Karen Rivers


Karen Rivers

Yesterday was The Bun's last day at Catholic School.   Next year, he'll go to "regular" school.   There were issues.   "Issues."

There weren't really issues.    Were there?   There was money, of course.   There was a hazy concept of "social success".   There was some building troubles regarding earthquakes.   There was the hypocrisy of educating my child in a religion that I don't actually believe.   That I firmly disagree with, politically.  There was that.  

A lot of that.   Politics and religion, and how there they are together, inextricably linked.   

Gay marriage.   Birth control.   Child abuse.   A powerful corruption. 


But I loved the safe haven of the Catholic School, the lineup of scrubbed kids in their uniforms heading into their orderly classrooms.   The Jesus in the hallway wisely looking down on the kids like a skinny, young Santa, his hands outstretched as if to say, "You, kid, yes YOU!  YOU are OK."  

I loved the kindness.   The gentle melody of the prayers.   The way they explained about Christmas.   And Easter.   The way they sang.

God's house, said The Bun, is so so so beautiful.   And quiet.   It's like, shhhhh.   

I loved the warm hug of that Catholic School.   I loved the shhhh.   Hypocrisy be damned.

I will miss it.   The big public school intimidates me with its crowds of kids spilling out of its big brick buildings, the hundreds and hundreds of kids, buzzing like bees, swarming all over.    So many kids.   A swirling eddy of noise.   I'm overwhelmed.

Where is the shhhh?

But The Bun is excited.   I'll make so many more friends, he says.   I'll have six hundred friends.

(When we took the tour, he surprised me.   Please, he said.  I need to go here.  I feel it here, he added and he pointed to the soft part of his belly that has yet to turn from baby to full-grown boy.

You do?  I said, dubiously.   Really?

Really, he said.   PLEASE.)

But on the last day of school, he isn't excited.   I don't want to leave, he says.   I can't do it.   I can't say goodbye to my friends or Mrs. P or God or even Jesus.

His face crumples like tissue paper being held too near a flame.    He cries and cries.    He gulps down sobs desperately, choking.   I can't stand it.   I hold him tight and breathe into his hair like I can exhale his pain away.  

Does he want to go to the year-end picnic?   No, he does not.   Someone might see his tears.   He can't wipe away his tears.    His tears won't stop.

Did we make the right choice?

Yes.  No.   I don't know.   Now that I have children, I realize the things I believe so firmly are really not as solid as I thought.   They move and shift, slide around.  They twist and curl into other things that suddenly seem to be as true as anything else.  

God, The Bun says, is the son of Jesus.   And why, actually Mummy, WHY did God DIE?

God didn't die,  I tell him.   God can't die.   God is not a person.   Jesus was a person and Jesus is dead.    If he existed.   And honey, no one can say for an absolute fact what is the what as far as Jesus is concerned.   There are only different things that people believe.  We can only guess.   And it's OK if you want to believe in whatever you want to believe in.   Everything is OK.   You're OK.  

He looks at me blankly.   What did you say?  he says.

I start over.   Well, Mummy sort of believes that God is us, I say.   God is everything that's alive.    Do you see?

He squints at what I'm pointing at, a flowering bush.

God is a bee?  he says.

No, I say.   Yes.    I don't know.    Maybe.   Maybe God is a bee.   God is all the bees.

Oh, he says.   Well, at school he's a guy.  Sort of like Jesus except with scary bleeding hands.

Jesus' hands have the blood, I say.   God's hands don't.   Or maybe they do.   (Is there blood on God's hands?   Well, yes.   So.   I don't say that part though.)

I like Jesus, he says.  

Oh, I say.  Well.    

Do you?  he says.

I'm sure, I say carefully, that if I ever met Jesus, I would have thought he was a very interesting person to talk to.

The Bun writes God a note and leaves it on the dining room table with a glass of water and a piece of bread.   "God likes plain food," he explains.   

The note says, "Let the Great God be left in peace.   Also, how old are you?"

I don't know what to do with that so I phone The Bun's dad and I ask his opinion.  

Don't you dare drink the water, he says.

I leave the water.  

In the morning, The Bun carefully inspects the glass.   We didn't mark where it was, he says.   I wonder if God maybe wasn't thirsty last night.

Maybe not, I say.   But honey...

What?  he says.

Nothing, I say. 

Next year, he won't have these questions.   They will fade into the shadows of something he remembers dreaming, once, a long time ago.  

God has been unequivocally stripped out of the public school system.   Here, politics trump religion.   Here, political correctness is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Christmas isn't Christmas, it's "the holiday season".    Easter is bunnies, not crosses.   All religions are made equally welcome by making all of them equally unwelcome.  

God IS dead here or at least the Voldemort of religious icons.   He Who Shall Not Be Named.

Do I mind?  


We go for a walk and come across a mosaic built into the walkway.   The mosaic is of a whale, breaching, a smattering of blue and gold tiles shining in the late slanting light of the afternoon.   

Wait, says The Bun.   I want to pray.

Pray?  I say.   Now?  (The dog tugs on the leash.   The Birdy screams at us to HURRY UP.   Passersby stare.)

Mummy, he says.   He gives me a look.

I step off the mosaic.   He centers himself and turns his head up to the sun and says a rushed Our Father, tripping over the words, "Our Father does art in heaven" and then crosses himself.  

OK?  I say.

OK, he says.

And that's that.   We keep walking, the sun warm on our backs, and alongside the trail, flowers humming with the song of a thousand bees.