Last week my sister called, confined and lonely from her backwoods Virginia town. She was attending Mass again, she said, missing the solace of a Sunday journey, and anyway it was that or the Methodists. I pictured her, still unbaptized, strolling casually through the Communion line, tonguing the Host like a hit of acid as our renegade aunts had taught her. Her new roommates were scandalized. But I simply sat there, remembering the stone Mary who stretched her arms across my grandmother's gardens, defending against earthy sins. The weeds strung themselves around her like homegrown Christmas lights, scraped away at Easter, at the renewal of the daylight season. And I remembered another aunt, willed to the church at birth, who returned yearly to swim in her sister's pool, borrowed shirts draping and sticking to her body. Her superiors preferred this public exposure to our family, after we descended once too many times on the tiny Queens convent. My cousins and I were reprimanded that year for racing retired nuns down convent hallways; the Mother Superior heard the wheelchairs squeaking from the chapel. Sisters, dancers, swimmers alike - all Catholic by compromise, women committing defiance, or revision. Converting ruse into ritual, we sought ourselves in every separate stance and pact, slowly becoming holy, unofficially, and in degrees.
return to the study: