Tuesday, February 27, 2018

If it wasn't for Joan Baez.

I'm pretty sure that Joan Baez is to blame. Yes, the Folk Singer that sang at President Barak Obama's inauguration.  Okay, to blame is a little harsh, and not really accurate. However, I do know that Joan Baez was my mothers favorite musician when I was little. I asked my mom about this once when I was a kid. So, going off of memories over 30 years old, I am positive that Joan Baez got my mother interested in the Religious Society of Friends... more commonly known as the Quakers. Mom joined the Quakers well before I was born.

When you get right down to it. I can honestly say that I am a Quaker because of Joan Baez.

I have lots of really great memories of being a kid in the Elmira Monthly Meeting. Hiding in the closets. Attending First Day School. Playing with toys in the downstairs. Wicker furniture. Running from bees in the back staircase. Drinking coffee for the first time. Potlucks, where my mother always brought a cheap ready to bake pizza. Playing in the backyard of the Meeting House.

I was a hyperactive child (which should be obvious from a few of the things I got up to). Eventually in my tween years there came a day where my mother told me that it wasn't okay for me to be hanging out with the children. That I was old enough that I had to be in the Meeting Room with the adults. However, that didn't work out very well. Not long after that my mother said that I was being too noisy, and asked if I thought I could be quiet. I didn't (and honestly I was starting to have trouble from what I now know is a sleeping disorder). So I stopped attending meeting in my early teens.

After that, I only identified myself publicly as Quaker once. When registering for the Selective Service.

On the other hand, my mother was a member of the Elmira Friends until the day she passed. My final time in the Meeting House that I had grown up in was for a family fellowship meal after my mothers funeral. I sometimes thought about attending, to see if I could handle it. However, my mothers passing was during a really rough time in my life, and I had no use for religion at that time.

Fast forward to my mid-30s. I had settled into what I describe as a quiet Agnosticism. I didn't talk about, think about, or do anything religious. Then something happened that turned everything upside down.

The usual thing that turns everything inside out. I met a girl. An amazing wonderful 19 year old, who was a young woman of intense faith. We knew that we were destined for each other the day we met, although I fought myself for a time. However, the story of our courtship is for another day.

Maria and I were beginning to plan our wedding. When we realized that we had an issue. There was no way for us to be wed through her church without causing a problem for whatever pastor we asked. That was when I said a fateful phrase. "The Quakers won't care about us being of different faiths, they will marry us."

My mothers best friend and sister-in-law Sharon was still a member of my childhood meeting. She had been taking my little sister, and invited me as well, but I declined.

My Aunt Sharon lent me her copy of Faith and Practice. I started reading it to find out how to go about getting married through the Quakers. I didn't stop reading there.

I started attending Meeting as needed to discuss any necessary wedding preparations. I realized that I didn't have as much trouble sitting still anymore. Also, I was able to be polite when I couldn't. Reading Faith and Practice. I realized how much of my Quaker upbringing had stuck with me.

Maria and I had a very wonderful Quaker Wedding on a warm summer Sunday.

After our wedding we agreed to alternate between Meeting and Maria's Church. We did that for quite a while. I thought about rejoining, but was in no hurry. I started checking out the other Meetings in the region. I met some great Friends, but I still felt the most at home in the Meeting I grew up in.

Finally, something horrible happened, and my Aunt Sharon died suddenly. My family had been part of the Elmira Meeting since the early 80's and suddenly none of us were members. The Meeting held my Aunt's Funeral and it was the most beautiful I had ever attended. Also, the tragedy of my Aunt's passing spurred me to finally submit my request for membership. My Adult Convincement.

I wouldn't be a Quaker if it wasn't for Joan Baez, a Wedding, and a Funeral.