the mention of God instilled a kind of fear and wonder?
I still remember the day I was baptised. I remember standing next to my family in front of the minister as the congregation intoned their holy welcomes behind us. I waited my turn patiently, as the minister went down the line marking crosses on the foreheads of my grandmother, mother, brother, with the water from the basin. It finally came to me. I fidgeted, I remember. I don't remember what I was wearing, except that it was my best, and I remember my hair was just regrowing from my "miracle" recovery. That was the reason we were there after all.
I don't remember much about being sick. I remember the doctor's face as she felt my abdomen. I remember my mother's worry, and I've heard her stories so many times they feel like memory. "Head to Boston" was the doctor's order, and that's when we knew it was serious. Overtired with oversensitive tendancies, I threw a mini-tantrum that I don't remember, but I have been teased about for years. "I hate this doctor place!" Understandable when everytime you are asked to sit still you are poked and prodded or given shots or put in large machines that make weird noises. After a year of chemotherapy you can understand my fear of needles. This is why I hope I never get rabies. My history teacher, ADHD as he was, told us that if you were bitten by something with rabies they had to inject stuff straight into your stomach with a long needle. To this day I am still terrified of the thought.
I remember mostly the positive things really. I remember there was a free pac man machine in the little game room. I wasn't very good at it, but it was fun to try. I think that was the first time I ever really got to play video games was there in the hospital. I got to play Super Mario Bros. And even though I couldn't get past the first levels, I played it any chance I got. The doctors and nurses at the floating hospital were used to children and made accomidations for restless natures with games and toys, and once, they wheeled in a veritable entertainment system. We couldn't get the Nintendo working, so I watched ET instead. I didn't really like the movie that much as a child, ET creeped me out a bit, but I remember some kind of glowing monitor on the end of my finger that we called "the ET finger." Unfortunately my healing process was not nearly as instantantios.
We spent several stints in Boston in the hospital for surguries. I had to spend Easter there. They hid eggs around my room with coins inside for my coin cup. It was a urine sample cup with a slit in the top. It was green. Quarters were the most exciting to get, though more often I got nickles or dimes for good behavior. I remember, I think for my last surgury, the major one, my Dad actually came down to visit. He sat on the end of my bed and tried to talk to me. I know I felt strangely uncomfortable. It was around the time they wouldn't let me eat any more food, and my dad told me he hadn't had lunch yet, and he pulled a tuna sandwitch out of a red tupperware box. I hate tuna. I hated it then, and I remember being equal parts hungry and disgusted. I was mad at him for eating in front of me, but hey, he was making an effort to be supportive, that's all I could ask for.
It was during this time that my mom really turned to faith to see her through. She hadn't really gone to church much as a child, but knew about the idea of it. She was so worried for me, but all she could do was pray. She's told me since then that she had a revalation. It was when she realized that everyone back home was praying for me as well that she started to feel hope. I think she must have made a bargain with God, that if I made it through, she'd become a member of the church.
So there we were, standing in a familial line to be baptised, all because I survived. My survival and subsequent entrance into the religious world has given me many a guilt complex. But then, then all I could feel was the excitement. I felt I was doing right, that everything was as it should be. I promised to be good, and to do everything right, but I knew that wouldn't really happen. Sometime after this, I don't know if it was weeks, months or years, I was feeling angry, and stupid and like a bad child, so, dipping into pooled rainwater, riddled with dirt and mud, I decided to anti-baptise myself, I wasn't worthy, and I didn't want to worry about being good or bad anymore. With that water, I drew a cross on my forehead, and then a circle around it, and then crossed a line over it, like a no smoking sign. I didn't know anything more sinister back then.
I immediately regretted that decision, I could feel the mark as if it were burning there. I knew it would hurt my mom's feelings, so I tried to undo it. I drew the cross on my forehead again and again with the water, always feeling that the line kept overlapping it and crossing it out. I remembered I would need holy water, and I started to panic. I think I went inside and scrubbed my forehead, and maybe prayed, but I don't really remember. I don't feel that guilt anymore, but I don't know if it's because the mark is gone, or I don't feel the belief as strongly as I once did. The holy fires don't light that pit in my stomach as much as they did that day I was baptised.
He approached me, thumb dripping with water, and I held my breath. Back then, I would have sworn I could feel the tingle of the holyness as he drew the cross on my brow, but I think that was the only moment in my life I didn't have any doubts. I've never been able to honestly pray. My mind starts to wander too much. I'd start thinking about the nice things I'd like him to do for people in need, and end up daydreaming about becoming a world leader, or thinking about the homework I had due. During the age when hormones raged, I always felt I was going to be damned by some of the things my mind would wander to in the dark.
I think the dark makes it easier to believe in things. You can say that shifting shadow was a trick of your eyes, or the shadow of a tree, but you're never as sure as you are in broad daylight. You can tell yourself over and over that there's no one under your bed waiting to grab your ankles, but it always feels like just thinking it makes it true. If I don't fall aleep quickly enough, I find myself trapped in the same whirlpool of worries, dragging me down till I feel like I can feel a weight of ghosts pressing me down into the matress. This is the time where my childish heart allows itself time to believe. It finds that old fire of fear that makes me squeeze my eyes shut tight against that shadow that is the curtain, or pull the blanket up as a forcefeild against the monsters in the closet. This is where I find God sometimes, drifting among the ghosts. The night illuminates the ghosts of that old fervor I felt as a child, and I can believe again.