Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cold water only

I grew up in a house where an inscription in the dining room said:

Christ is the head of this house
the unseen guest at every meal
the silent listener to every conversation
I tell you this just to illustrate the bedrock nature of my religious faith as a kid, and the crater which was created later in life when I relinquished that childhood God. It felt like the foundation of everything disappeared. Nothing was sure, including me. And even while deciding God didn’t exist, I hoped He/She/It would spring into life and make everything true again. (I’m still hoping, years later, but nothing.) I missed the childhood certainty of knowing what the world was about and what I was supposed to do in it. Suddenly nothing was sure, and I didn’t like it.

Sometime during this turmoil I was watching the film Green Card, which I love, due principally to Gerard Depardieu’s Georges, Bronte’s apartment, and the music. Plus in the final scene Georges makes this tiny little expression with his face, and in it is written all he is trying to say: This is bad, don’t want to go, have to go, it’s not the end. (I don’t know how he gets all this into a tiny flicker across his face, but he does.) A choir then starts singing “Eyes on the Prize”. [*Later alteration: The choir is already singing. My memory of it was wrong, but since then I've checked. The "tiny flicker" on Georges' face isn't a tiny flicker, it's a little nod, after he & Whatshername have smooched at the end and just before he turns to go to the taxi... Not that I like details, or anything...] It’s beautiful, uplifting, heartening, and always makes me feel hopeful, so I decided to attach these feelings to something real and tangible so they’d be available whenever needed.

It was “Any port in a storm” time, and my saviour was a beanie: a knitted hat made of natural wool** which I could wear on my head or hold in my hands or sink my face into whenever necessary. It was soft and warm and had that country-air smell of lanolin. It made me feel that all was not lost. It was a physical representation of hopefulness.

And so what happened? (You knew something was going to happen, I can tell.) Let’s just say it involved a washing machine. And let’s just say there was a sudden end to the soft wool and the lovely smell. And the whole thing shrank so much I could nevermore get it back on my head.

I must have thrown that tiny beanie away - can’t remember - but now I wish I'd kept it. I seem to be coping without a god, but that little beanie was a heart-breaker.

**I was wearing the original-size beanie one day when someone said it looked like there was a dead animal wrapped around my head. (And that’s the look I was going for. Obviously.)