Confessions of a Confetti Head – Cheese and Crackers Got All Muddy


JCWhen I was a child, I was driven by some invisible hand to attend church. It didn’t matter what church. The one within walking distance to wherever we lived at the time. We moved around a lot so I was always exploring new ways to have Jesus sold to me like a car at an auction, and to be ‘saved.’

My father was an atheist and usually so hung over on Sunday morning it took him an hour to open each eye.  My mother, a metaphysician, told me that I was free to go, but she would not be a hypocrite and go to church. I didn’t know what hypocrite meant, but secretly I was glad to be going alone. So I dressed, shoved as much sugar down my throat in the form of crunchy goodness as possible, put on my patent leather shoes and white anklets, foo foo dress, prissy white gloves,  and hoofed it to the nearest church.

In those days, the 1950’s, kids weren’t watched like a cat crouched at a mouse hole. We had freedom to grow and experience life on our own. But that, as the saying goes, is another show. I usually walked a few blocks, but on occasion I took a city bus. Yes, by myself.

I only remember a few of those churches before we settled down in the East L.A. and I became a member of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. Alas, it’s now a parking lot. Perhaps a blessed one, where cars enter dusty and grimy and come out clean and sparkling? groan. Or, when they tore down the church and dug for the parking lot (wasn’t that a Carley Simon song?) they were on hollowed ground? double groan. But I digress.

One church I remember clearly was in Inglewood. In the 50’s Inglewood was a nice, sort of Leave it to Beaver neighborhood. We lived in a small green stucco house with a little front yard and a clothesline in the equally small backyard. In that church of nondescript Baptist-ish ilk, I sat, for a few Sundays in the little room for patronizing and indoctrinating young minds in “the ways of the Lord”—Sunday School. Did I mention in a previous blog that I’m an agnostic? Well, all this was too kiddy for me, even at  seven years old. So I started going to the grown up Church service (is that an oxymoron?) I liked this better. The songs were nice, the preacher had a kind, if a bit florid face. I would now peg him for a drinker, but then I just took him at ‘face’ value. Okay groan again if you want.

At the end of his fiery sermon, he was lathered up with the ‘blood of the lamb’ and rarin’ to save the sinners. There was, what I now know is termed, an Altar Call. This is where the preacher calls for any sinners in the congregation to come up to the altar and be saved by whatever means the Church believes is sanctioned by God. For this church it was a whack on the forehead and some kind of loud proclamation  prayer that brought tears to the eyes of the saved. I was so tempted. Every bone in my little body said, go, go, be saved. I was gripping the railing to keep my feet from dragging me to that altar. This, in my young mind was HUGE! I couldn’t make this decision lightly. Something in me was fighting this urge to be saved.

When the feeling was about to overwhelm my inner common sense, I looked up and noticed a painting on the wall. It is one that is still commonly seen, Jesus, knocking at a partially open door. The caption read, “Knock and the door will be opened.” At that moment, a very clear voice sounded in my head, “Stay still, you already have what you need.” The feeling subsided. I was so relieved that I almost collapsed. Phew! Saved from being Saved.

Another church experience stands out in my mind. We were living in Bellflower, or was it Maywood. It’s all such a blur. Our house was a nice duplex with a large front yard, and lovely mice in the house to eat the wieners I left out for them—and a source of  continual angst of my mother. She would pick them up by the tail and put them out into the field behind the house. I like that she doesn’t kill things.

The nice elderly lady who lived next door noticed that we were NOT church goin’ folk and decided to save my soul. Maybe she sensed it was already too late for my brother. She took me to her Revival church. At the same time, an equally but considerably more financially well-off lady neighbor decided that I needed saving—by her. This kind woman was of the definite opinion that I should be a Catholic.

Talk about contrasts. The Revival was loud: Amen Brother! Praise the Lord! Amen Sister! Take me Jesus! There was zippy music, and people moaning, groaning, yelling, and falling to the floor, shaking and writhing like they were going to fall apart. Wow, this was scary and fascinating. I still remember how much energy there was. These people didn’t fool around. They KNEW that Jesus was right in that room and they were going to get all the goodies they could, right there in that bursting room. They partied like  rock stars. Grape juice was served.

