It is mother’s day and I am maybe 12 or 13 or it doesn’t matter because one day it will all flow together and become indistinguishable anyway, and she has decided that I will be accompanying her to church.
In the years leading up to this point, my father was still alive and the notions of my faith were unquestioned.
He being of the belief that my spiritual leanings would be discovered, or not, in time. By the one person to whom it would intimately matter.
So I am confused by the proposal, mid-adolescence, that I visit a place of worship for a reason other than my own curiosity.
Confused might be putting it mildly.
It might be, rather, that I am experiencing my first feelings of resentment.
Her argument—that it is mother’s day—is an unoriginal one.
I’m not the least moved by it.
But somehow I don’t bother to say so until she and I are standing outside, ready to go.
“Mum?” I start, as she turns to lock up the house. “I think I’ll just stay here.”
Already I am wearing the high-necked Victorian blouse she mandated, the rather absurd corduroy jumper dress.
Already I am sleeping in the canopy bed that she wanted as a child. Am disappearing through the tiny petal-patterned holes decorating its bedspread, the draperies.
It seems, somehow, enough.
“You’re going,” the woman volleys, and I really should recognize that pinching of her mouth when she says it. I’ll grow to, in the years to come, but perhaps at this time we’re still being introduced.
“Mum?” I start again. “I’m not. I’m really sorry, but I don’t believe in God.”
I feel the strike of her hand long before I register its movement.
The conversion of her beautiful face wrenching itself into one of contempt is so sudden as to be imperceptible .
“You better believe in God,” she thrusts out breathily, hotly, her mouth now unexpectedly close to my ear.
And then, in an ominous whisper, in slow, staccato words ludicrously suggestive of vengeance, “Or else.”
“Or else what?” I wonder, will in fact always truly wonder, and I almost laugh at how little sense the entire scene makes.
And here, too, is perhaps where it begins. My skewed sense of humor.
So many elements, born of one moment.
Or perhaps, for the sake of simplicity, my mind just makes it so.