Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Where's Dom DeLuise now?

When the Pope passed away recently a few random thoughts popped into my head. Obviously this isn't the first time that random thoughts popped into my head, but they were pretty wide ranging.

The first thing that I thought of pertained to my religious upbringing. The next thoughts will be in a story later today.

Before we moved to New York for a summer when I was 8 years old, we lived in Madison for a year. One of the wonderful things about youth is the fact that you sometimes have little to no awareness about your surroundings. Back then, I thought that I just lived in a normal neighborhood in the middle of a "big city." Now, I know that we were living in one of Madison's poorest neighborhoods. To me, I never really thought anything of the fact that we didn't have much as children. I just went with it, which is what you do when you're eight. You just roll with the punches (Yeah, I did get beat up at school too... but that should hardly come as a surprise.)

My mother was raised Roman Catholic and so, by default, my sisters and I were raised that way as well. When I was a child, I actually liked church. I didn't mind getting up early on my Sunday mornings and dressing up and going to Sunday school. I can still remember some of the "classes" that I went through. I remember being taught all of the prayers that you were expected to know as a good Christian child. To me, this is strange. My memory is literally swiss cheese. There is massive holes and gaps throughout all of my childhood years. In fact, there are large holes and gaps throughout my memories of my whole life, but for some reason I can remember some portions of a Sunday school class where I had to memorize "Hail Mary."

There is one moment from that year that still to this day makes me smile. I think it's one of those moments in your life where, even though you're young and you don't know it, you really have begun to become the person you will be when you grow up.

My mother, my two sisters, and myself all went to church on one Sunday. To a young 8-year old boy in Madison, WI it was just one Sunday like any one before it. If it was summer, you just wanted to get home so you could go out and play baseball with friends. If it was winter, you just wanted to get home so you could cheer on the Packers and hope that just this once, they would actually win a game.

I can't recall what time of the year that this event actually happened, I think I was wearing a jacket, but I really can't be certain. It's not really all that important, but this is just the way my mind works when I'm putting a story together, so I figured I'd let you all share in the wonder.

Our church was a good deal more full than it had been on any other day that I could recall. Everyone was dressed better than they were on the average Sunday. I do recall seeing more people in suit jackets than I had seen on a regular Sunday before. I just figured that everyone felt the need to be a bit more "snappy" that week.

After a while, people began to quiet down and the organ began indicating the mass was about to start. People's heads turned towards the entrance to the building to watch the procession to indicate the beginning of the service. But today was different. There was a good deal more fan fare.

When you're eight and you're not really sure who or what you're going to become in your life, every event that you take part in could lead you in one direction or another. On this day, I believe that one of the seminal moments of my life occurred.

Everyone in the whole church was staring at the people walking through the entrance and I was no exception, but there was something that peaked my attention. There was one person that people were staring at more than any of the other people. Like everyone else, my gaze was firmly locked onto him. There was something that I just couldn't put my finger on though. I had no idea who this person was. I had been to church every week and this person had never been there. What was the big deal?

At this point, the whole church was silent. No music was playing. No one was talking. There is a certain level of stillness and quiet that I believe only a church can attain, and this was that moment.

I turned to my mother and said, quite loudly...


I think my mother's face found a new shade of red that day.

It wasn't the Pope, of course, it was just some Cardinal or Bishop and he was actually very good hearted about it. He just looked at me and smiled. There were a good deal of laughs amongst the rest of the people there that day as well.

I love the fact that when you're that age you can say most anything and get away with it. For me though, I think that moment really helped define some of my core beliefs and I also think it started me on the path to where I am today, as far as religion is concerned. I think it also started me on the path of trying to entertain others. Sure, I didn't know that what I was saying quite loudly was blasphemy, but I know it now. And now I find it extremely funny.


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