On the other cross, was the Catholic experience. Staid and formal,  with pomp, incense, and Latin, oh my. Beautiful, with gold and silver, carved ivory, rich, gleaming wood, songs straight out of some ancient past. There was a lot of stand up, sit down, kneel. It was glittering and gleaming, and, in my mind, totally soulless. Still, I was attracted by the subdued, hypnotic beauty of it all. And, for some mysterious reason, I liked the Latin. Even at eight years old, I found that the words flowed out of me and I could understand much of what was being said, even without reading the translation under the red ink.

When I was thirteen, I settled down to the Episcopal Cathedral mentioned earlier. Not because I was still trying to find God, I had by that time settled into a more metaphysical heart, but because my best friend, Louise, went. We took the bus to downtown and walked a few blocks to the church on 7th and Figeuroa, across the street from the Statler Hilton Hotel. After church I would sometimes take the elevator, then stairs to the heliport and sit on the edge of the building, looking out over the city scape. It was the tallest building around then.

St. Paul’s was beautiful, over a hundred years old and full of the Catholic splendor that I liked,but without all the guilt. Oh, I can’t resist—they had guiltless gilt. Slap me, I’m channelling a Reno lounge comedian. Thanks, I needed that. We had Dean Gilmett, an elderly, serious ceric. And his assistant (name forgotten), young, vibrant, ex policeman, who let us play spin the bottle at the parties he hosted at his home. No funny business though.

Anyway, I stayed and joined St. Paul’s, became a member, then president of their youth club – Young Episcopalians for Christ (or something like that). OMG! Why? Because I fell in teen love with a choir boy. I still remember his name, Donald. He came from the kind of family and background I talked about yesterday. Upper middle class, living in a nice neighborhood in Glendale. Dad barbecued steaks on weekends; mom stayed at home. Nice, nice people. Roots.

We were in deep lust, so I stayed. I remember saying to myself during one sermon. If no one ever mentions reincarnation, spirits, or psychic, then it’s okay and God won’t punish me. You know, they never said a word about it, so I kept my real beliefs to myself. I was even baptized there. Episcopalians sprinkle, not dunk. I felt so holy for a few days, then my normal self reemerged.

Well, my love of Donald was short lived and we both moved on. I met another boy from the Glendale Episcopal Church, Tim. Tim remained a long time friend. Years later, when I lived in Van Nuys, went to college and worked as a waitress at Dino’s, we hooked up again. He was an ex-marine paratrooper, studying classical organ at college. His family didn’t approve of me, a divorced woman of questionable breeding. We drifted apart. I still think of him and smile. He was a good person through and through. I hope life was/is good to him.

St. Paul’s was a good experience and I stayed until we moved to the San Fernando Valley when I was fourteen. I gave up Church completely. While I was going to St. Paul’s though, I learned about charity, giving, and compassion, leadership, and teamwork. We were (snooty face) High Church, so we didn’t indulge in Bingo.

We volunteered a lot, I especially liked the Purple Heart meetings, helping out in the kitchen. I learned to make salad for fifty. Then, we were allowed to watch the proud pomp of the meetings. ROTC teenage boys (especially cute in my eyes), marching into the ancient, velvety and dark wood room, proudly carrying the brilliant flags that contrasted with the dim lighting in the long and aged room. Brass buttons, starched uniforms, shiny shoes. War veterans from I, II, mostly aged men, marching in afterward. I don’t remember much else about the meeting, but I do remember the fascinating war museum in the building—Patriotic Hall—with photos from the Civil War, and every other kind of war that the United States has been involved in. Cases of bullets, rifles, guns, uniforms, and such other memorabilia were proudly displayed for those there to “remember.”

So, even though I am a religion non-believer, I am sure that church in small doses is a good thing for some people. It was for me. It can teach us something about the finer things in life— kindness, caring, sharing, tolerance, compassion, and understanding that there is something beyond our belief map and ego that survives. If we take the core of the teaching and leave the other, maybe it is a good thing.

In closing, I’ll share a wonderful story from the mouth of  my then dearest friend’s young, bright-eyed son, Lance (we called him Sam). When he was about seven, he started going to the Southern Baptist Church in Norman, Oklahoma. His mother, like me was an agnostic. He wanted to go because his best friend from school was going. After a few weeks, he came home and said, “Mom. They tell us at church that Jesus died for our sins. Then they tell us that we are all sinners.” A quizzical look at his mother for confirmation, then continued, “Well, it seems to me then, that Jesus died for nothing.” We all laughed in relief. With that small piece of wisdom, Sam stopped going to church. I’ve lost touch with Sam, his brother, and mother over the years, but whenever I recall that scenario, I smile and chuckle to myself. Children are often wiser than wise.

