Wednesday, February 27, 2013

remembering Mimmy

Like a lot of others living in a wrinkled twilight, I often play mental reruns ... or that's the way it seems. What was once seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched or thought is seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched or thought 'again.' Of course 'again' is never exactly 'again,' but it has a sense of known-ness that makes 'again' seem reasonable. Surprises are infrequent, but always welcome.

Yesterday, I got an email from someone who had bought and read and apparently enjoyed a book I put together in 2007. It was nice to think someone found some juice in what, for me, was a squeezed orange ... something my mind seldom thought of as particularly useful or juicy. A small, thoughtful note ... I appreciated it and was surprised by it and it sent me off into other reruns: How about the sequel whose title and subject matter were already in the mental hopper but languished, partly because I didn't care that much, but mostly because I didn't have the money and perhaps energy to go through the publishing hoops?

And playing off that sequel 'spiritual' book, there came the playful question that crops up now and then ... where did it all begin, all this interest and effort in spiritual life? It's not a question I take seriously: It's more like watching a rerun of "Law and Order:" I like detective dramas, and I have seen most of them ... but, you never know when an old orange will disgorge and refreshing drop.

It was Mimmy Miggens who taught me to pray. She taught me under my father's roof and the subversiveness of her teaching was not apparent to me as the teenager I was. Mimmy was short and white-haired and Catholic. The wrinkles on her face were as cozy as a much-beloved and unironed flannel shirt. Her disposition was as soft as the fur on a peach. I never once saw her in a cross mood as she helped my father and stepmother bring up their two girls, my half-sisters. And she taught me to pray.

My father was a college professor who taught Shakespeare and purely loved James Joyce. He abominated the Christian religion that had been shoved down his throat by his Presbyterian-minister father. My father, like my mother in more inventive ways, was a devotee of the religion of the intellect. I never heard Mimmy correct or disagree with his barbed asides when it came to religion.

But somehow, Mimmy taught me the Lord's Prayer ... and somehow it stuck... under my father's intellectually-acute and reproving roof. How Mimmy managed this and why, as a teenager, it should stick, I don't know. I probably had been to one or two churches at the time, but religion was not something I imagined as betokening a serious or compelling pastime in the world of man. Maybe it was sort of like stamp-collecting ... some people did it, but it didn't amount to much. And as my father teased and excoriated religion, so I aped his disapproval. I might not have known what I was talking about, but what teenager isn't an expert when it comes to disapproval? I disapproved because my father and mother disapproved ... monkey-see-monkey-do ... but Mimmy taught me to pray.

I don't remember if I ever put the Lord's Prayer to much use, but I think I may have found something consoling in an overarching, caring entity. Maybe, in an uncaring universe, there was indeed something or someone who cared... or, more precisely, cared for me.

That Mimmy cared didn't really occur to me as I experimented with the Lord's Prayer. I doubt that she thought of her teaching as subversion under my father's roof. Mimmy wasn't sneaky in the way some religious expositors can be, inserting the religious ice pick at every lickspittle moment. Mimmy was just Mimmy ... and she was kind.

But for all that, I wondered vaguely yesterday if Mimmy's inescapable subversion weren't a kindergarten lesson in the subversion that spiritual adventure, by its nature, implies. Was Mimmy's teaching the 'beginning' of my spiritual interests? It's a stupid question with an even stupider answer, but like detective-show reruns, I watched it anyway....

And I remembered Mimmy fondly.

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