Thanks for reading

Anita

Now I am happily celebrating life and spirit in my own way. I do go to a church, Common Ground, in Corona. I started going for my mother, who doesn’t seem to want to go anywhere without me anymore. I stay because I like the people and the open minded, nonChristian, sentiments. It is a nice meditative break in my day. I think I’ll continue going. Maybe they wouldn’t let me back in if they knew I think there was no Jesus? :+) But that’s another story.

27 Responses to Confessions of a Confetti Head – Cheese and Crackers Got All Muddy

  1. Laura Darms says:

    You have sure had a variety of experiences in your life. I only remember going to church with my family and being put in a seperate room with all the other kids. The best thing about that was the cookies we got to eat at the end. My mom stopped going to church soon after because she could not find any church that satisfied her. I do own a bible but have never really read it. My family was left to make up our own minds. Now that I look back I am glad, for I like my spirituality point of views a lot better.

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  2. Briana says:

    Well now you’ve spilled the beans about your thoughts on Jesus! Don’t worry, we will still let you in…in fact, we love having you 🙂

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    • anitaburns says:

      HI Brianna – Thanks for not ostracizing me. I really like everyone at Common ground and am looking forward to becoming more involved. It’s not that I’m anti-Jesus, I just think of him as more of a concept of Christ energy than of a real person.

      There’s too much evidence that his “bio” was borrowed from earlier deities, virgin birth, the date of his birth, born in a stable, all of his miracles, includinga much earlier god, Mithras. Even the Claremont School of Theology has concluded that most of what was written in the New Testament about Jesus is myth, and borrowed. They spent years searching for something called, the book of Q. This is, they believe, the real words of the real Jesus, scattered throughout the mostly borrowed myth and clerical additions of the New Testament. Their book about it was very interesting. The belief among many Christian scholars now is that Jesus was a minor prophet who studied in India and became an effective spiritual teacher, like a Guru. When he died, the Christian movement (called Christian Jews in those days) was in danger of being integrated back into Judaism. In a last ditch effort to separate, the followers borrowed a “bio” for Jesus from contemporary myths and religions, including the resurrection. There is ample documentation to support this theory.

      So, I am spiritual but not religious. I can gain from the wisdom writings in the Bible, Koran, Tao te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, the Vedas, and more without having to feel that I owe fealty to any one concept. If you are interested, here is an excerpt from an article I wrote on the topic of Mithras:

      Mithras
      The Mystery School of Mithras was a leading rival of Christianity in the 4th century. Centered in Persia, it became enormously popular in Rome.

      It seems that the Christians copied or adopted many of the Mithras Mystery School rites, rituals, and myths. Mithra was born on December 25 (the birthday of the unconquered Sun). The Christians declared, in the 4th century, December 25th as Jesus’ birthday. Mithra’s mother was a mortal virgin. There is also an account of Jesus being born of the mother of God (Sun) which parallels the story of Mithra being born of a mating between the Sun and his own mother.

      Mithra’s birth was witnessed by shepherds and magi who brought gifts to his birth place in a lowly cave. Mithra’s miracles paralleled stories of Jesus’. He raised the dead, healed the sick, made the blind see and the lame walk. He cast out demons and devils. He was sacrificed and rose from the dead. He returned before his resurrection to have a last supper with his twelve disciples who can be paralleled with the twelve signs of the Zodiac (as can Jesus’ disciples according to the Rosicrucians). He ate bread marked with a cross. The Mithraists had seven sacraments, later adopted by the Christians. This was called MIZD, or MISSA in Latin, later Mass in English. Mithra was buried in a rock tomb. Mithra’s priests were celibate and women were forbidden to enter temples.

      The Mithraists had a belief that the world began in water and would end in fire. They believed in an Armageddon battle in the last days between the forces of light and darkness. The “Sinners” would be cast into Hell, with fallen Angels, the “Believers” would join the light beings in “Heaven.”

      The term “Soldiers of Christ” comes from the Romans who were “Mithras Soldiers.” Mithraists practiced baptism to ensure a place in heaven. Mithra’s temple, a large cave in Rome, was seized by the Christians in 37AD. They adopted the Mithraic priests’ title of PATER PATRUM which later became the word POPE. The Mithraic festival of Epiphany, which marked the arrival of the Magi at Mithra’s birthplace was adopted by the Christians in 813 AD. To see the practices of the Mithra Mystery School, one has only to look at traditional Catholic mass. Although the rituals, which at one time, were intended to bring us into sublime union with God, have, today, degenerated into mostly meaningless ritual and rote.

      Thanks,
      Anita

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  3. Pam Nollkamper says:

    Hi anita,

    Loved your blog about roots. I admire and appreciate your candor and your insight. I thought we could explore this topic further and look at another side of the coin.

    Your comments about stability caused me to sit back and think about what that term really means. Is a life more stable if a person has stayed in one place for many years? Can a life be stable and still move around a lot? What, exactly, is stability? The dictionary says that stability is “firmness in position and continuity without change.” I think this can surely include living in one place for many years, but I think it could also have a deeper meaning.

    I think a person can live in one place for many years and have an unstable life. Or, a person can move around a lot and have a stable life. I think that term boils down to a feeling of security, no matter where one lives. The security that can be relied upon; it is always there, and is stalwart. I have enjoyed that feeling of security, which has been a part of me all my life. It was there when, by all outward appearances, my life was in upheaval. One day I found myself single without warning. With a child to support, I had no education or work experience (other than waitressing). I had no job, couldn’t qualify for food stamps, and the bills were over due. I was desperate.

    However, I didn’t feel desperate. That feeling of security and stability never left me. Many miracles happened to me at that time which further strengthened my secure feeling. (Remind me to tell you about them sometime.) So I asked myself: why did I feel secure in such desperate times? For the past two days, I have tried to figure it out. Where did I get this stability? How did I get this feeling of self assurance and security? I don’t think my place of abode had anything to do with it.

    I think parents have a lot to do with developing that stable and secure feeling in their children. I was very lucky to have had wonderful parents. They provided a happy home for my sister and I and I believe they were responsible for the secure feeling I’ve felt all my life. Their love and support were responsible for my confidence and achievement.

    My folks were older (father was 45) when I was born. My mother couldn’t have kids so had painful treatments to open her fallopian tubes for many years so she could conceive. When she was finally pregnant with me, it was a great occasion for them. My sister came along 1 1/2 years later. Needless to say, we were loved and knew it every day. We were also a little spoiled. (Just a little!) This is probably the reason I’m a lousy cook and housekeeper. I never had to do it when I was growing up.

    My father was remarkable. A structural engineer by trade, he worked for Shell Oil Co. for years. He was devoted to the American Indian. He felt the Native Americans got a rotten deal (which they did) so spent his life trying to make their lives better. He organized food drives to the reservation and was one of the founders of the Southern California Indian Center. At the SCIC’s annual pow wow, they have an “honor dance” contest in my father’s name to acknowledge his many contributions to them. Although he had no indian blood, at times I felt he was more Indian than the Indians. We grew up attending pow wows all over the country, which instilled in me a great love and respect for the Native American.

    His great uncle, LF Bunnell, was the first white man to discover Yosemite Valley and wrote a book about it. In that book, he described how the Indians were mistreated and he spent his life helping the Indians. So, I think this cause was in his blood. He even looked like his great uncle. Perhaps there’s a reincarnation connection there. Helping the Indians was his life’s work and purpose.

    My dad was my best friend. I can remember the hours we would play cribbage and cards. He taught me how to play poker. He was disappointed that I wasn’t a boy because his name ended with him. But I was his favorite and we were very close. He died suddenly in his sleep in February, 1985.

    My mother was a beautiful woman – a petite natural blond. She kept her beauty until she died. She was very loving and nonjudgmental. She was a genealogist who traced our family records back past the Magna Carta. Genealogy was her life’s work, but she was also devoted to helping the Native Americans. She was active in many heritage organizations (DAR, Colonial Dames, Mayflower Society, etc) and was proudly listed in the American Heritage Registry. She was very proud that we had ancestors who came over on the Mayflower and fought in the American Revolution.

    As a side story, her nephew, Mark Tuttle, was a writer for the Beverly Hillbillies in the 60s. If you will remember, Jed Clampett’s neighbor was Mrs. Drysdale. She was a stuffy old woman who was always talking about her Mayflower ancestors and her heritage associations. He had my mother in mind when he developed that character.

    Through her heritage organizations, she established medical scholarships for Native American medical students, which has helped put Native American doctors on the reservation. She received the California Senior Citizen Award for her work for the Indians. Although she sounds a little “stuffy” she was not at all. She was fun and had a great sense of humor. We danced together at my granddaughter’s baptism a year before she died. She died in 2000.

    My mother was mostly a stay at home mom, which was really nice growing up. I think that this may have contributed to my security, although I think there are many children who feel secure even though their mothers work.

    The main thing that developed the secure feeling was the love and support my folks gave us and each other. They were seldom angry with each other and were understanding and nonjudgmental with us (most of the time). We knew that they were in our corner, for any reason, and many times went to bat for us. It was a wonderful feeling to have that support.

    They allowed us to make our own decisions about religion. Although my mother and father were raised in Salt Lake City, only my mother was Mormon and she was inactive. My father was a Master Mason and thought the whole Christian religion business was nonsense. At the time he died, I was a born-again and tried to convert him. Now, I realize how wise he was and I wish I had been open enough to learn more from him. But, growing up, we had no religious dogma fed to us. This, I think, has created my open mind about spiritual things.

    Living the majority of your life in one place has its advantages. I was able to develop many close friendships with those who lived close by. I am still close friends with friends I knew as a kid. I am also close with my high school girlfriends and see them often. I met one of my girlfriends in 4th grade. There’s something extra special about a friend you had growing up. It’s like you know a dimension about them that few people know and vice versa. The bond with a childhood friend is strong and living in the same area for many years allows one the opportunity to develop that bond.

    I got married and moved across the street from my folks and my sister got married and moved two houses down, so we all stayed real close together. It was real helpful for me to have them so close, especially when I got a divorce. I always worked 2 jobs when I was single (and went to school), and my sister and mother took care of my son while I was working. I think being with family gave him a more secure feeling. I know that I felt better about having him cared for by family. Knowing that my family was close by enhanced my feeling of security. Even though I lived alone for 28 years before I married my 2nd husband, I never felt “alone” because they were so close.

    I don’t feel that close family ties interferes with my freedom at all, but actually contributes to my freedom. I know that if I ever needed help with anything, I have family who will drop everything to come to my aid, as I would do for them. The unconditional love between us contributes to that feeling.

    Well, I’ve really burned the midnight oil on this one! What a great, therapeutic, exercise to think and write about this. Thanks for planting the seed, Anita.

    Pam

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  4. my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with we leave it to you to decide.

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    • anitaburns says:

      Sorry about not replying. WordPress flagged your comment as Spam. I hadn’t checked the spam list. I would love to have ended with some wiser than wise, sage insight. I guess, being an agnostic, I am still struggling with the issues and simply am waiting for something to explode into clarity. Naive maybe but when I have the answers, you can bet I will shout them out.

      Thanks for your comment.
      Anita

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  5. Great article. There’s a lot of good info here, though I did want to let you know something – I am running Fedora with the up-to-date beta of Firefox, and the design of your blog is kind of quirky for me. I can read the articles, but the navigation doesn’t work so good.

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    • anitaburns says:

      Sorry about not replying. WordPress flagged your comment as Spam. I hadn’t checked the spam list. I’m not familiar with Fedora. Did you contact WordPress about the issue? Unfortunately, I don’t have any control over how it is navigated or how it looks but I’m sure WordPress can address the problem. I tried a lot of Blog sites before choosing them because it looked like they had the simplest, clearest interface. But then, what do I know.

      THanks, Anita

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  6. Edward Rosen says:

    Like the design, template, post is befitting, writing is good. I’ll probably check your blog again….

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  7. Valuable story, thanks. Could you explain the second paragraph in more detail please?

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    • anitaburns says:

      Sorry about the delay in replying, WordPress flagged your comment as Spam. You asked me to explain the 2nd paragraph in more detail. I’m not clear on which part you are asking about. I talk about my mother being agnostic and father atheist. There is also something about her not wanting to be a hypocrite by attending church. I’d love to discuss with you more so let me know what was on your mind.

      Thanks

      Anita Burns

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  8. Thank you to your help!

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  11. Seasons says:

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    • anitaburns says:

      Hi and thanks for your comment. The title, which was really meant to be another post instead of another page, but alas, there it is. The title is a reference to how children, in the 50’s veiled the curse word phrase, ” Jesus Christ, God Almighty” by saying, “Cheese and Crackers Got All Muddy.” I guess kids now just curse. I know I do.

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